Thursday, December 04, 2008

Switching to Wordpress

OK, I'm making the leap too. Please come to http://sumpteretc.wordpress.com and add my RSS feed there. Hope to see you soon.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Mongolia: "One of the most disaster-prone areas in the world"

Some interesting and disturbing facts from ReliefWeb:

Mongolia "experiences a spectrum of disasters ranging from heavy snowfalls in winter, strong winds and dust storms, drought, earthquakes, and animal and human epidemic infectious diseases. The three largest cities in Mongolia are located in magnitude 7 to 8 seismic active areas."

Earthquakes are one of the most devastating forms of natural disasters, and in Mongolia, 80 percent of the total land area and 70 percent of urban areas are located in earthquake-prone regions. Ulaanbaatar accommodates more than half of its total population and produces around 60 percent of local products. However, the city is located in a very active seismic zone and, coupled with older infrastructure, building standards are doubtful to withstand earthquakes of above magnitude 5 on the Richter scale.

Mongolia ranks 114 out of 177 on the human development index. Surveys show that 36.1% live below the national poverty line, and 18.9% live on less than one dollar a day.

Avian flu occurred in 41 subprovinces, killing 679 wild birds.

Prices for basic food items such as wheat and rice rose more than 100% in the first few months of this year.

Mongolia spent about 7% of GDP on social assistance programs.

In the past 3-5 years, (1) 57 storm winds have caused nearly a million dollars in damage and killing 300,000 head of livestock, (2) 28 people have died in floods, (3) 358 forest fires have killed 3 people, and (4) at least 15 earthquakes were recorded.

Rivers and Lakes Drying Up in Mongolia

A new survey shows that the rivers and lakes in Mongolia are drying up.
The survey, conducted by the Water Authority and the State Professional Control Agency, revealed that over 1,200 rivers have dried up in Mongolia. Four years ago, more than 5,100 rivers were counted while today there were fewer than 3,900.

Government officials also said 2,600 lakes are now dry, out of a total of 3,700, while 23,000 of the country’s 93,700 springs are dry. Further, of the more than 400 mineral waters, 110 have disappeared.
Apparently, part of the blame lies with water-intensive industries such as leather tanning and gold mining. In a country that only receives 7-9 inches of precipitation annually and that is hundreds of miles from the ocean, water needs to be more carefully managed.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Results of last year's harvest

Mongolia had a larger-than-expected harvest this fall. Mongolia Web News reports that
about 205,821 tons of cereals, 142,124 tons of potatoes and 80,627 tons of vegetables were harvested this year.

Also, Mongolian farmers brought in 1008.8 thousand tons of hay, 25.9 thousand tons of hand-made fodder and 950.2 tons of silage crops.

Compared with the same period in 2007, the harvest of cereals, potatoes, hay and silage crops increased 85.3 thousand tons or 74.4 percent, 18.5 thousand tons or 16.2 percent, 116.0 thousand tons or 13.0 percent, and 796.1 tons or 6.2 times more, respectively.


Hopefully, this will help to make Mongolia more self-sufficient in the coming year and less subject to food price inflation.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Largest Economic Sector in Mongolia

According to Mongol Bank, Mongolia's largest economic sector is foreign remittances. $195 million enter the country annually from the 430,000 Mongolians working abroad (only 130,000 are officially counted). This means that 1 in 15 Mongolians is working overseas. (Source)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Owning a car in UB

We have already decided that we are not going to own a car in Mongolia at least for the first few years. We are apparently nearly alone in that decision, though. Mongolia Web News reports a massive increase in car sales this year. At the beginning of 2008, there were 26,123 cars registered in Ulaanbaatar; today, there are 120,000. Well, maybe there will be more room on the buses now. No wonder it's hard to cross the street!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Never Find Out



More videos available here.

Treatment of cats and dogs in Mongolia

Peace Corps Mongolia has an interesting, albeit disturbing blog post about how domestic animals are treated in Mongolia. Here is an excerpt from the more disturbing part:
Speaking of killing dogs… in the bitter Mongolian winter, all stray dogs are killed. There are many reasons for killing off the street dogs. One reason is safety. A pack of hungry dogs sometimes will go after small children to eat. Another reason is for population control. I can’t imagine how many more stray dogs there would be if the majority weren’t killed off every winter.



How are the stray dogs killed off? Many people in the West would think that many of these are inhumane, but I’ll tell you anyway. Sometimes the poison is put in the trash dumpsters, so that the dogs will eat the poison. Sometimes dogs are clubbed to death. But the most extreme way I’ve heard to kill a dog: Let jailed prisoners out for the day. Give them guns. Let the prisoners walk around town shooting all of the stray dogs. You may think I’m joking, but I’m not.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Travel tips for Mongolia

Random Travel Tips has a couple of top 10 lists of recommendations for traveling in Mongolia.

Jannina Jessen has some interesting observations as well.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Racism in the 2008 presidential election?

For those who think race won't play a major factor in the election next month, check out this segment from the Howard Stern Show:

Monday, October 06, 2008

Japan to seek uranium from Mongolia

Bloomberg reports that fifty government and corporate officials from Japan will head to Mongolia this week to enter into talks seeking participation in that nation's uranium deposits. Japan is the world's third largest uranium consumer, and competition with China and India for the mineral has grown fierce.
Mongolia has 62,000 tons of proven uranium reserves, or 1 percent of the world's total, according to the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corp. The country has untapped areas that may contain as much as 1.39 million tons, which would make it the world's largest source of the ore, the group says.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

ADRA

This video highlights some of the relief and development work being done by the Seventh Day Adventists in Mongolia.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Religious freedom in Mongolia

Montsame republished this Mongolia section of the 2008 Report on International Religious Freedom:
The Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and other laws and policies contributed to the generally free practice of religion. However, the law limits proselytizing.
There was no change in the status of respect for religious freedom by the Government during the period covered by this report. Some religious groups faced bureaucratic harassment from local governments or were denied the right to register.
There were reports of societal abuses and discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice, sometimes involving pressure on persons who had converted to Christianity.
The U.S. Government discusses religious freedom with the Government as part of its overall policy to promote human rights.

