Words Words Words

Links to many online dictionaries for many professions.


Many English lessons and English-Mongolian side-by-side PDF books


Learning English and Buddhism in Mongolia


Learning Medical English for doctors, nurses and dentists in Mongolia

Saturday, October 27, 2012

LYRICS: Nominjin


Invisible wall
Taller than the sky
Unreasonable you are to me
Amazes me
How things can change so easily
This is a mystery
This is no love story

Your mind is restless
You'd better watch out for yourself
You'd better find some peace
Don't be don't be stubborn
Don't wound yourself
Don't be don't be don't be
Don't be don't be stubborn
Don't wound yourself
Don't wound yourself
Don't wound yourself

Invisible wall
Right between our hearts
Unreasonable I am to you
Amazes me
The things I know so easily
To you it's mystery
It is no love story

Your mind is restless
You'd better watch out for yourself
You'd better find some peace
Don't be don't be stubborn
Don't wound yourself
Don't be don't be don't be
Don't be don't be stubborn
Don't wound yourself
Don't wound yourself
Don't wound yourself

Invisible wall
Holding us apart
Unreasonable I am to you
Amazes me
How love can fade so easily
This is a mystery
It is no love story

Your mind is restless
You'd better watch out for yourself
You'd better find some peace
Don't be don't be stubborn
Don't wound yourself
Don't be don't be don't be
Don't be don't be stubborn
Don't wound yourself
Don't wound yourself
Don't wound yourself

Thursday, October 18, 2012

NEWS: Mongolia - Key To U.S. Security Goals In Asia

Originally posted on Forbes on September 14, 2012
by Jonathan Miller

U.S. Marines train in Mongolia.
Ulaanbaatar is Key Ally for Washington:

Mongolia continues its rapid ascent in the strategic playbook of the United States and the West. The U.S. views Mongolia through an integrated lens balancing its economic interests with strategic concerns. As the world’s fastest growing economy (GDP growth at 17.3 per cent in 2011), Mongolia is an appealing target for foreign investors in sectors such as mining, nuclear power, and technology. For Washington though, security still trumps in Mongolia. The U.S. continues to view Mongolia as a credible partner in an uncertain area filled with truculent neighbors.

In July, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton praised Ulaanbaatar for being a model democracy in a region flush with kleptocratic regimes. Although not identified, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan come to mind as repressive states in the region and are rife with corruption. Clinton lauded Mongolia’s development noting that the Central Asian country’s progress helps “dispel the myth that democracy is a Western value.” During the visit, Clinton also used pointed language aimed at China, asserting that prosperity is connected to a free democratic system and the promotion of human rights.

Mongolia has long been part of Washington’s strategic calculus in Central Asia and its importance has been magnified by the war in Afghanistan. Currently there are more than 100 members of the Mongolian Armed Forces serving in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force. Ulaanbaatar’s cooperation with NATO was formalized earlier this year when it signed an Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme – which is slated to enhance interoperability with the alliance.

Mongolia also plays host to an annual gathering of militaries for “Khaan Quest.” The Khaan Quest exercises for 2012 just ended in August and was attended by 12 countries including the U.S., the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and Canada. Khaan Quest and NATO integration are two strong indicators of the important role that Ulaanbaatar plays as a strategic partner to the U.S.

As the U.S. draws down its presence post-2014 in Afghanistan, it will look to credible partners such as Mongolia to be a leading example of transparency, democracy and solid governance in Central Asia.

Word List:
  • ascent: the process of moving forward to a better position or of making progress
  • playbook: a book or set of notes, used especially in football, with descriptions and diagrams of the various plays (= actions or moves in a game) that a team can make
  • integrated: in which many different parts are closely connected and work successfully together
  • appealing: attractive or interesting
  • to trump: to have a higher value
  • credible: that can be believed or trusted
  • truculent: tending to argue or be bad-tempered; slightly aggressive
  • flush: having a lot of money, usually for a short time
  • kleptocratic: a strong desire to steal things
  • rife: full of something bad or unpleasant
  • to laud: to praise somebody/something
  • slated: to plan that something will happen at a particular time in the future
  • to enhance: to increase or further improve the good quality, value or status of somebody/something
  • interoperability: operating together
  • integration: the act or process of combining two or more things so that they work together

