For the first few weeks of my internship I lived in an apartment in Ulaanbaatar. Ulaanbaatar is capital of Mongolia and is home to about 50% of Mongolia’s population. The city is filled with heavy traffic, small restaurants that sell Mongolian food for the equivalent of $2.00 US dollars, more expensive fancy restaurants, top government buildings, malls, hotels, temples and everything else you would generally find in a large city.
In Ulaanbaatar getting from place to place on foot is quite interesting. I don’t think there is a translation for the word “jaywalk” in Mongolian….. perhaps it is just called walk. I say this because there are appropriate places to cross the street with signs for pedestrians yet most people cross the street in the middle of the road in the midst of high speed traffic. Honestly, I have seen mothers walk with babies in the middle of high speed traffic to cross the street. Yet there are very few accidents.
Now, it may seem as though I was just there to observe the way of life but that is not the case. This summer I interned with a professor at the Mongolian National University of Medical Sciences assisting with research aimed at assessing exposure to arsenic and uranium via ground water. We collected water samples to determine the concentration of these chemicals in the water. To assess the exposure we conducted surveys and collected urine and toenail samples. The urine and toenail samples serve as biomarkers of exposure that provide an estimate of how much arsenic and uranium a person has been exposed to. This summer we collected samples from Umnugobi, a province in the Gobi Desert, but before that could be done we had to do some planning. During the first few weeks we would meet with the professor to discuss strategies for collecting samples and prepare study materials. In the first few weeks we also had some down time which was used for exploring. While exploring, we visited Gandantegchinlen Monastery, Mongolia’s largest monastery; we saw a Mongolian cultural show; we visited the national amusement park and became familiar with the city’s many malls.
All of this was very fun but during those first weeks I struggled with getting used to the time change and missing my family. Thankfully, a great friend of mine reminded me that, “Your quality of life isn’t dependent on your state of being but rather on your state of mind.” With this advice my entire trip became much more enjoyable.
Here are a few pictures from places we went.
1. Ulaanbaatar is home to Mongolia largest temple. When one enters the temple they spin the wheels for good luck, happiness and prosperity. Within the temple is one of the largest Buddha statues in Mongolia. Many people come here to worship from all around the country. People also come here to wish good luck on their marriage as a part of the wedding ceremony and to wish their child a happy life when a child is born.
2. This is a Mongolia cultural show. Mongolians have several traditional singing styles and dances. Additionally, Mongolian contortionists are very popular. These ladies were VERY flexible.
3. Most of our meetings were held at the School of Public Health.