November 5, 2009

A typical day, or not so typical

Okay, I'm sorry I haven't posted a new update to the blog in a while but there just didn't seem anything blog-worthy lately. That's not to say that every day isn't over-filled with activity, it's just more of the same day-to-day stuff. But, in the interest of investigation, I thought it might be an interesting experiment to document 'my day'.

Last night: Well, since it usually affects my day, I thought I'd mention last night as well. Was up late, very late: grading tests, making a new test to be given tomorrow (now today), downloading the latest version of Xubuntu - a low-memory Linux version of Ubuntu that I want to load on Daria's old personal laptop computer to give it new life but I wanted to test it first, wrote several suggested policy's concerning storage (things people leave behind) and the supervision of guests-volunteers-former employees, edited a flyer Munguu, our office manager, needs to advertise rentals of our apartment building (part of the centers income). And did a load of laundry. I think I went to bed around 2AM.

This morning: Got up, dressed and went to the basement boiler room to get my laundry from the clothes line we have in there. Everything was dry except the pants I wanted to wear today because they were too close to the window where you could feel the arctic-like wind coming through.

After a breakfast of four pieces of toast, buttered and sprinkled with cinnamon, I unlocked the PTE office to work a bit more on the nun's computer. I had picked it up from the nunnery because they don't have an internet connection. Because of viruses (I think Mongolia has more computer viruses per capita than anywhere in the world), I decided to load Ubuntu, a Linux operating system, on it, especially since they can't do an online update of Windows virus software. The nuns have been using it here at the center without any problem so I think it will be okay at the nunnery, except for a few of the other nuns who are used to Windows. Transferred some videos and other Buddhist teachings on MP3s before packing it up to take back.

Came down to the office and printed off the test for today out at Dolma Ling, and made 20 copies. When I asked Munguu how many copies of the edited flyer I should print, she told me of another change to make - giving our apartment building a name like all the high-rent buildings in Ulaanbaatar - she decided on Mahayana Apartments - but no time to do it now, maybe when I get back from the community center. Also said hello to our new Director, Khatanbaatar, as this is his second day - guess his first day didn't scare him too much. [smile]

Then I checked Boloroo's computer again (she's our Director's assistant) - the screen locked up on her twice yesterday for no reason - I thought it might be the upgrade of the virus program so thought I'd do another scan - nothing - not sure what it could be. Sitting in the lobby waiting for Roy, who runs the FPMT NGO called 'Lamp of the Path', to come since he drives me out to the Dolma Ling Community Center every Tuesday, trying to stay out of Deger's way as she mops the floor. So, I'm loaded down with books, the test and the nun's computer to take back.


Taw-nee, the nun's kitten waiting for our ride

Drive to Dolma Ling: To me, it always seems like rush-hour no matter what time of the day I'm on the road. But today seemed real quick since Roy took a different route. At least I only have to do this one day a week. Roy is a good driver but I miss Ichkaa who is now teaching part-time at Mongolia National University.

Dolma Ling Nunnery: Hooked up the nun's computer and got it running. Showed both Ani Tsultrim and Ani Samten, the nunneries teachers from Kopan Nunnery in Katamandu, how to get to everything like teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, some of their Nepali music and a few videos about their home nunnery of Kopan in Katmandu Nepal. Then checked to make sure the MP3 CDs I burned for Ani Samten worked on her CD player - that way she could listen to the teachings of His Holiness without needing the computer in Ani Tsultrim's room. Next week I'll give a quick computer lesson to a few of the Mongolian nuns on how this new Linux computer is different from Windows.

Also talked with Ani Tsultrim about Ani Dolma - she is a young Mongolian nun with a smile that lights up the world but she can't read or write - she was trying to learn but couldn't afford the tutor so I was asking if there is something I can do to help - what she really needs is a speech therapist and a special education teacher.

Dolma Ling Community Center: Just finished talking to the nuns when I had to head next door to the community center where I teach English to the staff, some of the nuns and a few doctors from Mercy Hospital. Today about 10 students had a test - first I review everything that is on the test, then the students take the test, then we correct it as a class. Most did pretty well, especially for a beginner-beginner class.


The soup kitchen cook with a few of the nuns taking my test

After class, Dr Javza wanted me to look at her computer, the one she uses for the medical clinic. The community center offers free medical care for those who come to the soup kitchen. After Doljo translated, the story was that somehow the doctor deleted the clinics archive folder, all her documents since the clinic opened up to last year - not good! My only solution was to ask they not do anything more on the computer and let me take it back to the Shedrup Ling where I might be able to recover the files off the hard drive, and that's a big maybe. Just another good reason to have a backup policy and procedure.