Sunday, October 14, 2012

NEWS: Scalable progress for women moving swiftly in Mongolia

Originally posted on Women News Network on September 14, 2012
by Michelle Tolson
The female line in one family in the Alag Tsar Valley in Khovsgol, Mongolia shows a strong and proud heritage in the girls and women who help each other every day. Women in the region and throughout Mongolia have continuing needs for better education, career training and opportunity. But they have now also begun to publicly step into greater degrees of empowerment as they take more public responsibility for guiding their society . More people in Mongolian society today are demanding that women become equals to men on all levels. Image: Emilia Tjernström


(WNN/UBP) Ulaanbaatar, MONGOLIA: Thanks to the vast mineral wealth inside the region, Mongolia is now showing progress toward the reduction of poverty nationwide. Men, as well as women and their children, throughout Mongolia are now inline to receive a boost from the Mongolian economy because of this, but other sectors inside the nation still need improvement.

Mongolia’s Human Development Index (HDI), a metric that takes into account health, education and living standards in the region, recently showed figures that rose at the fastest pace globally recorded from 2000-2010. Ranked 110 out of 187 countries for 2011, Mongolia is now no longer considered a ‘low on the list’ human development country. It has now risen to the ranks from low to ‘medium’ with global human development benchmarks because of the rise in the region’s economy.

But according to the latest country report from the UNDP – United Nations Development Programme, inequality in the region is holding back some of the progress that can be made. When ‘inequality’ is placed as an indicator inside the country’s Human Development Index, Mongolia shows a 14 percent loss as gender equality, environmental sustainability and the work to successfully reach the UN Millennium Development Goals drops. Figures for Mongolia with gender equality has actually dropped inside the region from 2000-2010.

Empowering women in the region may be a complex issue but advocates are working to do just that. While gender equality can be mapped through UN Millennium Goal number 3 through women in politics, women’s education and women’s economic earnings, statistics show that women have now begun to receive more education than their male counterparts in the region. Today the push to educate women and girls is on as male members of the family are often expected to work in the fields instead of staying in school. Women, on the other hand, are now going to college 60-70 percent more than men.

But women are still at a disadvantage in the region. Why?

In spite of increases in education, Mongolian women are still earning much less than their male counterparts. They have also had historically an unsteady and low political representation inside the region. But the open room for women in politics is now changing for the better.

Before recent 2012 elections, political representation for women in Mongolia was 3.9 percent, one of the lowest rates for women in politics charted globally, outlines the Mongolian Inter-Parliamentary Union. Owing to a newly-established quota system in the region that is now requiring 20 percent of the Parliament to be women, 9 women from a diverse group of political parties were voted into seats in Mongolia’s Parliament in June this year.

This suddenly tripled women’s political leadership with participation in Mongolia from 4 to 12 percent. Though this current figure represents an improvement, in some ways it is a ‘regaining of political power’ for women in the region.

Women as political representatives for their region was also 12 percent 10 years ago, but the numbers of women in office sharply declined by 2008 to 3.9 percent. To reach the Millennium Development Goals for gender equality, 30 percent of the Mongolian government must be made up of women decision makers in government.

“Women politicians clearly made important gains,” outlined the Asia Pacific Memo, published by the Institute of Asian Research in July 2012, as they analyzed the outcome of Mongolia’s recent election.

The UN Millennium Development Goal to empower women is not an easy one though. The current global average for women in government is now only 19.7 percent.

Ten Years Ago in Mongolia

“It was always hard for women to come out [politically],” reminds newly elected woman Member of Parliament (MP) Ms. Luvsan Erdenechimeg of the Democratic Party in Mongolia. “Men would say ‘Nine women is a nightmare!’ It was not so good then for women — we were dependent on men. [Now] we are more independent, we can say everything. We can have our own ideas and plans. Before, we were like satellites,” she continued.

Sharing the years of struggle and experience with MP Ms. Tsedevdamba Oyungerel, who is also from Mongolia’s Democratic Party, Erdenechimeg charted the tenacity and efforts of women in public office and human rights activism. “She [Oyungerel] was fighting for 20 years. The 2nd time and 3rd time she lost [a Parliament bid] but now, she won,” outlined Erdenechimeg who lost her own bid for the Parliament, before the most recent vote pushed her in.

MP Oyungerel agreed. “Oh, it’s improved a lot. The mentality of the people has improved. Before it was, ‘what are you doing in politics?’ You were a helper only, but now you are seen as a decision maker, especially in my party.”

The Democratic Party in Mongolia now has 5 women in parliament, the highest number of any political party in the region.