Section I. Religious Demography

The country has an area of 604,247 square miles and a population of 2.9 million. Buddhism and the country's cultural traditions are closely linked. When government controls on religion and on traditional practices ended in 1990, there was an increase in Buddhist activity. Local scholars claim that more than 90 percent of all citizens ascribe to some form of Buddhism, although practice varies widely. Lamaist Buddhism of the Tibetan variety is the traditional and dominant religion.
Ethnic Kazakhs, most of whom are Muslim, are the largest ethnic minority, constituting approximately 6 percent of the population nationwide and 80 percent in the western province of Bayan-Olgiy. Muslims operate approximately 40 mosques in Bayan-Olgiy and 4 Islamic centers in Ulaanbaatar, serving nearly 3,000 students combined. The mosques and Islamic centers receive financial assistance from religious organizations in Kazakhstan, Turkey, and the Gulf States.
There is a small but growing number of Christians. Church officials estimate that more than 4 percent of the population practice Christianity, of which an estimated 90 percent are Protestant and 9 percent are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon). Roman Catholics and members of the Russian Orthodox Church together account for the remaining 1 percent. Some citizens practice shamanism, often in tandem with another religion, but there are no reliable statistics on their number.
Throughout the country, there were 432 registered places of worship, 217 proselytizing, and some religious groups seeking registration face burdensome bureaucratic requirements and significant delays (see Restrictions). The Constitution explicitly recognizes the separation of church and state.
Although there is no state religion, many government officials are Buddhists who believe that Buddhism is the "natural religion" of the country. The Government contributed to the restoration of several Buddhist sites that are important religious, historical, and cultural centers. The Government did not otherwise subsidize Buddhist or any other religious groups.
A religious group must register with the Ministry of Justice and Home Affairs (MJHA) to legally function as an organization. Because registrations are only valid for 12 months, religious institutions must reregister annually. This practice allows the Government to vet applications to ensure that religious organizations are qualified, as well as to supervise and limit the number of places of worship and clergy. The Government, particularly at the local level, has sometimes used the registration process as a mechanism to limit the number of places for religious worship. However, the central government reportedly fined at least one local government for failing to register Christian churches.
Groups must provide the following documentation to the MJHA when registering: a letter to the MJHA requesting registration, a letter from the city council or other local authority granting approval to conduct religious services, a brief description of the organization, its charter, documentation of its founding, a list of leaders, brief biographic information on the person wishing to conduct religious services, and the expected number of worshippers. While the MJHA possesses the ultimate authority to approve an organization's application, this is largely pro forma. In practice local legislative bodies adjudicate the applications, and separate local registration is often necessary, particularly when groups seek to operate in the countryside. The Ulaanbaatar City Council and other local legislative bodies require similar documentation prior to granting approval to conduct religious services.

Religious visas are not granted.

Religious instruction is not permitted in public schools. Buddhist schools may receive public funding for teaching the standard curriculum to students; however, expenses for religious and special subjects must be covered by other sources.

Restrictions on Religious Freedom

Both the preliminary registration and annual renewal process are burdensome for religious groups. The length of time needed, and documentation required, to complete the process serve as a disincentive for some organizations from applying. Christian groups reported that local officials stated there were "too many" churches or that there should at least be parity in the registration of new Buddhist temples and new Christian churches.
Authorities in Tuv Province, near Ulaanbaatar, continued to deny registration to Christian churches. There were no churches registered in the province, and several churches were again denied registration during the reporting period. Tuv authorities further complicated the registration process by requiring registration at the village, county, and province level. In previous years registration took place only at the provincial A Ministry of Education directive bans combining foreign language or other training with religious teaching or instruction. While monitoring compliance, particularly in the capital area, remained strict, there were no reported violations of the ban during the reporting period. Religious groups that violate the law may have requests for extensions of their registration revoked; if individuals violate the law, the Government may recommend that their employer terminate their employment. No such cases were reported during the reporting period.
While the law does not prohibit proselytizing, it limits such activity by forbidding the spread of religious views to nonbelievers by "force, pressure, material incentives, deception, or means which harm health or morals or are psychologically damaging." During the reporting period, there were no instances of prosecutions or loose interpretations of this law to restrict peaceful religious activities.
During an immigration crackdown in October 2007, a number of foreigners were taken to police stations for long periods of questioning because they were not carrying their passports when the police stopped them. Expatriates from Asian countries received particular scrutiny, and many believed that the Government used the immigration crackdown as a pretext to "crack down" on Christianity.
In August 2007 the Khamba Lama, the head of the largest school of Buddhism in the country, visited Bayankhongor Province. During the visit, provincial officials reportedly convened a mandatory meeting of government officials with the Khamba Lama so the latter could explain the importance of Buddhism in the country and to conduct a Buddhist ceremony. Some government officials who attended, who were also Christian, subsequently complained that they had been involuntarily involved in a Buddhist ceremony. The Khamba Lama also reported difficulties in registering new temples in Ulaanbaatar due to the MJHA approval process.
There were no reports of religious prisoners or detainees in the country.

Forced Religious Conversion

There were no reports of forced religious conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed from the United States, or of the refusal to allow such citizens to be returned to the United States.
Improvements and Positive Developments in Respect for Religious Freedom
In May 2008 the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA), a nonsectarian nongovernmental organization originally organized by leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, held a symposium on religious freedom. Participants included domestic experts as well as experts from the United States, Russia, and other Asian countries. The country's president, Nambaryn Enkhbayar, gave the event his full support, and representatives from IRLA stated that the response from the Government was positive.

Section III. Societal Abuses and Discrimination

There were reports of societal abuses and discrimination based on religious affiliation, belief, or practice during the period covered by this report. Citizens were In Bayankhongor Province, tensions continued between the majority Buddhist population and foreign Christians. During the reporting period, it was alleged that Christian converts vandalized a Buddhist ovoo (sacred rock pile) and destroyed a number of personal Buddhas. Christian pastors made comparable complaints against Buddhists. Similar incidents reportedly took place in Tuv Province and the Baganuur district of Ulaanbaatar.
There were reports that individuals who converted to Christianity were pressured by disapproving family members to renounce their faith. A church leader reported that in Ulaanbaatar a 25-year-old man who had converted to Christianity and was about to start a mission was locked inside his home by family members in February 2008. The man eventually canceled his mission.
Some citizens, who believe that Buddhism is the "natural religion" of the country, criticized the alleged use of material incentives to attract potential converts to Christianity
.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sanj Bayar chosen as prime minister

China View reports that Mongolia is moving ahead with a new united government made up of members of both of the two prominent political parties. They have chosen Sanj Bayar, prime minister since November of last year, to continue to serve in that role. Bayar, chairman of the MPRP, says that his focus will be on economic improvement, particularly raising the standard of living. Other members of the new government are to be announced soon.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Riders in Nadaam Festival

Why Mongolia wants more neighbours

BBC News has a good story on Mongolia's unique geopolitical situation. Landlocked between the two giants of Russia and China, Mongolia is actively seeking investment and political cooperation from Europe and the United States, calling them "third neighbors." The recent Khaan Quest 2008 military operations are just one example of Mongolia's attempts to be a player on the world scene.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

UB: A City of Contrasts

Rachel at RSM in Asia gives a brief look at the cultural contrasts in modern Ulaanbaatar:
Most everyone has a cell phone stuck to their ear, most people sport trendy clothes and would not look out of place in a hip, American city. Cars are ubiquitous and rush hour here could rival that of LA. (However, there is hope - I have seen two Priuses since I've been here!) Because UB is the only major city in the country, some people from the country side come here to try and better their life. There are over 10,000 children living in the sewer system in UB and beggars are hard to avoid. Pick-pocketing and theft is a serious danger here so we are all taking extra measures to be safe.

Deconstructing Church

Keith Drury has written an interesting article on the evolution of the church. He traces the history of how the Boomer generation has remade the church in their own image since the 1970s and investigates how the emergents of today are reacting. He makes some good points about the necessity of today's church investigating how to mentor the new generation while also learning from them.

Good News for Mongolia

Friday, August 29, 2008

Mongolian Parliament Finally Sworn In

The New York Sun reports that the Mongolian government is finally ready to get to work. Following the protests of the July 1 election, the minority Democratic Party refused to attend sessions of Parliament. Without their presence, the majority MPRP could not establish a quorum to begin work.

