|Report||Our team of 15, 7 adults and 8 high school girls, worked at the HFH Mongolia site at Erdenet. We worked on 8 early-stage houses, though the site contained many more finished and occupied homes. Work performed: carrying wood, water & sand, pouring concrete foundations, building concrete block walls, erecting a brick chimney, fabricating and installing wooden roof support structures, nailing roofing panels, painting, laying wooden floors, hanging a door, external plastering/stucco. Work not performed: insulation, interior finishes or electrical work. The local affiliate representative, the translator and the professionals at the work site were extremely helpful. Family members worked hard alongside us. On the second day we were joined by a team of 10 Korean high school & college students. The local professionals were adept at overcoming the language barrier. Something to keep in mind: Mongolians don't point at things. On the first day, we all worked hard to divine what the pros were indicating by nods of their heads. After that, we either learned the Mongolian words or made sure that the commonly asked for tools were kept far apart from each other.
Accommodation on arrival in Ulan Bataar (""UB"") was at the Guide House Hotel, which was serviceable. The next day we did some sightseeing and attended a Mongolian cultural performance, which was fascinating, and exceeded everyone's expectations. That evening we boarded a Soviet-era overnight train to Erdenet. The 1st class compartments hold four people each. Bring your own food, toilet paper and water. A longer ride than taking a taxi, but you get to sleep much of the way. In Erdenet we stayed at the Erdenet Hotel, a pleasant place with bright rooms, good plumbing and plenty of hot water for showers, only a short drive from the site. We chose to eat lunch at the site, rather than to spend time driving back into town. The first day we did take-out from the hotel, but on subsequent days we had our translator obtain food from the better, and less expensive, ""National Mongolian Fast Food"" restaurant in Erdenet. The vegetarian on our team even found some acceptable dishes. (In general, Mongolia is a tough place for vegetarians and bringing one's own peanut butter or other portable food is recommended for those with dietary restrictions.) On the last day of work we had an afternoon gathering with the families, workers and our team. Our high schoolers sang ""Lean on Me"" with tight harmony, and the Mongolians sang traditional song for us. A few tears were shed as we said goodbye.
We spent the final two days in Mongolia staying in gers at the Majaa Resort. In a beautiful location, we hiked, rode horses, picked strawberries and watched a ger disassembly/erection demonstration. Food was excellent. Living in the gers solidified our understanding of why families want real housing, even if there is no indoor plumbing. Finally, we took the overnight train back to UB, going directly from the train station to the airport for our 10:15 am flight home.
Before arrival, several team members expressed concern about what they would be able to accomplish, due to their lack of experience in building. By the end of the trip, every team member felt that he or she had made a real contribution to the families' living conditions and that it was a valuable and rewarding experience.