Then we had lunch, the same lunch they serve in the soup kitchen - today it was rice, onions and potatoes. After that I typed up some of this blog while waiting on Doljo, the manager of the community center, to finish talking to Roy. Every week I tutor one-on-one many of the more advanced English speaking staff like Doljo. Every Tuesday I spend about an hour with Doljo going over the FPMT Handbook, our organization policy and procedures manual - she reads, I correct her pronunciation and then ask her about what she read.

Roy had asked for repairmen to come and look at the new nunnery water heater they had just installed that wasn't working, but they still hadn't showed up an hour after the appointment. So, Doljo wrote me a note in Mongolian to give to a taxi driver so I could get back to the center before class started. Roy walked with me part of the way through the ger district until we could see the bus stop where I could catch a taxi.

There are a few of the yellow cab type taxis in Ulaanbaatar but most taxis are just private individuals giving rides for pay, current rate of 58 cents/mile (500₮/km). For me it's sometimes hard to decide who is a taxi waiting for a fare and who is just waiting. One woman saw me wandering around the taxi area and waved me into her car. The ride back into downtown was more like I was used to, bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go for about a half an hour. The driver turned off her engine several times since we weren't moving. Got to the center about thirty minutes before my class.

As I entered the center, Boloroo met me at the door to tell me her computer had locked-up twice again today. I had thought it might be an upgraded anti-virus program but she told me she deleted the program and the computer still locked-up (wouldn't work, frozen). Not sure what else to do but copy all the documents and erase the whole hard drive and start over.

Talked to Ani Gyalmo about Ani Dolma. She's such a sweet girl and I want to help her, either with a tutor or even some books so she can learn to read and write. I stopped by the kitchen to get a cup of hot tea on my way to class and ran into Daria, one of our translators, and Regzedma, the children's program teacher, and they were joking about how they wanted to be my girlfriend. Munguu stopped me outside the office to tell me that she also needed the apartment building flyer file on a flash disk.

My 4:30 classes are always problematic because traffic is always bad and many students don't make it to class on time. And we have a strict policy stating that if you're 10 minutes late, the guards won't let you come to class. Had 8 (7 women and 1 guy) show up for class tonight. My 6:00 class was small to start with back in September and now I'm down to 5 consistent students, all women. My 10-week semester usually starts with about 18 per class and with just one week left, the low attendance doesn't surprise me.

After class let out at 7:30, I went upstairs to see if Roy had remembered to drop off Dr Javza's computer. Nyamgarel, the guard, said Roy had brought the car back, but he didn't see any computer. So, I went upstairs to begin work on changing the apartment flier and see if I could find out anything about monitoring employee internet usage for Roy. Got a great email from Travis, a Peace Corps Volunteer here in Mongolia about his plan to apply for a Fulbright grant and study Buddhism in Mongolia after he's finished with the Peace Corps. He said it could be about post-communism spirituality, enlightenment in our modern world and/or traditional spirituality and modern living. He asked if I would be one of his advisors - of course I agreed, Travis is a great guy and I know he well do great research, but I also told him that there were others here at FPMT Mongolia who could be valuable resources.

Had a bit of a chat with Ani Gyalmo who told me that Roy had brought the computer but it was still locked up in the car in the locked garage. Down three flights of stairs, getting a lot of exercise tonight, and out into the freezing cold to get the computer out of the car.

Jumped online to see what kind of software tools I could use to recover the missing files of Dr Javza and it turned out I had already downloaded a couple a few weeks ago when I had to help a poor girl figure out her forgotten Windows Vista password.

Set up the computer in the PTE office where I could use the Dharma computer keyboard and monitor. Tried a few Windows programs but ended up with several Linux systems like 'Parted Magic'. At about 2AM, finally was able to recover the folder the Doctor had accidentally deleted, some 900 files total, the whole archive of the community center medical clinic. Did a full backup of all of her files, updated her anti-virus software and started a full scan of the computer. I shut the door to the office at 2:43AM.

Never did get that shower today but I guess that's not the worst thing that can happen. Already thinking about tomorrow. Despite the late night, I won't be able to sleep in because I have a 9:00AM English lesson with Tsetsgee tomorrow and I want to make sure they take the Doctor's computer out to the community center. Checked my email one last time and fell into bed.