Six students from the University of Pittsburgh Honors College trek across Mongolia in search of illumination, perspective, and the perfect cup of Yak-milk tea.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

I don't like Chicago's floors

I'm back...as in back in Pittsburgh. As the last member of GQKMSC to return from Mongolia I was begining to feel like the summer would never end, all in good ways of course :)
My last week was spend diging pitt toilets at Shank Monestary in West Centeral Mongolia. Mongolian Monestaries are in pretty bad shape, most were destoryed in 1931 as the communist government attempted to break the monestarie's regional controll. Old monks were murdered, middle age ones sent to work camps in Siberia and those under 14 were allowed to return home. Now, 70 years later, it is the youngest group of monks who have returned to the monestaries to rebuild the structures and help with community programs.
I was interning for the Cultural Restoration Project. The program brings western tourists to work on monestaries for two weeks at a time and uses the tourist's program costs to employ a team of locals to restore wood work, roofs, fences ect. While I was there we layed the foundation for a new school and dug a composting pit toilet. While not the most amusing subject the toilets are really important in Mongolia. In the country side most toilets are just pits, and when dug too deep (as they always are) run a serious risk of contaminating the ground water and attracting all sorts of pests. The 'new' toilets can be cleaned out everyyear, and when filled with sawdust are able to compost everything in them...not nearly as smelly.
The program also had a vegan cook, which was amazing for Mongolia. I ate better in the last week then I did all summer...even better than Sarah's cakes.
The rest of my stay in Mongolia was spent in the city, playing with artifacts and packing for the return home. Although I spent 5 hours on the runway in Beijing (after and 8 hour layover) and then the night trying to sleep on the floor at Chicago's airport, I made it home safe and sound this morning. I'll see everyone soon, unless your in mongolia, then you have to wait untill may. Till then ~Allison