After winning Parliamentary seats in the most recent Mongolian election, the 9 women winners, who are representing the Democratic Party, Mongolian People’s Party, Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party and the Civil Will Green Party, decided to form an informal political group called the Women’s Caucus in late July. MP Erdenechimeg was chosen as the representative for the first year.

The women’s decision to form the Caucus is based on consolidating a vision of shared ideas and values, and also as a means of connecting with civil society, said the Caucus during a recent press conference in late July 2012.

MP Erdenechimeg explained that although they come from different political parties, all members of the Women’s Caucus did experience difficulties in politics and can relate to each other as being “independent, fighting [for] women’s rights, children’s’ rights.”

The issues the women MPs are now hoping to improve as they dive into action include: creating more public hospitals that can serve women and their families, expanding educational programs by building new schools, helping to bring greater economic success and freedom to women and tightening down on political corruption inside Mongolia.

The New Women’s Caucus

On the behalf of the Women’s Caucus, MP Erdenechimeg visited all the maternity hospitals in her region in Ulaanbaatar to research the needs. Erdenechimeg’s district surprisingly has only one hospital with 75 beds, which serves the health needs for over a quarter million people. When Erdenechimeg herself was pregnant and went into maternal labour she went to the hospital in Ulaanbaatar, only to be turned away and told to go home for four or five hours as there were no hospital beds available.

Today it is estimated that half the women that come to the hospital in Erdenechimeg’s district are turned away when they need medical attention the most, at the moment they are due to deliver their baby. Although improvements are being made throughout the region through the increased use of medical technology a deepening concern for Mongolia’s expanding population, due to immigration, is what MP Erdenechimeg conveys is ‘an urgent’ issue.

Member of Parliament Ms. Luvsan Erdenechimeg is interviewed about her ideas for solutions in the region on local television. Her views and the views of the new Mongolian Women’s Caucus are working now to improve society in addition to women’s empowerment and equality in the region. Image: NDTV-youtube
Kindergarten classrooms in the outer districts of Ulaanbaatar are over-capacity as well. Only half the children in the regional districts are able to have their place saved, according to MP Erdenechimeg. Parents have to sleep outside the night before school registration day begins to secure a place for their children. Those children who cannot be registered force mothers to stay at home, which cuts the household income down to half of what it could be, impacting women’s economic freedom, outlines MP Erdenechimeg. 40 percent of Mongolians are at risk of not being able to go to school because of these infrastructure problems, said Erdenchimeg as she outlines the urgent need for this condition to be addressed.

When asked why this issue was not addressed by the previous parliaments, the MP stated that it is not considered ‘a man’s issue.’ “Male MPs don’t spend time around these [public] kindergartens,” conveyed MP Erdenechimeg. “They put their children in private kindergartens so they don’t see the problem.” Traditionally men focus on what are considered ‘the big issues,’ like mining and national infrastructure.

Last year 21,000 MNT ($15.40 USD) was allotted per person from Mongolia’s national mining funds which came to a total of 800 billion MNT ($5,981,308 USD). Because it was deemed an important issue the funding was approved. However Erdenechimeg notes that many men in Mongolia, even the President, are now also talking about the need for more schools as it has gotten some recent air time on TV.

In late August 2012 MP Erdenechimeg visited more than 30 kindergartens to help assess the needs in the region.

Gender Equality and ‘Women’s Work’

While many of the job positions do pay men and women equally for the same job, many women tend to hold lower-paid positions outlined MP Oyungeral. Where less men and more women are generally involved in a specific career in Mongolia, that career is often lower paying. Despite the greater representation of women in professional fields such as health and education, there has been a lack of political representation for women in Mongolia which MP Oyungerel explains causes a lack in, “planning, policy and the police force.” Women’s concerns are not adequately represented when laws are created and implemented, she continued to outline as part of the Women’s Caucus.

The National Law on Gender Equality in Mongolia, established in February of 2011, will be implemented in January of 2013. This law will address the lack of men in both education and health careers in the region. To battle this, a quota will be established through the law of 30 percent men to address this “reverse gender gap,” said MP Oyungerel.

Having more men in the two sectors could possibly help raise the salaries as men’s participation has been low and funding has as well, pointed out MP Erdenechimeg.

“Many people have little understanding of gender equality,” says Ms. Undarya Tumursukh, the National Coordinator for FEMNET Mongolia (MONFEMNET), an organization dedicated to bring equality to women worldwide.

