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Learning English and Buddhism in Mongolia

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Learning Medical English for doctors, nurses and dentists in Mongolia

Sunday, September 30, 2012

NEWS: Amanpour interviews President Elbegdorj

Originally posted on CNN.com on September 25, 2012

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What's the fastest growing economy in the world?

If you answered China, you'd be wrong, because it's Mongolia!

This country of just under three million people is landlocked between China and Russia, but it's growing at more than twice the rate of China.

Its staggering rate of more than 17%-a-year growth may explain why U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a pilgrimage to Mongolia, along with Vice President Joe Biden and before him George W. Bush.

Not to mention a parade of other Western and Asian powers, including China, along with corporate titans by the planeload.

Mongolia's secret? It sits atop a mountain of mineral wealth: coal, copper, gold and a torrent of global money are all forcing revolutionary changes.

Mongolia has managed the change from traditional nomadic herding culture to major economic political power. And it’s gone from a Soviet-style communism to democracy.

“This is a great opportunity,” President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour Monday. “But we have to manage that. We have to share that great opportunity with all our people.”

Despite this huge wealth, there is growing inequality and worry that it won't be spread around.

There are also concerns about corruption, as so often happens in rapidly emerging economies.

“I see corruption as a mortal enemy for young democracies,” President Elbegdorj said.

He believes the zero-tolerance policies the country is attempting to implement can help shield the country.

It’s neighbor China is a natural trading partner, but Elbegdorj believes the country must build more infrastructure to create gateways between both China and Russia.

And he believes the U.S. and Mongolia have a common strategic interest.

“Our men and women in uniform actually serve together in Iraq; now we're serving in Afghanistan, in other hot spots."

Elbegdorj was recently in Iran for the non-aligned meeting.

He was the first foreign head of state to visit Natanz - Iran's main center for uranium enrichment.

Why did he visit?

“There was open opportunity to any head of state who is participating in the non-alliance movement meeting, and I thought, why I do not use that opportunity? And I went.”

He said Mongolia’s position is that Iran should comply with the U.N. Security Council resolution.

On the subject North Korea - and the possibility of reform under its new young leader, Kim Jong Un- Elbegdorj sounds optimistic. He says his country has established good relations with North Korea.

“I think Mongolia is really uniquely positioned towards North Korea. We have an embassy in North Korea. We have an embassy in Seoul.”

He says foremost for North Korea must be economic reforms, but that Mongolia could help guide that country because of a potentially shared experience in the transition to democracy and a market economy.

But questions still linger about democracy back in Mongolia.

Elbegdorj was instrumental in fighting for democracy, but the country’s previous president, Nyamdorj Enkhbayar, has since been arrested and there are charges against him.

He and other independent observers have complained that this is entirely politically motivated and that he has not been treated according to internationally admissible norms. Some believe the charges are politically motivated.

“Mongolia has a policy, zero tolerance of corruption.” Elbegdorj says. “And I fought for freedoms since the cold winter in 1989, for 23 years. And I regard that corruption is the mortal enemy, but also no one is above the law. That's the essence of democracy. And because of that, we have to be very tough in order to sell our people's historic choice to freedom. And we need to rid of corruption.”

Mongolia's handling of the case will serve as a gauge of progress for Mongolia's young democracy.

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Word List:
  • staggering: so great, shocking or surprising that it is difficult to believe
  • torrent: a large amount of something that comes suddenly and violently
  • to linger: to continue to exist for longer than expected

Thursday, September 27, 2012

NEWS: Speech by President Elbegdorj at Harvard

His Excellency Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, President of Mongolia — and former HKS student - will return to the Kennedy School for a September 21st Forum.
The John F. Kennedy Jr. Forum at the Institute of Politics is Harvard’s premier arena for political speech, discussion and debate. The Forum regularly hosts heads of state, leaders in politics, government, business, labor and the media.

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Before an excited Forum audience, Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj talked about Mongolia’s increased free-market enterprise, commitment to freedom of speech and strengthening of its economy. The President spoke about Mongolia’s recent unprecedented economic growth due to its resources and how it has shaped Mongolia’s democracy. The President discussed his unyielding devotion to the protection of Mongolia’s freedoms and its democracy. Finally, as a formidable opponent against corruption, the President talked about the need for transparency and anti-corruption measures as a means to protecting Mongolia’s future. Harvard Kennedy School Dean, David T. Ellwood, moderated the Forum and provided the President’s introduction.

