Smile Batbayar!- School portrait time in Mongolia.

Darkhan, Mongolia. March, 2009. Working as a teacher trainer in a Mongolian school with the Peace Corps was quite an experience. Despite the almost daily challenges, working with the English teachers and Darkhan’s school #15 was vastly rewarding. By the end of my two years there, I had developed a deep rapport with many of the teachers: I designed workshops for the language teachers, I wrestled the gym teachers, sipped moonshine with the training technologists and worked on paintings with the art teacher.

The teachers I worked with had a great sense of humor. During winter, different teams of teachers had to take turns manning the main doors in order to keep an eye on the students and make sure they were speedy about putting on and taking off their winter clothing.

Snickering, one of my counterpart English teachers, Tsegi, taught me to scream what I thought everyone else was yelling at the students: Shaatgalaaria! Shaatgalaarai! A few confused glances in my direction however made me reconsider. Although very close to the Mongolian “Shaatlaarai” which means “Please hurry up”, I was saying something completely different. As it turns out I was bellowing that the kids “Please get naked! Please get naked!”

When I had free time, I would sit in on a few of the Russian teachers lessons. Not to critique their methods, but rather to improve my Russian language skills. One day in class, it was class portrait day. Before I took the official class portrait, the Russian teacher Otinoo was arranging the students on desks and chairs and I managed to take this candid shot.

I love the variety of emotions and expressions from all of the students. Cheerful, playful, solemn, coy, not a bad representation of genuine children anywhere in the world.

www.chrisdebruyn.com

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