Saturday, July 31, 2010

Mongolian Permaculture: Day 32 – Lotus Guesthouse and Orphanage


We have moved into the cheaper [$8/night, and far more comfortable & homely] Lotus Guesthouse around the corner from the ‘Happyness’ [Voyager Plus] Hotel, a backpacker-style hostel run by the Lotus Orphanage.

The hostel is simply and elegantly furnished, by far the flashest place we have stayed in Mongolia, with ‘Buddhist Orange’ painted wood floors, bunk beds, and Mongolian artwork hanging on the walls.

There is a shelf full of handicrafts for sale near the entrance, Mongolian felt boots and Khazak slippers & hats and postcards featuring the children’s artwork and scarves and diaries and all sorts of useful knick-knacks, nothing too tacky except for maybe the obligatory deck of playing cards, with all proceeds going to support the orphanage.

Volunteers from all over the world pass through the lounge room, which is like your favourite hippie Aunty’s lougeroom to the world. We swap tales from the road, and everyone we meet seems to be outward-focussed, switched on, and working on amazing, contributing projects…

…including Stefan from Germany, who is finishing up a 12-month stint volunteering with the Lotus House before commencing his Environmental Engineering studies in Switzerland. He has been developing a vegge plot at one of the summer camp sites, growing potatoes and tomatoes and whatever else he could get his hands on during the short season.

Stefan shows us some photos of his project, and shares stories of the challenges and successes he’s had during his accelerated learning curve over the last year. Kat offers to sit down with him over the next few days to introduce and share the basics of Permaculture as a way to support Stefan and the project.

We are thinking that chickens, sprouts, and mushroom cultivation would be appropriate enterprises for urban application because of their potential for small-scale intensive production, their high nutritional & market value, and the immediate proximity of potential upper-scale markets such as restaurants and hotels in Ulaanbatar.

The biggest challenge in this scenario is that Stefan is leaving in a matter of weeks, and his replacement volunteer will not be arriving due to visa issues.

There will be no continuity; a challenge that charitable aid programs all over the world face and need to design around.

By chance, we run into Didi, the founder of the Lotus operations, and have a brief chat about her goals with the project… there is never enough bodies to do all the work there is to be done. We invite her to the Urban Workshop that is scheduled for the 13th of August, hours after we arrive back in UB from the Gobi.

So much to do, so little time…!

Great People = Great Times.

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