Monday, September 24, 2012

NEWS: The Good Father Project

Originally posted on Advance Humanity on June 2, 2012


For thousands of years Mongolian men have ridden horses, lived in remote gers (traditional felt tents) in the countryside, and looked after their families and herds of animals. However as Mongolia has developed, with particularly rapid growth in the last two decades, the role of the man has been evolving as well. Unfortunately, it is leaving many men lost in a free market economy where they are unemployed and wondering about their next step. How do we encourage men during difficult times, especially if they are unemployed?

One answer we arrived at as a community is to recognize the unsung heroes – the amazing men who are good fathers, regardless of income or professional status. In Mongolia and throughout the world unemployment can lead to many societal problems like alcoholism and domestic violence, but there are also many stay-at-home dads who are remarkable fathers and receive little credit for the time they spend with their children. Awesome Sukhbaatar, the first Awesome Foundation chapter in Mongolia, decided that we wanted to change that.

The Good Father Project

We created the Good Father Project, or Sain Aav Tosol in Mongolian, to acknowledge the wonderful fathers in our small community in the eastern steppe of Mongolia. The Good Father Project is founded on the idea that by recognizing these men we can honor, support and empower them as they raise their children and support their families.

To start, our community team felt that the best people to nominate Good Fathers were their children. So we worked with the local schools in our province to host an essay competition led by the Department of Education. We advertised our competition with free local television airtime, advertisements in the town square, and with the help of teachers who explained the contest to each classroom in their schools. Then, we waited as the essays poured in.

Each essay began with “My father is a good father because…” and our young writers did the rest. They explained the sacrifices and challenges that their fathers face daily, spoke to their character and integrity, and much more. We received over 230 essays coming in from all over the province, written by students from first grade all the way to college, often including drawings, poems, and even photographs of their fathers. One photo in particular had a note attached that read, “Please return this photo to me, it’s the only photo I have of my father and it’s very special.”

The idea was simple and became a very popular concept in our community the first time we mentioned it. We spoke to the leaders of our provincial government early on and gained their support, and we also gained financial support from a local family run business that will continue to support the program in years to come. We kept costs low and relied on volunteer support throughout the advertisement, collection and review of all the essays.

In fact, we were even able to garner the support of ten outstanding men from the community to interview our finalists and choose the final 10 award winners for our first year. This special Selection Committee included some of the most respected men in our community including the vice governor, directors, businessmen, the police chief, and exceptional stay-at-home dads.

The Big Day

On June 1st 2012, International Children’s Day, our 10 Good Father Award Winners, 25 Finalists and 100 Best Essay writers received awards and recognition in front of the entire community. Their essays were also displayed all day for the festival attendees to read before the award winners were announced.

The 2012 Good Fathers included the mayor of a local village, a herdsman who traveled hours into town to receive his award, local business owners, stay-at-home dads, and a local writer from a distant village. The men were visibly proud to receive the new award, holding their awards under their arms as they hugged their children and families when they were invited onstage to join them. If you'd like to see all the fun pictures from that day, please click here.

The Heart of The Award

The idea behind the Good Father Project, and the next step for our Award Winners from this year, is to provide the fathers with support to create Good Father Clubs throughout our province. These small groups will be places where men can talk about fatherhood and plan activities to do with their children. And if they need financial support for projects, they can apply for grants through Awesome Mongolia and Awesome Sukhbaatar, which award prizes every month. Also, as their final duty next summer the Good Fathers from this year will be responsible for selecting next year’s Good Father award recipients and helping the movement grow.

We are proud to be able to recognize and support the wonderful fathers who are engaged in our community and more importantly to inspire other fathers as well. It’s our hope that all men, from stay-at-home dads to government officials, have the resources they need to be good fathers. And as you might have noticed, we didn’t call this the Best Father competition. As the project grows there is no limit to how many people can win. A Good Father is something we think every man can become and that’s exactly what we all hope - that each of the kids in our province can stand up and proudly say, “My father is a Good Father.”


Word List:
  • unsung: not praised or famous but deserving to be
  • regardless: paying no attention, even if the situation is bad or there are difficulties
  • to nominate: to formally suggest that somebody should be chosen for an important role, prize, position, etc.
  • to pour in: used for saying that large numbers of people or things, or large amounts of something, arrive somewhere
  • sacrifice: the fact of giving up something important or valuable to you in order to get or do something that seems more important; something that you give up in this way
  • character: all the qualities and features that make a person, groups of people, and places different from others
  • integrity: the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles
  • to garner: to obtain or collect something such as information, support, etc.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

NEWS: Mongolian boy will have lifesaving heart surgery in New Orleans

Originally posted on Greater New Orleans on September 18, 2012
By Jim Derry


Just hours after Sunder Erdenekhuyag gave birth to a son almost seven months ago, doctors gave her terrifying news: her child, Ochir, was born with ventricular septal defect, a heart condition that would kill him by age 2 or 3 if he were not to have corrective surgery. In America, the news would be scary enough, but in her less-developed country of Mongolia, there aren’t any doctors or hospitals which perform this procedure, making the situation far more dire.