Now, Elbegdorj Tsakhia, leader of the Democratic Party, has relented. He continues to allege voter fraud, claiming that the DP should have won 64 seats, instead of the 28 they were awarded. Although international observers declared the election fair, Elbegdorj says fraud was endemic. Some people voted as many as 18 times, he alleges, and, because the MPRP controls the electoral process, little was done to police the situation. Polls show that most Mongolian voters believe the election was unfair.

Of greater concern, though, were the post-election activities of the government. During the state of emergency, all private television channels were silenced, allowing the MPRP to have greater influence over public opinion. Elbegdorj even suspects that a fire set at the National Modern Art Gallery was a deliberate attempt to frame the DP. Naturally, the MPRP denies any involvement with the fire. "You can't think of a more stupid thing," says the general secretary of the party.

In order to convince the DP to return to Parliament, some concessions were made. A subcommittee will investigate the fraud allegations, and the state prosecutor's office will look into possible abuses by the police during the protests. Some police officers have already been charged with shooting protesters.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

New Coke plant in Ulaanbaatar

Coca-Cola has just spent 22 million dollars to build a new six-hectare manufacturing plant in Mongolia. Coke has enjoyed a 50% annual growth rate in the country; they supply direct employment for 3,500 people and perhaps indirect employment for as many as 35,000 suppliers and business partners.
"With the burgeoning beverage market in Mongolia we have recorded remarkable growth rates. In 2002 we sold 4 Coca-Cola products to every average Mongolian consumer. In 2008 we are selling an average of 67 beverages to every Mongolian consumer. This has caused our first plant to run out of manufacturing capacity 7 years ahead of schedule" said Mr. Jambaljamts [Chairman & CEO of MCS Group]. "We are greatly encouraged by the outstanding performance of our bottling operation as both the bottling company and The Coca-Cola Company have exceeded all projections of profitability and sales. Our investment in the new plant is just our first step to bring world class manufacturing to Mongolia."

Mongolia's second Olympic gold

Badar-Uugan Enkhbat has won Mongolia's first-ever gold medal in boxing, winning the bantamweight final over Cuba's Yankiel Leon Alarcon. The score was 16-5. Enkhbat took a 4-1 lead in the first round and easily held off Alarcon, in front of a sizable Mongolian crowd in the Workers' Gymnasium. Enkhbat, born in Ulaanbaatar in 1985, had previously won the silver medal at the international championship.

Mongolia missed its shot at a third gold when China's Zou Shiming defeated Serdamba Purevdorj in the light flyweight category. The fight was stopped in the second round due to an injury to Purevdorj's shoulder. This was Mongolia's first Olympic silver medal in boxing.

On Sunday afternoon, the people of Ulaanbaatar took to the streets to celebrate the two medals. Public screenings of the matches drew crowds, and people gathered in homes to watch the broadcasts on any of four channels airing the fights. Following the wins, the streets were filled with people shouting, giving high-fives, and waving the Mongolian flag from car windows.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Boxing for Gold

Fox Sports reports on Mongolia's Olympic boxing hopefuls:
Both China and Mongolia made history by qualifying fighters for an Olympic boxing final for the first time - and in Mongolia's case it was at a Games where judoka Tuvshinbayar Naidan won the country's first ever Olympic gold.

Badar-Uugan Enkhbat at bantamweight and Serdamba Purevdorj at light-flyweight will hope to become Mongolia's first ever boxing Olympic champions.

"I'm very happy and proud that two of our boxers could get through to the finals," said Mongolian coach Bandi Damdinjav.

"It's very honourable for us and for all Mongolian people."

Serdamba will face Zou Shiming, the third of China's finalists, who as double world champion will start as favourite.

Badar-Uugan will come up against Yankiel Leon of Cuba.

Mongolia names Nasreen Awal Bangladesh Consul

Mongolia names Nasreen Awal Bangladesh Consul

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Contemplating Georgia and Mongolia

Ever since this scuffle between Georgia and Russia began, I've been pondering what effect Russia's new aggressiveness might have on other former Soviet satellites. In particular, I've wondered about the effect on Mongolia. ComingAnarchy.com has done an assessment of the issue and seems to come to the conclusion that, despite the commonalities that Georgia and Mongolia share, Mongolia will stay off the Russian imperialistic radar for some time.
Mongolians realize that no outside power can project its power at the heart of Inner Asia forever, and the reality of living between two giant neighbors is something that Mongolia will arguably have forever.

Of course, because Mongolia does not threaten the interests of Russia or China like Georgia threatened Russia (bypassing pipelines, American troops presence, NATO involvement, etc.), both countries generally think of Mongolia as a strategic backwater. So Moscow and Beijing can be more generouis with Mongolia becoming close to the US, and its role as a buffer state won’t change—at least not in the eyes of Moscow.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Conan O'Brien - ''Pilobolus''

Naidan wins Olympic gold


This was on four channels in Mongolia, but I don't think it made the American broadcasts. Here's the final match in 100- kg judo.

Mongolia the next rising star in Medals Per Capita list

Mongolia the next rising star in Medals Per Capita list

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Mongolia Celebrates Olympic Gold


Mongolian Matters reports on the massive celebration in UB of Mongolia's first-ever Olympic gold medal. The rejoicing bonded even the estranged leaders of the MPRP and MDP. The president of the country walked down the steps of the government house holding hands with the prime minister and the leader of the Democratic Party. The blogger notes how large quantities of gold (mining rights) have divided the country, but how a very small amount of gold has brought them together.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

First Gold Medal in Beijing


Mongolia's Tuvshinbayar Naidan has defeated Ashkat Zhitkeyev to win the men's -100kilograms class judo gold, the AP reports. Naidan had defeated the Japanese 2004 gold medalist in the first round before going on to eliminate fighters from Germany, Korea and Azerbaijan. This was his first Olympic competition; he had taken 5th place at the 2006 Doha Asian Games.

Until 2000, Naidan was a wrestler, and he used a Mongolian wrestling move to drop his final contender. Although Naidan was five inches shorter than his opponent from Kazakhstan, he dove low and barrelled into Zhitkeyev's legs. He was able to post three scoring blows by lifting Zhitkeyev off the ground and rolling him onto his back.

This was Mongolia's first gold medal in history. They had previously won six silver medals and twelve bronze. Mongolia is now 2 medals ahead of Canada in the Beijing Olympics. :)

Foreign drudges jostle to Mongolia

Foreign drudges jostle to Mongolia

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It's Boom Time!

That's what Peter Morrow, CEO of Khaan Bank, claims about Ulaanbaatar's retail sector, according to the UB Post. Morrow reports that, in 2000, the State Department Store was just a series of vegetable and meat stalls, while today, it is a thriving department store with high-end goods. If Mongolia's mining sector takes off, the rest of UB's retail business could follow suit.

Investors are worried, though, in the light of recent unrest and the slow progress of mining in the nation. Next month, they will have an opportunity to address these issues at an economic forum in UB. Morrow insists that Mongolia is absolutely a good, stable place to invest.

