Expats in UB – ANDY MAYER
By Allyson Seaborn
Don’t let the name fool you – Andy Mayer is a fun-loving and vivacious Aussie gal who has only been in UB for six months. She gets around however, like she’s been here for years. Andy is mum to two busy boys and she seems to know everyone and everything. She is one of those energetic women who really does have the time to “do it all.” This includes running her company Noble Birth which she’s been able to take with her from country to country as she and her family work their way around the globe.
Andy’s work is admirable to say the least. Noble Birth holds classes and teaches pregnant women practical breathing skills, positions for birthing, relaxation techniques and partner responsibilities for labor and birth. Andy says, “I’m a childbirth educator, not a midwife and I see myself as a professional educator with the skills, qualifications and experience to support my work. I have wonderful referrals from obstetricians and allied health professionals.”
Andy is a woman who is so obviously proud of the amazing work she does and has a strong sense of achievement and even though Andy is now UB based (her husband Travis is the Manager of SOS Medical Clinic in Ulaanbaatar), Noble Birth regularly holds private classes in Melbourne and even in Saudi Arabia. Just recently, Noble Birth started doing private consultations here in Mongolia. The website (http://noblebirth.com.au) allows parents access to relaxation audio files, childbirth preparation information and to arrange bookings for private classes.
“I just had a class with a woman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia via Skype actually, it was fantastic. I also conduct a class via Skype for a woman in Australia, but if I’m on holiday in Thailand, I may be doing it from there. That’s pretty unique. I have worked remotely with a couple in France, Mumbai and Jeddah.” Andy was even flown to Dubai for a weekend by an Emirati couple just for some teaching in their home.
Over the course of six years, Andy has worked with over 1500 couples and mothers. She explains to me that, “it’s been a huge learning curve working with different nationalities with different cultural and religious backgrounds, mixed marriages, single parents and same sex couples.”
One of the reasons Noble Birth is successful is because Andy teaches people how to work with medical providers they have engaged to assist them to have a healthy baby. She combines solid ante natal education with a few other skills in a very simple format. Luckily for Mongolian women, Andy will be having her materials translated into Mongolian over the next few months. When that is completed it will be full steam ahead.
She describes how she recently worked with a couple who left UB to have their baby in another country, because the care was perceived to be better overseas. Andy wants to change this situation and adds, “I was extremely fortunate to work with a Mongolian lady, Zula recently. I was her birth support person here at the local hospital in UB. The experience was invaluable and gave me insight into the system.”
Andy is passionate about her job and this is evidenced in her popularity. She is not afraid to say that, “All Mongolian women deserve the right to use modern birth techniques and to have a safe and comfortable birth for future generations of Mongolian children. I am now inspired to set up a childbirth education program here in UB, train Mongolian women to do what I do and set up a modern delivery suite to be a benchmark for Mongolian public hospitals. I just need to get some funding. I want to share information and skills with Mongolians for a better future in birth that is culturally responsible.”
When she talks about living and working in UB she proudly admits that, “We came to UB in January to find a home and look at schools for the boys. The stars aligned and now there’s no looking back.”
When did you first arrive in Mongolia and what brought you here?
We came on a reconnaissance trip on the 9th of January to look at schools and find accommodation. Once we arrived, we agreed immediately to live in this amazing city. Travis arrived in February and then we came in early March. It’s been an amazing 4 months. We came here because my husband was offered the position of GM of International SOS Mongolia. It is a 2 year position with a possibility of extending. But “really” why did we come? My family has the spirit of adventure and a love of remote places.
What is the best thing about living in Mongolia?
The opportunity to embrace change that is rapid. However, the single best thing has to be the people; the faces, the landscape and the fact that it makes great opening line when out of the country. “Where are you from?” “Oh Australia, but I live in Mongolia.” My answer always elicits giggles, smiles, blank looks and a lot of questions…….
How has UB changed since you first arrived here?
When I first arrived it was really harsh and I felt a bit concerned for my safety after reading things online and talking to some expats. Now I feel safer and a part of the city. The ground has changed from ice and snow to flowers and grass. The people have changed from rugged up in furry hats and thick coats to colorful modern clothes and smiles. The pollution just “blew away” and the vista opened up. As a city in transition though, in 4 months a hole in the ground has become a 12 story building right outside my window. The forest has shrunk and homes have been taken over. The roads have become more congested, the potholes have become 3ft deep and 4 ft wide, the rubbish has taken hold across the land (we caught a train to China and rubbish was on fences in holes along roads..). The construction trucks operate 24 hours a day. The supermarkets have bigger product lines, more shelves, and helpful staff. The department stores look like mega stores in other cities, prices have increased. There is the reality of inertia. This change is bigger than all of us and its moving fast.
