Monday, August 15, 2011

Helping to see

The Chinggis Khaan statue
There is a valley 210 kilometres east of UB, that leaving payment behind, winds about the same distance north. It is a wide expanse, bracketed by mountainous steppes. At the northern end along the Onon River lies Binder soum (soum is akin to a rural municipality) which is the soum center – and fabled home of the Great Emperor Chinggis Khaan.

An intensive day’s work at the soum’s credit union is behind us. After a refreshing swim in the Onon our good natured host and credit union leader Nasaa (his `short` name) is anxious to share the treasured history of his homeland.

Moving across the plain, we arrive at the first of two monuments we will visit. One of three bodies of water mentioned in the Secret History of the Mongols yet remains. Such is the deep history of this place. We are standing on the spot where 805 years ago (don’t get me started on the difference between a country and a civilization), a Mongol named Temujin was proclaimed Chinggis Khaan, uniting the Mongol tribes and forever changing the course of history across Asia and Europe.

A marker from an American archaeological expedition attests to the authenticity of the site. Most striking, is the inscribed stone monument that rises to dominate the small fenced compound - dedicated by the Mongolian people. At the moment it is an eerily quiet place, the sun readying to set.

Monument commemorating Chinggis Khaan's birthplace, with the valley and lake in the background
Distracted, I now notice our host has prepared a toast for each present – in true Mongolian tradition, with a popular vodka. We toast, yet it somehow seems an insufficient expression of respect. I have nothing with me, save the better part of the generous toast provision… so I do what pilgrims might do. Walking over to the monument, pour out my drink on it. This appears to resonate with our group, as they follow suit.

We now move to a small hill, with the valley spreading out before us. This was the birthplace of Chinggis Khaan in 1162. “Imagine what this would have looked like,” I ask my host and interpreter, “when Chinggis and his army were here.” Their eyes lit up as we filled in possible details of the scene. Yes, it would have been epic!

The next afternoon we are asking Nasaa and his staff to see again… this time it is their credit union’s future. And it is much more than a visioning exercise. It yields concrete strategic goals, objectives and accountabilities. They are a committed and talented group, serving their growing membership well. And the hospitality we experience is both genuine and generous.

Did I mention I am now somebody’s hero? Yes, thanks to being allowed the honour of drawing the winning grand prize entry in a yearlong campaign run in conjunction with the credit union’s fifth anniversary celebrations. Evidently the old herder and I are now friends for life. I hope he enjoys his motorcycle…

It may be challenging, but being an international development coach is an enriching experience. Personally, I think every Canadian credit union CEO should do it. As I leave Binder soum though, I just can’t seem to get Bob Seger’s refrain from Turn the Page out of my head.

Itinerant Coach (and occasional pilgrim)

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