Mongolia's GDP grew by at least 9 or 10 percent last year, as they begin to exploit the resources that Russia controlled for so long. The strong economy, proximity to China, and an ambitious promotion of tourism has put Mongolia on the business map, and international corporations are being drawn to UB. The fact that the nation is a late bloomer economically means that they have avoided some of the chaos currently plaguing the world market, such as the mortgage-backed securities that have played havoc with the U.S. economy.

Still, Mongolia has some obstacles to address. First, there needs to be a clear sign from the government that they are ready to sign off on some new mining projects, something they've only done once in their 20-year independence. Second, the nation needs to convince investors that the July 1 unrest was an isolated incident and that the new government is ready to move forward. So far the Democratic Party has been able to stall the installation of the new Parliament, but Morrow and other investors are hopeful that this can be accomplished by next month.

Morrow will be among those presenting at the economic forum, addressing these issues as well as environmental, legislative, and international trade concerns. Morrow is confident, though, that UB is a showplace that will convice investors by itself. "You can see the great vibrancy, the excitement of what’s happening here," he says. Probably nothing earth-shattering will come out of this forum, but it will hopefully open international eyes to the great potential for investment in Mongolia.

A Road to Kazakhstan

Last week, the President of Kazakhstan met with the Mongolian president on a number of issues. One of those issues was the desire to have a highway linking the two nations. Both nations desire increased international trade but have lacked a good transportation link. The highway would have to pass through Russia, so they will need international cooperation for the project to move forward.

Mongolia's next medal hopeful

Serdamba Purevdorj has progressed to the Round of 16 in the men's 48 kg boxing competition by defeating Ronald Serugo of Uganda.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mongolian Government to Subsidize Cashmere Purchases

Because banks have been charging high interest rates, cashmere sales have slowed recently in Mongolia. Currently, herders are currently holding more than 2,000 tons of cashmere. In response, Montsame reports that the government of Mongolia is guaranteeing loans of MNT 10 billion to cashmere processing facilities to purchase from the herders. Sixty percent of that money is going to the Gobi Cashmere company.

Mongolians in the Olympics

As the Olympic athletes go into the final round of the womens' 25m pistol event, Mongolia's Gundegmaa Otryad enters with a massive 3-point lead. In the preliminary round, Otryad shot 291 out of 300 in the precision segment and 299 out of 300 in the rapid-fire segment.

In second place is Dorjsuren Monkhbayar, a Mongolian who became a German citizen six years ago. The defending champion is currently in fifth place.

UPDATE: China's Chen Ying came from behind to take the gold, when Otryad's pistol locked up on her 11th shot. Chen won by 1.2 points. Otryad still managed to claim the silver, with Monkhbayar picking up the bronze. Otryad's silver is Mongolia's first medal this year.

Montsame reports the contents of Prime Minister S. Bayar's telegram to Otryad: "I offer heartfelt congratulations on behalf of the Mongolian people and the government of Mongolia to you for winning a silver medal. Mongolian people are happy to win the silver medal after 28 years and for the first time ever by a woman. I wish high success for Mongolian sports teams and athletes, and hope that the Mongolian athletes will show more success at the world sports arena. Let the glory of Mongolia be developed around the world".

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

car repair

I was quite worried about the steering on our car. Lately, we've had a bad vibration in the front left wheel when we're going 65-70 mph. On my trip to Chicago, a guy drove up next to me and yelled that my wheel was wobbling. I had taken the car to the garage to check on the air conditioner, and the service adviser had pointed out that the inner tie rod bushings were badly worn. He also pointed out that the rack and pinion was leaking. He gave me a quote of $1700. I'm not sure if that was just the tie rod repair or the whole steering system.

At any rate, I was thrilled that my talented brother-in-law James was willing to come over this morning and help me with the repair. Well, okay, he did the repair while I watched. The parts were less than $20, and James had the job done in less than 2 hours, including the trip to the parts store. Since none of my mechanically-inclined family members are going to Mongolia with us, maybe it's good that we've decided to go without a vehicle for a few years.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Post-Election Violence Continues

Five people have been killed and 328, including 108 servicemen, have been injured in demonstrations in Ulanbaatar, Mongolia. Two of the five dead were shot and another died of smoke inhalation inside the MPRP headquarters. A Japanese journalist was among the injured. Around 700 protesters have been detained, 90% of them younger than 35. About 1,500 security forces, including 200 soliders, are patrolling the streets of the capital.

This is Mongolia's first ever state of emergency. In addition to the curfew enacted from 10 pm to 8 am for four days, the central parts of the city have been cordoned off. Alcohol sales have also been banned, and only state-owned TV stations are being permitted to broadcast. The city has largely calmed. Some roads are still barricaded, but business have opened and public transport is running.

The US embassy has expressed deep concern and has urged both parties to work together to remain a bastion of democracy in Central Asia. The justice department has reported that opposition forces are planning large demonstrations after the curfew is lifted and insists that those protests will also be suppressed. The parliament is to meet in an emergency session today to discuss the crisis.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

State of Emergency

As violent protests have continued to swell in Mongolia, the government has announced a four-day state of emergency. Shots were fired as troops moved into the capital to enforce the curfew, which will last until Friday evening. Anyone on the streets after 10 pm without documentation may be arrested.

Rioters were looting art galleries and stealing televisions from government offices. Others were vandalizing and torching cars in the neighborhood, but activity died down when the president announced the curfew. As many as 30 police officers and 25 civilians have been hospitalized.

President Enkhbayar did meet with the prime minister and the opposition leaders urging restraint. Following this meeting, Prime Minister S. Bayar leveled blame for the incidents pointedly at the leader of the Democratic Party.

Violent Protests Follow Mongolian Election

What had been a relatively peaceful election process in Mongolia has now shown some signs of violence. In mid-afternoon, roughly 6,000 protesters, mostly young males from the Mongolian Democratic Party, alleging voter fraud, clashed with police outside the headquarters of the General Election Commission and the MPRP. Protesters threw stones at the buildings and at the police in riot gear. Some also pushed into the election offices and demanded the resignation of officials. Finally, protesters set fire to the MPRP headquarters and three nearby cars. They also entered a duty-free shop and began throwing bottles at the fire. When fire fighters tried to reach the scene, the demonstrators turned their rock-throwing activities toward the firetrucks. Firefighters managed to control the fire, but protesters continued to clash with the military and police, who retaliated with rocks, water cannons, rubber bullets and teargas. Several protesters sported bloody faces, but the riots were still in progress as night fell.

The protests originally centered around two districts of the capital won by the MPRP but contested by the Civic Movement Party. Later, though, the DP joined the demonstrations, questioning the entire outcome of the election. The latest results suggest that the MPRP has garnered 46 of the seats in the State Great Khural, the DP 26, an independent and a minor party each 1, with 2 seats still undetermined. No official results have been announced, and election commission officials have declared that claims being made by the MPRP are premature.

The leader of the DP, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, also announced that he would not accept the projected outcome: "We do not need these results. No one needs these kinds of results, and they will be corrected in accordance with the law." Allegations center around suggestions that the MPRP controlled polling stations by appointing party members as directors. The DP plans to present details of election fraud, which may further delay the announcement of official results.

