A farewell celebration
We returned to Ulaanbaatar on Thursday night; while I had a wonderful time in the countryside, it was nice to get back to the land of internet access and flush toilets (or even toilets with seats!). Had dinner in the excellent Indian restaurant in our hotel, followed by a very good sleep.
On Friday morning, the Canadians and representatives of the Mongolian credit unions they had worked with gathered in a meeting room for a debriefing session on the coaching progran. Many of the Mongolians had travelled from some distance to get to the meeting, and it was interesting to hear their comments on how the coaches had helped their credit union. After lunch, we were free to do what we wanted; many of the others went shopping, but having not had internet access for three days, I spent most of the time updating the CCA blog, checking my Facebook and e-mail and taking it easy.
At 6 p.m., we gathered in the hotel lobby to be taken to the State dining room for the farewell celebration dinner. The venue was certainly the fanciest we had seen since we arrived in Mongolia – it was clearly a place that was used for official government functions and the like. The meal was four courses — salad, fish, beef and ice cream — and between courses there were speeches — lots of them — and entertainment. Gregory Goldhawk, Canada’s ambassador to Mongolia, was there and made a few remarks about co-operatives and Canada-Mongolia co-operation. All the coaches presented certificates to the credit unions they had worked with, and the Mongolian partner organizations (MCTIC and MOCCU) presented all the Canadians with plaques and cashmere scarves. I actually got a bit teary-eyed when I saw the plaque acknowledging my “contribution to the development of Mongolia’s credit union sector.” After all, I didn’t do any actual coaching — I was just here to chronicle the mission (as my colleague David Shanks described it, I was the “embedded journalist”.) So I really appreciated the fact that they gave me a plaque along with Lydia, Sarah and the coaches.
The entertainment was wonderful — traditional Mongolian singers, musicians and a contortionist — a beautiful woman who could twist her body in every way imaginable. Apparently, this is an artform that is very popular in Mongolia, and it was a pretty amazing performance. For me, the highlight was the septet of string players who performed on traditional Mongolian instruments — there were a few regular morin khuurs (horsehead fiddles), a bass morin khuur, Mongolian harps, and an instrument that looked a bit like a banjo but was played with a bow. A lovely evening, but not our last lovely evening in Mongolia. But that’s for another post.