Her only option to save Ochir was to find help in South Korea or neighboring China or Russia, or at a much-higher monetary cost, in America.

Sunder Erdenekhuyag plays with her 6-month-old son Ochir, at the home of their hosts Kyle and Kendra France in Covington.
Although she and her husband both have decent jobs, she soon realized she wouldn’t be able to afford any option, as the surgery could cost as much as $60,000 in Asia and more than $100,000 in the United States. For months after Ochir’s birth, she spent every waking moment searching the Internet for help, all the while fearing it would never come.

In April, she read about HeartGift, a nonprofit, charitable group based in Texas with chapters across the South, that provides lifesaving heart surgery to those from countries such as Mongolia. HeartGift responded quickly, and Ochir soon was set to have the help he needed at Children’s Hospital.

After a 30-hour plane ride to New Orleans last week, with layovers in Beijing and Chicago, a tired but determined Erdenekhuyag and her son made it to Covington, where they are living with hosts Kendra and Kyle France for at least the next six weeks.

The surgery has been rescheduled three times because of minor maladies, and Ochir currently is trying to fight off a virus. The hope now is that the surgery can be done Friday, but it cannot commence while he has any sort of virus or other infection.

Dr. Joseph Caspi, the director of pediatric cardiothoracic surgery at Children’s Hospital, said the procedure will take from two to eight hours, depending on several factors, and it will repair “a hole between the left and right ventricles.” When it’s done, Ochir will spend at least a week in the hospital and another four to six weeks recovering at the France home.

He then should be able to head home and would be free from physical restraints, assuming he isn’t one of the 3 percent to 5 percent of children who endure complications. Those range “from excessive bleeding from infection, damage to the electrical system inside of the heart, which would require a pacemaker,” among others, Caspi said.

He added that the surgery “is one of the more common surgeries we see in our profession, in our specialty. We do 20 or 30 per year.”

While her son is the patient, Erdenekhuyag has been the one who has needed patience. And when in need of a mental boost, she thinks back to when she learned of the distressing news.

“It was really, really hard,” she said. “My husband and I were in the hospital when the doctors said he has a really big hole in his (heart), and he needs this surgery. And in other countries (other than the U.S.), they want to wait until child is a bit more grown because of possible (complications), eight months, a year or something.

“I was so shocked and kept crying, crying, and the doctor kept saying, ‘Don’t cry, don’t cry. Your son is fixable. ... Just pray and wait.’ So I listened to the doctor.”

And HeartGift was able to help. As it has for 140 children from more than 23 countries, it set up a host family and was able to have much of the medical expenses waived. The group pays a flat fee of $15,000 to the hospital, and Caspi is performing the procedure at no charge. From donations, HeartGift is able to cover other medical and travel expenses.

The Frances were eager to help, and with cousins who live in Croatia, Kyle France said he is very aware of how hard it is to get adequate medical assistance abroad.

“In our minds, if we can help save the life of one little guy, that would be an incredible blessing for us,” he said. “It’s important for us to give back. Our girls are grown, and being in the school business (as director of Kehoe-France School in Covington), I’m always talking to the kids about helping others.

“The other side of this is when you send a child back across the world and they take a piece of America with them, they can realize America is such a wonderful country.”

Kendra France said being a host is the easy part compared to being the visitor who “is walking down the terminal at the airport toward a bunch of strangers, and she’s handing us her baby and saying, ‘Help me.’ The stress and the fear, I can’t imagine.”

When hearing this, Erdenekhuyag covered her face with her hands and began weeping.

After a long pause, she finally was able to speak.

“I’m really happy. A lot of really nice people,” she said.

To donate to HeartGift or to inquire about becoming a host family, go to www.heartgift.org.


Word List:
  • dire: very serious, very bad
  • monetary: connected with money
  • maladies: a serious problem, an illness
  • endure: to experience and deal with something that is painful or unpleasant, especially without complaining
  • boost: to make something increase, or become better or more successful
  • waived: to choose not to demand something in a particular case, even though you have a legal or official right to do so

Thursday, September 20, 2012

FYI: 375 Free eBooks to Download

This collection from OpenCulture.com features free e-books, mostly classics, that you can read on your iPad/iPhone, Kindle, Nook or other devices (like your computer or smartphone). It includes great works of fiction, non-fiction and poetry.
Assorted Texts