President Enkhbayar has called for investigation into the allegations of voter fraud but has denounced the use of illegal actions in expressing protest. The President and the Prime Minister plan to meet with the leaders of the dissenting groups.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Election Results

The rural votes have been counted, and with urban votes currently being counted, it looks like the MPRP has taken 44 seats (38 in the country and 6 in the capital), the DP 21 seats and independents 3 seats. Votes for the remaining seats are still being counted. Final results are expected tomorrow, but it appears that the MPRP has an absolute majority in the parliament and the former communists will be the ones tasked with bringing Mongolia's inflation under control and determining how to appropriately exploit the nation's mineral resources. The early results were sufficient to drive up Ivanhoe Mines' stock around 9%.

Awaiting Election Results

Polling stations have closed, and we may have a long wait for the results of yesterday’s elections in Mongolia. Russian observers say the voting went off without a hitch, but some minor party candidates have already complained that the vote was not fair. Supporters of the Civic Movement Party grabbed ballot boxes in the capital but were chased down by police. The General Election Committee condemned the attack.

About 74% of the nation’s 1.5 million registered voters participated in the polling, down slightly from the 81% who voted in the election of 2004, which left a hung State Great Khural, with neither of the two major parties able to establish a firm government. Now, the discovery of extensive mineral wealth and concerns over unbridled inflation (15.1% last year) have combined to make this a high-stakes election. Per capita income in the country stands at just $1,500 a year.

Both the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party and the Mongolian Democratic Party support investment agreements to allow the Oyu Tolgoi copper and gold project in the Gobi Desert to proceed. Ivanhoe Mines and Rio Tinto, the developers of the project, suggest that this mine could boost Mongolia’s GDP by 34% and could be followed by uranium and coal extraction projects.

More than 350 candidates from 12 parties and one coalition ran in the election. Smaller parties argue that allowing the developers to proceed under current contracts would rob Mongolia of its wealth and do irreparable harm to the environment. The law currently gives the government a 50% share in any project where state funds are used and a 34% share in others. A recent proposal would give Mongolia a 51% share in any major project. The MPRP would centralize those holdings in the Mongolian government, and give each citizen a “Gift of the Motherland,” a cash dividend of $1,300 once mining starts. The DP, on the other hand, advocates a Mongolian holding corporation, in which all Mongolians are stakeholders, as well as giving a “Treasure Share” of $860 to each Mongolian. Both parties are also pushing greater economic independence for Mongolia through increased agricultural initiatives and further exploration for oil and natural gas. Currently, Mongolia imports 90% of its oil and natural gas from Russia, a fact Russia has recently used for economic blackmail.

Although the minor parties are unlikely to grab a large percentage of the vote, they may be in a significant position for negotiating if the parliament is again largely split. The MPRP claims that they have secured a majority of the votes in the countryside (40 to 50 of the 76 seats up for grabs), but other reports suggest a dead heat, which might result in a deadlock that could stall key mining deals.

Votes in the capital (typically a DP stronghold) remain uncounted, and there is confusion in some areas due to a new voting system. The old system had each constituency vote for one member of parliament. Now, there are fewer constituencies, but each one votes for several seats in the Great Khural. Voters have been confused, with some circling too many names on the ballot, invalidating their vote. Counting has also been slowed because pollworkers can no longer just stack up ballots as they did before when only one name was circled per ballot. The election committee is suggesting that results may not be available today.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

20080605 Khovsgol Lake, Mongolia 001

Thursday, June 26, 2008

JAPANESE WATER POWERED CAR!!

Where do I place my order? Oh, and where can I fit a couple of car seats?

Friday, June 20, 2008

THE WESLEYAN CHURCH ELECTS FIRST WOMAN

World Hope International Founder Elected in Historical Vote

Indianapolis - Dr. Jo Anne Lyon wrote a new chapter in the history of The Wesleyan Church on Monday, June 9, 2008, when she was elected by the Indianapolis, Indiana denomination as its first-ever woman General Superintendent at the Church’s June 7-11, 2008, General Conference in Orlando, Florida. “What a wonderful statement you have made as The Wesleyan Church,” said outgoing General Superintendent Dr. Earle L. Wilson to the nearly 2,000 delegates and guests at the conference.
An ordained minister in The Wesleyan Church, Dr. Lyon is founder of World Hope International and has led the organization to develop successful relief and development projects in more than 30 countries with an annual budget of over $12 million for 2007.
A licensed professional counselor, General Superintendent Lyon had thirty years prior experience in administering urban and rural human service programs before founding World Hope. She has a Bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Cincinnati, a Master’s in Counseling from The University of Missouri-Kansas City, and further graduate work at St. Louis University in Historical Theology. She has been awarded an honorary Doctor of Divinity and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.
Dr. Lyon will join Dr. Thomas E. Armiger and Dr. Jerry G. Pence on the Board of General Superintendents. Dr. Armiger and Dr. Pence, both incumbents, were elected to new terms earlier Monday, June 9.
The Wesleyan Church is an evangelical, Protestant denomination, which has its roots in John Wesley’s Methodism. The denomination has nearly 400,000 constituents in 5,000 churches and missions in 86 countries around the world.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

20080601 Amarbayasgalant Khiid Monastery, Mongolia 001

Mongolia seems to be growing closer and closer to China, and a desire for increasing closeness was expressed by China's Vice President Xi Jinping, who is visiting Mongolia this week. China has been Mongolia's top trading partner and top investor for nearly a decade, and this year has seen a 68% increase in bilateral trade over last year. About 90% of Mongolia's rice, clothing and vegetable imports come from China, and more than 6% of the Mongolian labor force are employees of the 700 Chinese businesses operating in the country. China's geographic proximity makes it easier for them to make the infrastructure investments that put them first in line to tap Mongolia's mineral wealth.

Some Mongolians have expressed displeasure over the rising food costs in their country. In an attempt to alleviate the problem, the government borrowed money to import flour, which they distributed to bread makers at discount prices. However, the bread makers refuse to pay cash for the flour, refuse to store the flour and refuse to accept the set price for bread established by the government. It seems like the government did not do their homework on this one. It's tough switching to a free market economy!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

20080528 Khongoryn Els Sand Dunes, Gobi Desert, Mongolia 001

Saturday, June 14, 2008

20080611 Erdene Zuu Monastery, Karakorum, Mongolia 001

Friday, June 13, 2008

World Day against Child Labor

Yesterday, Mongolia kicked off a one-year campaign to end child labor. More than 70,000 children in the nation are "economically active," and nearly 9,000 are school drop-outs. These numbers do not include those children who work in the coal and gold mines.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Eclipses, Earthquakes and Enterovirus-71

Mongolians are wondering how the impending solar eclipse will affect tourism in their country. There was less-than-anticipated crowd during the last such eclipse. While I would be interested in observing the eclipse, I was more interested in some of the customs observed by Mongoliands during this pheomenon. According to the UB Post, "In order to rid Rahu [enemy of the sky], Mongolians have some rituals to do during an eclipse: to make their dog bark (specially a four-eyed banhar), to make any three year old child cry, to fire a gun, and to make noise using kitchenware.” I'm certain that Elijah is glad we won't be there for people to try to make him cry.

A 4.2 magnitude earthquake has hit western Mongolia, causing widespread panic. Many people fled their apartments to stay in one-story dwellings or gers. This apparently followed widespread fears last week that an earthquake was about to hit UB. Unfortunately, seismology has not advance to the point where such quakes can be predicted.