“That women constitute a larger percentage among teachers does not necessarily amount to women having dominance in the sector – but that is how it is often said,” she added. “Are male teachers losing out by not being teachers? No. Are women? Often yes, as this is a very underpaid sector if we look at kindergarten and secondary school teachers. Still, as ranks go up, there are more men. In the lowest paid – mostly [are] women. But of course balance would be good, it is better to have gender parity among teachers, as that may help improve situation in the sector – men are more likely to raise [their] voice about low salaries while it is easier to exploit women due to cultural conditions. So if more men come in, perhaps teachers’ advocacy for better conditions will grow stronger, but it is not an automatic process,” Tumursukh continued.

Otgonbaatar Tsedendemberel, Executive Director of the LGBT Centre, an organization inside Mongolia that is dedicated to watching over human rights for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered people in the region, agrees that gender in Mongolia is often misunderstood.

“As for the Gender Equality Law, I think that the law enforcement is a key problem,” stresses Tsendendemberel. “People’s understanding of gender issues at all levels, be it law enforcement officials or [the] general public, is almost non-existent,” she added. “In Mongolia, the term ‘gender’ itself is relatively new and there was so much opposition in the Parliament when the law was lobbied and passed. When it comes to gender issues, people usually think that it is only a women’s issue.”

In September, the UNFPA – United Nations Population Fund will sponsor a forum for gender equality with MONFEMNET along with the National Committee on Gender Equality. Information about the National Law on Gender Equality will also be advertised on local Mongolian TV stations to help educate the public.

Moving Away from Corruption

“All nine women [Parliamentarians] felt that the Mongolian political system is too corrupt,” stressed MP Erdenechimeg. Paying bribes is common for those doing business in Mongolia, she outlined. This corruption is not only in business. It is also part of the educational system as well, conveyed Erdenechimeg, “If you cannot get a seat [for your child] in kindergarten, you pay,” she outlined.

Khangal, a local woman business retailer that sells products for young children agrees. She is happy that more women were elected to Mongolia’s Parliament. As a small business person herself, Khangal also wants to see legislators work to help private business people because it is “so expensive” to operate a business in the country.

Agreeing with the others that corruption in Mongolia does exist Khangal outlined, “Parents who want to register their children must pay a bribe.” Praising the Women’s Caucus Khangal wants to also make sure the new Women’s Caucus supports ‘female only’ heads-of-household. Especially as a couple divorces: “They [women] do most of the support — men don’t,” added Khangal.

“I think they [the Women's Caucus] are starting from a really good place,” said a Mongolian grandmother, who did not give her name, and who also helped vote women into Mongolia’s Parliament this year. She is currently also the major caretaker for her grandchild as her daughter goes to work. “There are lots of vulnerable families,” continues the grandmother. “I lost my husband two years ago and live with my daughter. It’s really hard to enroll kids in school and buy commodities.”

“I really appreciate the group…,” says Zola Batkhuyag, General Coordinator for Young Women for Change in Mongolia as she outlined her reasons for voting for the women. “…they are from different parties but they have shared values and needs as women. It’s about sexual and reproductive health and rights. The kindergarten [new schools] is an urgent issue.”

Like the other women, Batkhuyag too feels hopeful that Mongolia’s new 2012 parliament will improve with more women.

As agents of change the female MPs seem as much affected by quotas for women in parliament as their constituents are. Forming the Women’s Caucus not only furthers the goals of their constituents, but also amplifies their own power as women as well.

“This is an important time for women in politics as there are now three ministers and nine MPs who are women,” outlined Mongolian Member of Parliament Ms. Luvsan Erdenechimeg.

“Increasing the number of women in key public decision-making and peacekeeping processes is a matter of democratic justice and ensures better government accountability to women,” says the UNIFEM – United Nations Development Fund for Women current webpage with “Solutions for Change.”

In today’s Mongolia women are making many advances, but conditions for women still need to improve. Many young modern women in Mongolia have large dreams, but many are still hitting a glass ceiling with their education. A limited portion of students throughout Mongolia are able to enroll in higher education, as women face additional challenges in pursuing their studies at a college or university. In 2010 The Shirin Pandju Merali Foundation Scholars Program, began to support university education for qualified female students who, despite their academic competence, are unable to continue their higher education due to financial constraints, through scholarships. Today a total of 150 young women have participated in the program. This video tells the story of some of the young women who are scholarship recipients. Production for this video has been made by The Asia Foundation.

