For any Mongolian it is the most normal thing to have hot tea with their meals whether it is July or January. However, it was the most unusual thing to have ice cold water offered with my meal and to see the genuinely surprised faces of the restaurant wait staff when I asked for a cup of nice hot tea instead.
I, Ragchaasuren Ovgonkhuu, had the wonderful opportunity to visit United States in July 2010 on the IVLP program and learn about journalism in the U.S. and its role in the promotion of civil society and democratic values.
For 21 days I explored the U.S., the dream land of all journalists, from Washing-ton D.C. to Rapid City, South Dakota, Reno Nevada, Buffalo, New York, and New York City, meeting journalists, NGOs, and government officials as well as exploring U.S. culture, tradition and people.
Each place and city held its wonders and uniqueness for me such as the Niagara Falls otherwise called the "curtain falling from the sky" and a visit to a ranch
The Niagara Falls is voluminous waterfalls on the Niagara River which is straddling the international border between Canada and the USA. The waterfall’s height is 51 meters and width is 1,120 meters and it is separated into three sections.
An adult bison can reach up to 2 m tall, 2.5-3 m long, and weigh up to 1,000 kg. The herders said some large male bison can reach up to 1,140 kg. Yet, for me who imagined American life and people as portrayed by the popular movies, it was very surprising to see such a young American woman so confidently herding hundreds of big wild animals.
Everywhere I went, I was greatly inspired by the clean streets, waste management system, traffic rules and obedience, including seat belts and "go green" or recycling activities in the United States.
Another thing that caught my attention was the popularity of the national flag in the U.S. Mongolians’ perception regarding na-tional flag is that it should be honored and used for and during official ceremonies only. In Mongolia, a few government agencies including the Parliament raise the national flag in front or on the top of the building. However, I noticed that this was not the case in the United States. American national flag was seen everywhere from a residential house to the Capitol Building. Most American government officials and NGO representatives had a special place for the Flag in their offices.
In general, this program has greatly impacted my perception of public relations, press media and its freedoms. There are many fun-damental differences in ethical standards and freedom of press between US and Mongolian journalism.
By attending this program, I came to appreciate more the importance of public participation in the development of civil society. I learned a lot about how local communities and nongovernmental organizations influence law makers to achieve their goals. Infor-mation about fund raising and public-private-partnership was particularly enlightening for me.
All in all, this was a wonderfully diverse and fruitful experience that fully satisfied both my professional and personal goals and curiosity.
Although it continued to take me by surprise throughout my entire program to find myself offered cold drink with my meals, it did not take any time for me to get used to tipping to show my appreciation for friendly and quality services.