On a brighter note, the hand-foot-mouth disease epidemic appears to be slowing. The rate of new infections has dropped to ten new cases per day, a drop from one hundred cases per day. Still, schools remain closed and public activities for children are prohibited. More than 2,000 have contracted the virus, including more than 1,000 in UB. Nearly 200 children are still in the hospital, while 800 more are under a doctor's care.

Vice President of PRC is to Pay visit to Mongolia

Vice President of PRC is to Pay visit to Mongolia

Posted using ShareThis

Saturday, May 31, 2008

20080527 Khongoryn Els Sand Dunes, Gobi Desert, Mongolia 002

Friday, May 30, 2008

May 30 headlines

Mongolia has now called for Saturday to be a day of mourning for the 45 people killed by a recent snowstorm in the eastern provinces, including 14 children. Tallies of the missing vary from 8 to 100, and thousands of livestock also perished. More than 300 rescue workers are battling poor weather conditions to search for the missing.

Have a bachelor's degree in English, history, geography or math? Are you open, tolerant, and a team player? There might be a job for you at Hobby School, a bi-lingual primary and secondary school in Mongolia. The salary is $700/mo. after taxes, but the school provides your accommodations, as well as paid vacations and a travel allowance at the end of the school year.

Getting high on Mongolian run by -- MONGOLIA'S snow-capped mountains and ancient horse trails are spectacular to look at - so why would you want to run up them? But that's what a group of ultra marathon fanatics are about to do, writes Sam Riley
...

Thursday, May 29, 2008

May 29 headlines

A group of Mongolians has decided to get in on the mining action by forming their own corporation. They figure that there's no sense in foreign companies doing the mining, when they can have an IPO in Hong Kong or Toronto to raise the money to set up their own mining concern.

The city of Ulaanbaatar has set aside 12 hectares for the construction of 4,000 new apartments by a South Korean firm.

The death toll in the spring snowstorm has risen to 29, and at least 100 Mongolians are missing.

Mongolia is considering eliminating gold from the 68% windfall tax. Since enactment of the tax, mining activity has not decreased, but the amount of gold being reported and paid to the national bank has slipped.

There are now more than 1700 cases of hand-foot-mouth disease in Mongolia.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Post-Christian America?

As we didn't have a missions service scheduled anywhere this weekend, we attended Heartland Christian Fellowship. (Actually, we have very few services scheduled for the coming months.) At any rate, it's nice to be able to attend our "home church" now and then. We attended my dad's Sunday school class, which is studying the book A Life that Matters by Ron Hutchcraft. The chapter they were discussing today had to do with the lostness of those around us. It included some shocking statistics regarding how little knowledge Americans have of the Bible, Christ, the church and Christian philosophy. If the statistics are accurate, they are fairly damning of the church, pointing out that despite 200 years of cultural dominance, Christians have failed to be salt and light in American society. I actually question the validity of the statistics somewhat. While I certainly concede that America is a post-Christian culture, the remnants of its Christian heritage are everywhere evident. Even soap operas often have a church as an oft-visited site and a priest as a secondary character; sometimes the plotlines are overtly spiritual. While some--okay, many--Americans do not avail themselves of the opportunities they have to become Biblically literate, etc., there is no lack of resources for them to alleviate that situation. If there is not, then the church is failing miserably. To the extent that the church's leaders are hypocritical CEOs of corporations and the rank-and-file membership are passive consumers of the pablum of pop Christianity, we as the church should be horribly ashamed.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

tsagaanuur farm, Mongolia


tsagaanuur farm, Mongolia, originally uploaded by Atuffs.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Fire!

North Mongolia Still Facing Fire Threats. Mongolia has had 105 wildfires in the past couple of months, with five still burning out of control in the northern part of the country. One of these just crossed into Mongolia last week from Russia. A couple of the fires have even reached suburbs of the capital.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Denver-UB Connection and Environmental Refugees

Denver, Colorado, has taken another step to solidify her position as a sister city to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. On May 10, Denver opened Ulaanbaatar Park with Mongolian Minister Counselor and Deputy Chief of Mission Mr. Odonjil Banzragch in attendance. Denver and UB have been sister cities for seven years, and Denver is the base for several businesses and NGOs doing business in Mongolia.

On another note, UB is experiencing unprecedented growth due to the fact that nomadic life is becoming untenable. Mongolia has seen a temperature rise of nearly two degrees Celsius in the past sixty years, causing sand storms, droughts and dzuds, winter storms characterized by temperatures as low as -40, heavy snow and strong winds. This situation is devastating to livestock herds (25% of livestock died between 1999 and 2003), and many nomadic herdsmen are being forced to relocate to the capital to earn a livelihood. They are part of a new demographic, the "environmental refugees."

stocks and social services

The Mongolian Stock Exchange, a government-owned corporation, and the Tokyo Stock Exchange have signed a vaguely-worded agreement, moving them towards eventually allowing trading on both exchanges. This seems like a good move for Mongolia, making it easier for outside investors to get a piece of the action and expanding Mongolia's financial interaction with countries other than Russia or China.

Mongolia's social services have recently been ranked among the top four in Asia. Asia Development Bank says that Mongolia excels in providing its citizens with welfare, employment, social security, health insurance, micro-credit, child protection, education and health support programs. I was surprised to see that they exceeded the Philippines in this respect, but that may reflect the somewhat easier task of providing for three million citizens as compared the the ninety million of the Philippines.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Arburd Sands, Mongolia


Arburd Sands, Mongolia, originally uploaded by JET_BKK.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Something else to worry about!

It seems that there's been an outbreak of hand-foot-mouth disease in Mongolia, including in the city where we are going to be living. There have been almost 200 cases of the disease and, though no one has died, they have suspended the elementary schools in an effort to stop the spread of the disease.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Start 'em early!


Mongolia, originally uploaded by jonathan_m.

What a cute little archer!

Mongolia's Next Top Model

One of the things I have often praised Mongolian culture for is its ties to tradition. In my short visit there, at least, I didn't notice the mad rush for American pop culture that I saw in the Philippines. That may all be changing. America's Next Top Model is one of the most popular TV shows in Mongolia, and now they are making their own version of the show. This report explains how a group of professional Mongolian models will vie to be Supermodel 2008 in a reality TV show being billed as a fashion "festival." One unusual twist is that the judges are being kept secret in the competition so that there are fewer opportunities for bribery. Do you think corruption might be endemic to Mongolian culture?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Flags of Convenience

The Washington Post just published a commentary on the news that Mongolia is building a navy, despite being entirely landlocked. What is actually happening is that a company in Singapore is putting Mongolian flags on ships (with Mongolia's permission, of course), and using them for all kinds of suspicious purposes. The man in charge of this process has a shady history, and the nation of North Korea seems to be using this fleet as well. I'm sure this is lucrative for the Mongolian government, but it may put their potential for receiving US aid at risk.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

ties to tradition, dust clouds and fire

One of the things that I appreciate about Mongolian culture is its ties to the past. They don't seem in a hurry to adopt every new bit of global culture that comes along. This music video is an example of how modern music is being made without neglecting instruments and vocal styles that have been central to Mongolia for centuries.


