Katieholder’s Blog

I know it’s been a while…

Let’s see…First off, sorry for not keeping up with the blog for the past few months.

No excuses, I was just lazy and didn’t really have much to say.

Well, I spent Thanksgiving in UB with the rest of the volunteers and we had a great time eating, playing football and roller skating. For a more complete picture of the fun, see my Thanksgiving photos on Facebook.

After Thanksgiving, I spent a week in UB for work at my HCA’s (host country agency’s) main office working with my manager on the new project plan for our branch. My HCA will lose its grant funding from USDA and USAID at the end of June, and we must become sustainable by then.

During this trip, my manager and I worked on our business plan to introduce a new service into our branch. The new service is real estate and, while I don’t agree with the decision to have this as the new service, the advisors at my branch all agreed that they thought it would be the best way to be profitable. Unfortunately, the HCA board did not like the plan and said they wouldn’t support us unless we made some major changes.

Then I spent Christmas in Erdenet with my sitemates singing karaoke and exchanging gifts (see Facebook).

For New Year’s I spent the evening laid up in my apartment with food poisoning, but it wasn’t too bad since I was able to stay on the couch with some of the books my family had sent over for Christmas. Seriously, don’t feel bad for me because my family sent me some really awesome books (“Every Thing Matters” by Ron Currie, Jr.; “Peony In Love” by Lisa See; “The Worst Hard Time” by Timothy Egan; and “Half Broke Horses” by Jeanette Walls). These are just the books I read the week between Christmas and New Years. Yeah, I read a LOT.

I also watched “Band of Brothers” which is even more awesome than I remember! My friend, Erden, watched the entire series while I was in UB and he took care of my cat (see below) and he said it was “friggin sweet”.

After New Year’s, I got the word that I would be making a two week trip to UB with my manager (as well as the 2 other PCVs at branches and their managers) in order to write whole new business plans for our branches.


Sooo, Jon, Danny and I went in to UB from Sunday evening (1/9/11) and worked every day in the hotel conference room from 9 until 6 with our managers (until 1/21/11), Garrett and the HCA regional manager. We made our way through the business plans as a group and had a very good translator to make things at least a little easier in the way of communication.

Just in case people were wondering, yes, I did work over the weekend (just around 3 hours per day), so it was a continuous thing.

We presented to the agency’s director and vice director on Friday, which was pretty nerve racking. If they didn’t approve of our plans, (from my understanding) we would get the axe. Fortunately, we all got the preliminary “OK” with a few things to add before this Thursday (1/27/11). After those additions, we’ll present to the DS board in February.

They will either say “yes” or “no”. If they say “yes” we proceed with the plan. If they say “no”, we’ll shut down come June 30th.

Sooo, I’ve had a bit of stress. It’s not just my position on the line here; it’s all of my co-workers as well.

I got back to Erdenet Friday (1/21/11) at around 10 p.m. on a mikre (pronounced mee-ker). I didn’t get to the bus station in time to buy a ticket for the 4 p.m. bus, so I had to take the next mikre leaving the station.

After Friday’s trip, I thank the good Lord every night that I have 4 very nice buses every day that leave to and from Erdenet.

I was berated out of my near front seat by a middle aged woman, sent to the back to sit in the middle of 3 men. Once I got back there, my greeting to the row included a belch by the man to my left. That diaper-breath greeting pretty much set the tone for the entire trip.

If I were to repeat all of the trip, I think I would be rehashing my Ice Fest mikre ride, so I won’t do that here (for full details see my Ice Fest entry, minus 7 hours). FYI, this mikre trip definitely made up my mind in that I will NOT go to Ice Fest this year. That’s why mothers usually wait a couple of year between birthin’ kids. The mental anguish from that trip is still too fresh in my brain.

As of Monday (1/25/11), all of my co-workers have “bought” into the plan (as in they signed their new employment contracts through June 30th). This means that they get paid their base salaries with compensation bonuses until the end of June. I won’t find out if they ACTUALLY bought into the plan until April-ish. They could just use the next 5 months to chill and look for another job… If that happens, then we shut down July 1st. And my main HCA goal is down the tubes. Blarg.

When I got back, I knew I was going to take the weekend and Monday off (and my manager agreed to do the same). So, I arrived at work today (and was welcomed by hugs and cheek kisses) and got crackin’ on what I needed to do for the week ( love Microsoft Projects, a list-maker’s ultimate love).

Unfortunately (for all of my co-workers) I had a Lady Gaga song stuck in my head (I won’t say which one it was so you don’t get it stuck in your head) and hummed a couple of bars from it. Out loud. And that’s what we all hummed the rest of the day. Oh, yeah, everyone, and the guys too. Practically broke into a “Glee” thing.

I’m also looking at apartments and for jobs in New Orleans for after I get back. Yeah, I’m moving. I LOVE Arkansas; but it’s done with me and I’m done with it (for a while at least).

So, if you or any of your friends lives are in the New Orleans area, hook me up. I’m looking for general information, friends, possible roommates, and job links. Basically, whatever you’ve got. I’ve already linked up to the RPCV (returned peace corps volunteers) group there and I have a group of Mongolia PCVs to fall back on, but other people to reach out to would be great.

Gotta go, but I’ll really try to get another blog out there at least twice per month, like the old days.

Love you, and as always, “Enjoy your amenities!”

This blog is my opinion only and is not representative of Peace Corps.


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