Word List:
  • metric: a particular way to measure something
  • benchmark: something that can be measured and used as a standard that other things can be compared with
  • to drop: to become or make something weaker, lower or less
  • counterpart: a person or thing that has the same position or function as somebody/something else in a different place or situation
  • sharply: suddenly and by a large amount
  • tenacity: that does not stop holding something or give up something easily; determined
  • to constitute: to be the parts that together form something
  • constituent: a person who lives, and can vote in a constituency

Friday, October 12, 2012

NEWS: Solar Power Lights up Future for Mongolian Herders

Originally posted on WorldBank.org on September 20, 2012

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player In most of the vast landscape of Mongolia, nomadic herders used to have no access to electricity. Take a look at how a project helped bring changes.


  • World Bank Vice President visits Mongolia and learns first-hand about support for the “100,000 Solar Gers” project target to deliver cheap, clean electricity to nomadic herders
  • Half a million people – covering half the rural population and 70% of herders – now have electricity through affordable and potable solar home systems
  • A new market for electronic appliances is helping boost the rural economy

About a quarter of Mongolia’s 2.8 million people are nomadic herders of yaks, cattle, sheep, goats and camels who live in gers — as their traditional tent dwellings are known — on the country’s vast steppes. It is a simple life that has endured for centuries. Until recently, it was also a life without electricity.

That has changed for about 100,000 herder families, whose daily lives have been transformed by off-grid solar home systems which generate enough power for lights, televisions, radios, mobile phone charging and small appliances.

The herders have gained access to solar power through a program launched by the Mongolian government with support from the World Bank and the Government of the Netherlands. Thanks to the National 100,000 Solar Ger Electrification Program, over half a million men, women and children, covering half the rural population of Mongolia and 70 percent of herders, now have access to modern electricity.

"We are proud to be part of this effort, which means 500,000 people, or half the rural population of Mongolia, have electricity through portable and affordable solar home systems,” said Pamela Cox, World Bank Regional Vice President for East Asia and Pacific in her first visit to the country. “Now, children can study at night, families can watch TV and recharge cell phones, enabling them to connect to the world while maintaining their nomadic lifestyles. This is one of many innovative ideas that we are putting to work on the ground to make growth more inclusive.”

"A few years ago, country herders managed with candles and lanterns. The change in life between then and now is like night and day,” said herder Baatar Khandaa. “I believe that the quality of life in the countryside and the city are now about the same.”

Families can now relax and spend time together at night under electric lights. Children can learn by reading and from watching television. Herders often tune in to radio and television weather reports that help them manage their livestock, and use mobile phones to find out about market prices for wool and cashmere.

The program provided portable solar home systems adapted to herders’ nomadic way of life. Herders can easily set them up and dismantle them when they relocate. The project employed a balanced approach to pricing the systems, where herders purchased the solar home systems, albeit with a subsidy that covered about half the costs. It made the systems affordable to herders while helping to expand sales.

It was a particular challenge reaching remote herders living in the vast rural countryside. In response, the project established 50 privately-owned solar home system sales and service centers spread across Mongolia. Their staff were trained to promote and sell certified solar home systems so that herders could buy with confidence. They were also trained to repair and maintain the units – vital to sustaining the benefits of the program. To extend their reach, the sales and service centers partnered with an existing network of village administrators located in 342 villages. This effective public-private partnership helped the project sell solar home systems in every remote corner of the country.

With tens of thousands of customers now demanding solar home systems, the sales and service centers are seeing an increase in their sales of radios, televisions, kettles and other small appliances that newly-electrified households want to buy as well.

"The key was to build on the government’s existing efforts”, said Migara Jayawardena, Senior Energy Specialist at the World Bank. “Good practices and lessons from other successful renewable energy and rural electrification projects from countries such as China, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka were customized to meet Mongolia’s unique circumstances.”

A few years ago, country herders managed with candles and lanterns. The change in life between then and now is like night and day. I believe that the quality of life in the countryside and the city are now about the same.- Baatar Khandaa, herder

Mongolia has found off-grid electrification with solar power to be a viable approach to serving a nomadic rural population that is scattered across a vast territory of over 1.5 million square km. The program has supplied 100,146 solar home systems, while also developing a sustainable supply chain of local businesses that will help achieve the government’s goal of universal rural electrification by 2020.