I don't have the article at hand right now, but last night, I read that the dust clouds from Mongolia have now invaded Alaska. I understand that this is not all that uncommon, but that this is the fourth-dustiest/windiest spring on record in Mongolia. This morning I read that strong dust storms are still ahead, i.e. 30 to 40 miles per hour storms. Officials fear that new steppe and forest fires will be added to the 75 that have already caught this year. Granted, some of these fires are originating in Russia and then spreading across Russia's southern border.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mongolian traffic

A few years ago, even the streets of Ulaanbaatar were nearly devoid of traffic, but today there is a rising number of road fatalities in Mongolia. Over the past four years, 1,453 people have died on Mongolian roads; another 5,242 have been injured.

Happily, there are some who have carried on a great work in Mongolia, even in places where the roads don't go. I was encouraged by this story of a northern Colorado woman, who has put aside her own struggle with cancer to travel to western Mongolia to help others earn a livelihood. At age 63 and battling breast cancer, she is still traveling around the world to help Mongolian women learn marketable skills and to help them sell their handiwork online.

On a completely unrelated note, this blog contains an interesting post related to Mongolia's support of the whaling industry, despite the fact that they are a completely land-locked country. One really does have to question their motives for involving themselves in an issue that seems so unrelated to their land.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

git-r-done

We have most of the week off of school, so I'm trying to get some things done. I got several thank you notes out today, got a new tire, got the car washed, took Elijah to buy a toy space shuttle, tried to contact a few churches, worked on my drama lines, listed something on eBay and probably a few other things. That's more than I've got accomplished in a while.

We had a nice faith promise come in from Olathe Wesleyan Church today, so we have about 87% of our needed faith promise support committed. Unfortunately, I don't know where much of the rest of it is coming from, so we're still really trusting God for it.

I've been a little worried about our right front tire for a while. It has worn really unevenly, and it always squealed going around corners. It was a Goodyear Integrity 50,000 mile tire that I bought last August. It only had 20,000 miles on it but was already down to maybe 2/32 of an inch tread depth. I hadn't kept up on rotating the tires, so NTB wasn't going to honor the warranty. I found a slightly better tire for just a few dollars more at Firestone, so I ran over there and let them put one on. I walked around downtown OP while they made the change. I stopped by Traditions Furniture, which is located in the historic Strang Car Barn. I've often thought about stopping in there but never had done it before. They have a nice display on OP history there. Now, I just need to get up the guts to ask them to let me place a geocache somewhere on the property.

Then I headed over to mail a couple of DVDs that I sold on Amazon.com.

Well, I know this is thrilling, but I'm going to stop and give a little more attention to the Royals' game. They're up 2-0 in the 1st.

Friday, April 11, 2008

twins

In many cultures, twins are considered to be a curse, to be an upset to the balance of nature. Sometimes, one of the twins is even killed. This is apparently not the case in Mongolia. April 30 will be the 17th annual national twin day in the country. After beauty contests, sporting events, a party for the parents and a twins' concert, the twins will gather to lay wreaths at Genghis Khan's monument.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

being neighborly

Mongolia is developing closer and closer ties with their two neighbors--China and Russia. China, which has traditionally had somewhat antagonistic relations with Mongolia, is now trying to purchase major mineral-extraction resources inside the country. Their state-owned energy company has about 9 billion dollars to shop with, and they're looking for deals inside Mongolia.

At the same time, Mongolia has nearly reached the stage of strategic partnership with Russia. The Mongolian prime minister is about to visit Moscow to further this relationship. Part of their discussion will focus on cooperation in uranium production and the building of nuclear power plants. While nuclear energy might be a good solution to the pollution crisis in UB, I think it is good that Mongolia is also talking to Japan and France about uranium processing. It would seem so easy for them to slip back into being a Russian satellite nation.

In the meantime, Mongolia is still debating their policy on mineral extraction. Foreign investors, such as Rio Tinto, are getting nervous because the Mongolian government is debating taking 51% of the profits from large mining operations rather than the 34% to which they originally had agreed. This may represent a real roadblock to future foreign investment. Bold Luvsanvandan, chairman of the Mineral Resources and Petroleum Authority of Mongolia, says, "The main danger is if we worsen the investment climate, the only investors we are left (with) will be neighboring countries China and Russia." It may be economically dangerous for Mongolia to trade only (or primarily) with Russia and China, but the geographic and political realities are making it hard to do otherwise.

Further complicating matters is the lack of infrastructure that makes it difficult to exploit Mongolia's resources. For example, the Ulaan Ovoo mine possibly has a 35-40 year supply of coal but is 120 kilometers from the Trans-Mongolian Railway. Numerous scenarios have been developed for resolving this issue, but all are extremely expensive. Mongolia is also interested in a "coal-to-liquids" technology, but pipelines would necessarily have to run into or through one of their two neighbors.

Monday, April 07, 2008

economic development

This article points out several interesting facts about Mongolia's economy. Although it grew at an astounding 9.9% in 2007, things are slowing down, and the impending double-digit inflation will certainly dampen the economic outlook. Imported food and oil, in particular, jumped in price by 41.3%, a disturbing statistic for a country that imports 80% of its food. Grants and subsidies are all that is keeping Mongolia from slipping into a major trade deficit.

Mongolia now has 40 million head of livestock. That's about 13 times the human population. About 20 million of that is goats, whose specialization is turning grasslands into desert--not a promising future, there.

There is still a great deal of difficulty in extracting mineral wealth, primarily because of the great dependence on foreign investment to build the necessary infrastructure. Foreign investors are wary, however; as the government has tried to renegotiate contracts mid-operation.

Friday, April 04, 2008

medical care

People regularly ask me how the medical facilities are in Mongolia. Perhaps this article gives the best answer to that question when it states: "Statistics show that about 30,000 Mongolian citizens visit China and other countries every year for medical treatment." When 1% of the population is going abroad for treatment, it doesn't speak well for the domestic healthcare situation. China is seeking to alleviate this issue by opening a hospital in the Mongolian capital. Interestingly, the doctors don't speak Mongolian, so everything has to be done through translators--certainly not the ideal in doctor-patient communication.

Unfortunately, the lack of medical facilities is compounded by some of the health risk factors in the environment. Mongolia has recently pledged to clean up 200,000 tons of cyanide, mercury and other industrial wastes that have been used in mining processes.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

solar eclipse

Because we are staying in the US until after our baby is born, we will miss viewing the total solar eclipse in Mongolia. But, for all of you who plan to be there in August, it sounds like a fun experience!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Thank you, Japan!

Japan has announced that they are giving Mongolia $230 million for a new airport in UB. The current airport isn't that terrible, but this is certainly a generous gesture on Japan's part.

You know the population of Mongolia is small when the Prime Minister attends the football championship for 11-year-olds and awards the medals.

In a recent meeting with the Indian ambassador, the mayor of UB was urged to name a street in the city for Mahatma Gandhi. Does that seem like a strange request to anyone else?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

endangered saiga

A species of antelope in Mongolia is being threatened by, of all things, traffic. This article tells how the saiga is being endangered by its migration route being cut off by a man-made road. Mongolia has 4 people per square mile, far fewer in the affected area. It's hard to believe that the antelope are having to stop and wait for a green light.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

True Lemon

If you like lemon or some other citrus flavor in your water, you might try these free samples from True Lemon. Plus, when you request samples for yourself, they also send samples to the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

blood and oil

We're still a little uncertain about the healthcare situation in Mongolia, but apparently there is a shortage of blood. Apparently, the National Blood Center paid handsomely for blood in the 70s and 80s, but now that they've gone to a volunteer basis, donations have dropped off precipitously.