Describe a perfect weekend in Mongolia.
Friday night. dumplings from the freezer courtesy of Nomin and watching Aussie Rules on Australia Network Saturday morning. Going for a run along the Tuul River, drive into town and grab a coffee from Rosewood, teach a Noble Birth class at a couple’s home, eat the vegetarian Bansh from Ayanchin lodge, walk up to the top of the Zaisan hill (ok that wouldn’t really be able to happen all in the same weekend), laze on the couch then go to Monet and eat great food and then go out to watch Degi perform! Sunday sleep in because it’s raining, take a drive to Terelj and go fishing on the Tuul River with my family then swing by Hazara for a curry and enjoy our lovely Mongolian Baishin!
What’s your advice to UB newcomers?
Get out there and meet people, walk the streets, enter the little shops, practice Mongolian often, do the things that make you happy anywhere else in the world and if you can’t do them here (like outdoor swimming! )then find something else that makes you just as happy. Do charity work if you’re not working or spend more time with your children if you have them, try new places, travel and laugh.However, I don’t think people HAVE to do anything this could be a great place to hibernate at home and be creative or read books watch DVD’s and eat Khushuur. Oh and make sure you get tickets to Naadam. One more thing get an invite to a wedding, we just went to the best wedding I have ever attended it was at the Hotel Mongolia.
Is there anything you can’t live without in UB?
VEGIMITE. Tragic I know. AFL on weekend and our ipad to listen to ABC Melbourne on internet radio.
Have you managed to learn any Mongolian?
I know about 30 words – it’s pathetic! I try but I get misunderstood more than I am understood. The Mongolia/English dictionary is permanently glued to my face. I will be taking classes after the summer. I think learning Mongolian is paramount particularly if I want to assist Mongolian women. However, a smile and an Ogloni Mend seems to work well on my morning run! I know a swear word too! I use it in traffic, but with my windows up the driver gets a good laugh!
What’s your favourite UB restaurant/s?
Monet – the fine dining, the view, the view, the fabulous staff
The Japanese restaurant at the kempinski has agadashi tofu to die for
Hazara- the colorful vegetarian curries and pakoras
Shilla in Seoul St i had a great vegetarian Korean dish there
The boys LOVE the sushi train at Khan Bank in Seoul st – and it’s fun.
Truthfully we don’t eat out too much. I like ordering fresh food from Hunee.mn, UB Fresh Food and Joel’s so we can entertain at home.
I want to try the restaurant at Monnis tower and also Loving hut as i am vegetarian.
What’s your favourite pastime or something you like to do to relax?
To relax I like to run with my friend Michelle who is teaching me a lot about running. We are going to do the Gobi Desert half marathon in September. I also relax with a nice wine in the company of our new friends here in Mongolia (there will be sniggers about the wine comment!).
What music do you listen to when you’re stuck in UB traffic?
Mongolian of course! Whatever is on the radio if we have the driver. But if I am driving I want total silence as its really stressful driving here.
Picture Ulaanbaatar 20 years from now and tell me what you see.
OHHH wow what a great question…..
A fabulous skyline, lots of parks, entertainment venues, a ring road and 5 bridges, clean air and water, world class facilities and education available to all. Plus a MONORAIL!!! I see a total multicultural city that has reclaimed Mongolian culture, history and art. Oh and many women who are trained in pregnancy massage, birth support and …..prenatal education classes will be available at all hospitals.
Who inspires you?
In my life, my husband. In Mongolia, Dr Unur from the Number 1 Maternity Hospital Ulaanbaatar. In truth anyone who lives their dreams and pushes their personal limitations. Most inspiring are the people that accept kookiness and difference because that’s me and if I’m accepted, I get inspired to do great things.
What was the last book you read?
I wish it was something philosophical and deep, but it wasn’t. It was a book called “Hold the Dog” written by a British backpacker about his trip to Mongolia. The other book I am reading is called Slow Boat to Mongolia by an Australian nurse who lived in Saudi Arabia and then ventured to Mongolia. right up my alley!
Do you have a favourite quote or motto to live by?
Be the change you want to see in the world.
If you could have dinner with 5 people who would they be?
Well I know I can have dinner with 5 people, but if I could choose and someone else was paying and it was specifically to achieve a game plan for public hospital delivery suites and antenatal education then THAT IS Oh so easy….. You and the Minister of Health to enable funding, Dr Unur the pioneering OB/Gyn, any wealthy philanthropist who has a passion for Mongolia and for Childbirth education and an expatriate man I met here recently called Steve Potter. He had such wonderful stories and life experiences. I believe he would know how to make it all work.