Last updated 8/13/2018 at 2:43pm
By Martha Deichler
School Community Liaison, BSUSD
"Going to Mongolia has definitely changed my perspective on life. If more people were given the opportunity to travel, world peace would not be a problem. I am so grateful to have been given this once in a lifetime opportunity. I will cherish these new friendships forever."
So spoke Karen Garcia, a recent graduate from Borrego Springs High School and Rotary/Interact's President, at our farewell dinner in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia last week.
Joined by Elizabeth Torres, also a recent BSHS graduate and Rotary/Interact's Treasurer, these two young Borregans left an indelible mark on the people of Mongolia and the people with whom they were traveling.
At our last evening together, it became evident that Karen and Elizabeth would be returning one day to this magical country as the experience left a lasting impression on them as well.
Thus ended an unforgettable two-week visit to Mongolia for three Borregans, 14 San Diegans and two Australians, all joined by a common goal – to embrace and enhance the culture, education, music, art, natural beauty and partnerships between our two countries.
Organized by Martin Kruming, retired lawyer, ABF member and current SDSU journalism professor, and led by his Mongolian friend, Tuya Badarch, we were able to experience the colorful, proud, historical and geographically rich countryside of this vast nation, including the sister park to our Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Ikh Nart Nature Reserve.
Wherever we journeyed, we were met with instant smiles and greetings of "sainbainauu" and of course the occasional "airag," fermented mare's milk! You have to try it – tasted like buttermilk with lemon overtones. It would be difficult to find a more gracious and hospitable people than our Mongolian friends and a people so overjoyed to embrace our interest in their extraordinary country.
The essay question asked, "What would you do while traveling in Mongolia and you were offered an unidentifiable regional delicacy with a pungent odor while stopping by a family's ger (yurt) in the middle of the countryside?"
Testing their ability to assimilate and be culturally sensitive, Karen and Elizabeth won hands down during this competition last March to decide which students should travel as Interact ambassadors to Mongolia.
Interact is the high school version of the Rotary Service Club. In Borrego Springs High School, Interact is a large club of 24 students, headed by local Rotarian, Lori Seagrim.
Students are involved in various service projects locally as well as in Mexicali and India. We can now add Mongolia to the list!
"Service Above Self," the Rotary Creed, and a conversation with retired Park Superintendent and Mongolia specialist Mark Jorgensen, are what prompted Borrego Springs Interact Club members, Karen and Elizabeth, to tote a 65 lb suitcase full of school supplies and soccer/basketballs to Mongolia to donate to a school in need.
We were thrilled to meet with the only Interact Club in all of Mongolia and honored to meet with the Governor Elect of Area 9 which includes: Mongolia, Hong Kong, Macao and The People's Republic of China – Guangdong Province!
As we handed over the school supplies, we were enthusiastically assured that they would be much appreciated at one of the needy public schools in Ulaanbaatar. A goal of setting up a vibrant partnership between our two Interact Clubs was agreed upon and communication has already begun around student exchange visits over the next two years.
We had some incredible experiences while in Mongolia including meeting the District Governor, sleeping in traditional nomadic gers, attending the venerable and action packed Naadam Festival, camel riding, eagle holding as well as visiting two gorgeous parks: Terelj and Ikh Nart Nature Reserve.
In the end, what matters is the relationship we had with the people we met. In every case, we made friends, learned a few words of each other's language, shared some music or Facebook addresses, helped bridge the huge distances between Earth's places and made the world a smaller place.
As Elizabeth heads off to Point Loma Nazarene University and Karen to University of California San Diego – both to study health/medicine in some form – they realize that this journey has changed them forever and they are motivated to be a part of the change one wishes to see in the world.
They've stepped outside of their comfort zone and experienced a completely different culture and way of life. They've seen things and tasted foods and visited temples and witnessed customs unlike their own. They've learned tolerance, appreciation and most important, they have come to realize that we all have more in common than not.
For our Borrego Springs' isolated and rural high school students, there could be no better education than travels such as this. For our world, there could be no better recipe for world peace.
For Rotary, there could be no better service than to continue to support and make such experiences happen for our young people.
Part two coming in next issue of the Borrego Sun – Anza Borrego Desert State Park/Ikh Nart Nature Reserve/Steve Bier 's Memorial.