"Solar home systems have become commonplace,” said D. Zorigt, Mongolia’s Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy during the period from 2008 to 2012 when the project was under implementation.

The project, entitled Renewable Energy and Rural Electricity Access (REAP) was funded by a $3.5 million grant from the International Development Association (IDA) – the Bank’s Fund for the Poorest – a $3.5 million grant from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and a $6 million grant from the Government of the Netherlands, with implementation support provided by the Asia Sustainable and Alternative Energy Program (ASTAE) – a multi-donor trust fund program administered by the World Bank.

Нарны зайгаар ажилладаг гэрэл Монголын малчдын ирээдүйг гэрэлтүүлж байна

DOWNLOAD English & Mongolian TEXT

Word List:

  • off-grid: not using the public supplies of electricity, gas, water, etc
  • to launch: to start an activity, especially an organized one
  • innovative: introducing or using new ideas, ways of doing something, etc
  • inclusive: including a wide range of people, things, ideas, etc
  • to dismantle: to take apart a machine or structure so that it is in separate pieces
  • viable: that can be done; that will be successful

Thursday, October 11, 2012

International Day of the Girl

October 11 - International Day of the Girl

The case for educating girls in the developing world. Give them an education, and they can break the cycle of poverty. And change the world.

On October 11, 2012 – the United Nations’ first-ever International Day of the Girl.

Educating girls is not just right, it’s smart. Together, we can create a ripple effect that can transform communities for generations.

Monday, October 8, 2012

NEWS: Mongolian Bling

Originally posted on Aljazeera on October 4, 2012

We follow three young rappers as they combine traditional Mongolian music with western rap to create nomadic hip hop.

Mongolian with English subtitles

Filmmakers: Benj Binks and Nubar Ghazarian

In modern-day Mongolia, apartment blocks have replaced tents, Hyundais have taken over from horses and businessmen walk where nomads once roamed. We jump into the thriving alternative music scene in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar and follow three young rappers as they record new tracks and draw inspiration from their fast-changing environment. While many rappers aspire to make it in the West, some are inspired by their elders, and hope that traditional values and cultures will not be lost in their fast-changing society.

Click here to meet the Mongolian rappers.

Filmmaker's view: Benj Binks

Mongolia is a fairly obscure country. Ask people what they know about it and most will say Genghis Khan, nomads, the Gobi desert and Mongolian BBQ.

The little media information that does get out of the country usually depicts traditional nomadic life, a foreign world that the West romanticises about.

Although Mongolia definitely has an amazing traditional culture, it also has a modern urbanised contemporary society in which the majority of the population lives.

Mongolian Bling will take people beyond the stereotypical traditional images of Mongolia and reveal another less expected side of the country.

Traditional Mongolia goes back centuries, and serves as a comparison to the modern life that has swept the country since socialism ended and democracy was introduced some 18 years ago. However, what grabbed me when I reached Mongolia was this modern society.

In the film, I try to capture how I felt and what I saw when I landed in the capital Ulaanbaatar and discovered the real Mongolia.

It is a grey Soviet city with battered old Hyundais crammed into the street next to flashy new SUVs - a city infested with new buildings and construction sites.

It is a place where grandparents traditionally dressed in bright colours walk down the crumbled footpaths of Ulaanbaatar hand-in-hand with their 'baggy-pants and baseball-cap wearing' grandchildren.

And where cool 20-something-year-olds in trendy bars listen to live music and watch MTV while young monks sit in dingy internet cafés in the city's slums playing World of Warcraft.

The film attempts to show some of the effects that globalisation has had on an ancient culture through the eyes of the hip hop artists who have had such a significant influence on the new generation of Mongolians.

The stories of Gennie, Gee and Quiza - and of their established, well regarded and an emerging talent - help view Mongolia through their eyes.

The Ger Districts reflect a lot of the issues that Gee talks of while Quiza incorporates the traditional music that Bayarmagnai sings. And Gennie’s story shows not only her maturing as she works with her idol Enkhtaivan, but also his support of her and Mongolian youth.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

TED: Candy Chang: Before I die I want to...

FILMED JUL 2012 • POSTED SEP 2012 • TEDGlobal 2012

In her New Orleans neighborhood, artist and TED Fellow Candy Chang turned an abandoned house into a giant chalkboard asking a fill-in-the-blank question: “Before I die I want to ___.” Her neighbors' answers -- surprising, poignant, funny -- became an unexpected mirror for the community. (What's your answer?)