This article is primarily about the other kind of blood--oil--and Mongolia's need to build an oil reserve. What I found interesting, though, was the statement that the togrog is falling in value even more steadily than the dollar. It's hard to imagine a currency doing worse than ours. Maybe that will alleviate some of the effects on inflation for us, although it doesn't do much for the rest of the country.

Mongolia is receiving somewhat of a cash infusion, though, from the burgeoning tourism industry. Prince Alwaleed of Saudia Arabia recently visited Mongolia and met with some of the leaders, so this probably speaks well of Mongolia's chances to see some luxury hotels in its future. This has been a growing need, due to the massive mining operations currently underway and more just over the horizon. A new airline flight has also just been initiated to try to lure some of the 40,000 annual visitors to Lake Baikal to Lake Khovsgol in Mongolia.

Monday, March 24, 2008

TB in Mongolia

This article brings up another health concern about modern life in Mongolia. I have seen several articles about drug-resistant TB in surrounding nations, but apparently tuberculosis is a concern in Mongolia as well. Up to this point, we have not had Elijah vaccinated for TB, because we haven't wanted him to test positive every time he has a test for the rest of his life. This, however, may change our perspective on the situation.

Given Mongolia's feelings about Inner Mongolia and their strong connection to Tibetan Buddhism and the Dalai Lama, I was surprised to see that Mongolia is supporting China's treatment of the Tibetan riots. Mongolia's foreign minister says that "Mongolia always believes that Tibet and Taiwan were inalienable parts of Chinese territory."

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Spring Lake Auction

In case I forgot to mention it (and I probably did), we had a great trip to Spring Lake Wesleyan Church in Michigan last month. They had a missions auction on Friday night which raised $14,000 for the work in Bosnia and Mongolia. Here is an article in the Grand Haven, MI paper about the auction.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Mongolia news update

While the U.S. can't seem to get their interest rates low enough, Mongolia keeps raising theirs. Their policy rate is at 9.75% and may go higher if this doesn't check the out-of-control inflation. In the US, I'm a saver, not a borrower, so the low interest rates are poison to me. In Mongolia, I'll strictly be a consumer, so all I care about is low rates of inflation for myself. Naturally, lower rates of inflation would be of great benefit to the Mongolians as well, but making money impossible to borrow may not help them out of their economic slump very readily.

On a happiernote, a new deposit has been discovered in southern Mongolia, which contains 4,000,000 tons of copper and 398 tons of gold. Not a bad addition to the 32,000,000 tons of copper and 1,000 tons of gold found just to the north last year. You would think finds like that would brighten the economic outlook.

Unfortunately, the Mongolian government seems likely to spoil the deal by grabbing huge portions of the profit. This may be a boon for the economy in the short-run, but how many foreign investors are going to keep pumping money into Mongolia when they see that it's reverting to a command economy?

Maybe the government needs the tax money to pay their back debts to New York City. It turns out that diplomatic immunity doesn't apply to property tax evasion.

And, in technology news, Buddhist lamas have dramatically sped up the process of copying their Scriptures by discovering scanners and the internet.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Inflation in Mongolia

I'm getting nervous about the runaway inflation in Mongolia. Their economy seems to be in complete turmoil. This article says that "Mongol Bank’s inflation measurements had it at 15.1 percent in December 2007, but in the year to January has it at 17.5 percent. The inflation rate rose another two points in January of this year, despite the government establishing a council to stabilize consumer prices."

We are raising our support based on February 2007 prices. Real estate has doubled since then, and vehicles are way up. I hope we don't arrive on the scene only to discover we can't even live at poverty level in a developing country.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

all-expense paid bike trip

If you're looking for a free bike trip, here is a good option. All you have to do is get yourself to Mongolia and bring your own bike. There are lots of nice perks included, such as "ministerial support and sanctification." How often do you get that thrown in on a bike tour?

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Catholics in Mongolia

It's a little discouraging sometimes to think that there are only a couple hundred Wesleyans in Mongolia. This was put into a little perspective for me, though, when I read this article, which mentions that there are only 415 Catholics in Mongolia, despite the fact that they have been at work there since 1992 and currently have 70 missionaries in the field. It reemphasizes the difficulty of spreading the gospel in the country, but where else on earth is The Wesleyan Church nearly half the size of the Roman Catholic church?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Most. Offensive. Lacing Card. Ever.

We were having family devotions when I glanced over at some toys on Elijah's bedroom floor. One of them was a lacing card that I think Tiffany bought at a thrift store or garage sale. I thought, "What on earth... It can't be." But, yes, the more I look at it, the more the lacing card looks like a blue klansman.

Ok, I'll admit that I added the lace noose, but it's purely to help you see it as I saw it.

Anyway, I drove to Bolivar and back today to pick up Tiffany & Elijah and bring them back home. Tomorrow, we're all headed off on a long weekend to Spring Lake Wesleyan Church in Spring Lake, Michigan. That is, we're leaving, weather permitting. It's looking like it might be a little yukky tomorrow.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

BreakPointe

I was a little reluctant to haul out of bed at 5:00 this morning, but I knew I needed to finish up my slideshow for this morning's service. Usually, we have had the full service in most churches we have visited, but today we were only having 10 minutes in the adult worship service and a longer time with the children.

After reading email and finishing the PowerPoint presentation, I did half an hour on Dance Dance Dance. I was in the expert level for the entire time, so I managed to work up a bit of a sweat.

When Tiffany came down, I opened up the blinds to discover that we were in the midst of a heavy snowfall. We began to wonder if our service was actually going to happen. KCI was closed, and a number of other churches were also announcing cancellations, but there was nothing from BreakPointe, so we pressed on with plans.

I had a bowl of gravel--er, GrapeNuts--and a boiled egg for breakfast, and then got myself and Elijah dressed and ready for church. The service did go on as planned, but the attendance was severely hurt by the bad weather. The people at BreakPointe really welcomed us, maybe to a fault. We were having a hard time getting our display set up and getting PowerPoint stuff arranged, because so many people were greeting us. For some reason, the video guy in the sanctuary wasn't able to import my presentation into Media Shout, but it ran okay directly through PowerPoint. Then, I went upstairs to load the lyrics for a Tagalog song Tiffany was teaching onto the kids' computer. They have their USB hub wedged into a completely inaccessible place, so inserting a jump drive was quite a challenge. We finally got everything set up though.

I went down to the worship service, while Tiff stayed with the kids. She taught them a bunch of games that kids in the Philippines play. Here are some of the kids playing jump rope with rubber bands.



I did my ten-minute spiel with the adults, and then Pastor Tom came up and asked me a few more questions. He asked me how much we needed to raise, and my mind momentarily went blank. I said $68,000; even though we actually need more than $76,000 a year. I got that question right in the second service; I wonder if people who were in both services got a little confused. After talking to the adults, I headed up to the kids' department and spent about half an hour up there.