There are a lot of ways the people around us can help improve our lives. We don't bump into every neighbor, so a lot of wisdom never gets passed on, though we do share the same public spaces.

So over the past few years, I've tried ways to share more with my neighbors in public space, using simple tools like stickers, stencils and chalk. And these projects came from questions I had, like, how much are my neighbors paying for their apartments? (Laughter) How can we lend and borrow more things without knocking on each other's doors at a bad time? How can we share more of our memories of our abandoned buildings, and gain a better understanding of our landscape? And how can we share more of our hopes for our vacant storefronts, so our communities can reflect our needs and dreams today?

Now, I live in New Orleans, and I am in love with New Orleans. My soul is always soothed by the giant live oak trees, shading lovers, drunks and dreamers for hundreds of years, and I trust a city that always makes way for music. (Laughter) I feel like every time someone sneezes, New Orleans has a parade. (Laughter) The city has some of the most beautiful architecture in the world, but it also has one of the highest amounts of abandoned properties in America.

I live near this house, and I thought about how I could make it a nicer space for my neighborhood, and I also thought about something that changed my life forever.

In 2009, I lost someone I loved very much. Her name was Joan, and she was a mother to me, and her death was sudden and unexpected. And I thought about death a lot, and this made me feel deep gratitude for the time I've had, and brought clarity to the things that are meaningful to my life now. But I struggle to maintain this perspective in my daily life. I feel like it's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, and forget what really matters to you.

So with help from old and new friends, I turned the side of this abandoned house into a giant chalkboard and stenciled it with a fill-in-the-blank sentence: "Before I die, I want to ... " So anyone walking by can pick up a piece of chalk, reflect on their lives, and share their personal aspirations in public space.

I didn't know what to expect from this experiment, but by the next day, the wall was entirely filled out, and it kept growing. And I'd like to share a few things that people wrote on this wall.

"Before I die, I want to be tried for piracy." (Laughter) "Before I die, I want to straddle the International Date Line." "Before I die, I want to sing for millions." "Before I die, I want to plant a tree." "Before I die, I want to live off the grid." "Before I die, I want to hold her one more time." "Before I die, I want to be someone's cavalry." "Before I die, I want to be completely myself."

So this neglected space became a constructive one, and people's hopes and dreams made me laugh out loud, tear up, and they consoled me during my own tough times. It's about knowing you're not alone. It's about understanding our neighbors in new and enlightening ways. It's about making space for reflection and contemplation, and remembering what really matters most to us as we grow and change.

I made this last year, and started receiving hundreds of messages from passionate people who wanted to make a wall with their community, so my civic center colleagues and I made a tool kit, and now walls have been made in countries around the world, including Kazakhstan, South Africa, Australia, Argentina and beyond. Together, we've shown how powerful our public spaces can be if we're given the opportunity to have a voice and share more with one another.

Two of the most valuable things we have are time and our relationships with other people. In our age of increasing distractions, it's more important than ever to find ways to maintain perspective and remember that life is brief and tender. Death is something that we're often discouraged to talk about or even think about, but I've realized that preparing for death is one of the most empowering things you can do. Thinking about death clarifies your life.

Our shared spaces can better reflect what matters to us as individuals and as a community, and with more ways to share our hopes, fears and stories, the people around us can not only help us make better places, they can help us lead better lives. Thank you. (Applause)

(Applause) Thank you. (Applause) (Applause)

Candy Chang creates art that prompts people to think about their secrets, wishes and hopes -- and then share them. She is a TED Senior Fellow.

Why you should listen:

Candy Chang is an artist, designer, and urban planner who explores making cities more comfortable and contemplative places. She believes in the potential of introspection and collective wisdom in public space to improve our communities and help us lead better lives.

Recent projects include Before I Die, where she transformed an abandoned house in her neighborhood in New Orleans into an interactive wall for people to share their hopes and dreams -- a project The Atlantic called “one of the most creative community projects ever.” Other projects include I Wish This Was, a street art project that invites people to voice what they want in vacant storefronts, and Neighborland, an online tool that helps people self-organize and shape the development of their communities. She is a TED Senior Fellow, an Urban Innovation Fellow, and was named a “Live Your Best Life” Local Hero by Oprah magazine. By combining street art with urban planning and social activism, she has been recognized as a leader in developing new strategies for the design of our cities. She is co-founder of Civic Center, an art and design studio in New Orleans. See more at candychang.com.