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Learning English and Buddhism in Mongolia

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Learning Medical English for doctors, nurses and dentists in Mongolia

Monday, March 31, 2014

Mongolia's nomads warm to solar power

Originally posted on Aljazeera.com on December 16, 2013
by Philippa H Stewart

Portable solar panels are helping the sunny country's nomads - without disrupting their way of life.
Mongolian gers are normally constructed out of felt and wool
covered by a waterproof canvas.

In Mongolia, often known as the land of the blue skies, the sun shines for 250 days on average each year. It beats down on the sparse plains and on the Gobi desert that spans the country's southern border with China.

It shines, even during the frigid winter days, on the hundreds of thousands of nomads who still roam the steppes, herding animals and living in dome-like tents calling gers.

About 800,000 of Mongolia's 2.8 million inhabitants still live the traditional nomadic lifestyle that has remained largely unchanged for generations. Apart from the addition of motorbikes, the occasional petrol generator, and a passing trade from intrepid tourists wanting to stay in a ger for the night, life is almost the same as that of many nomads' grandparents and great-grandparents.

Almost, but not exactly.

Dotted across the steppes, glints of light can be seen as the sun bounces off the solar panels that have been installed on the sides of gers made of felt and yak's wool. At the start of this millennium, Mongolia's herders and nomads had little or no access to modern electric power and its potential benefits.

But as of 2013, thanks to a concerted push by the Mongolian government, almost 70 percent of nomadic people have access to electricity. Bor, a herder who mainly travels around western Mongolia's Arkhangai province, is one of the people whose family benefits from portable solar home systems (SHS).

"We use it for generating the power for lighting in the ger, charging phones, we can also generate a fridge to keep food longer and we can run a television. That is very useful for us because we can get the most recent weather forecast, which is important for our work and keeping our animals safe. Before we had power it was very difficult. Now it is almost like living in the city."

The ability to charge mobile phones is also important for the herders, who often have children staying at boarding schools. "Most countryside children stay in dorms, because their parents are nomads and it is the only way they can get an education," said Bor. "We can call our children who are in the dorms and speak to them. I also have children working in Ulaanbaatar [Mongolia's capital] and I can speak to them as well. The solar panels are a very useful thing in our lives."

Capturing the sun

Access to electricity also allows families to contact emergency health-care and doctors for advice without having to make the often arduous journey to the nearest village or town.
Herder electrification can help ensure that this important community, which connects the country to its rich history, can maintain their way of life without being left behind. - World Bank report, "Capturing the Sun in the Land of the Blue Sky"
The solar systems were distributed and installed with the help of the World Bank, after the Mongolian government's National 100,000 Solar Ger Electrification Programme ran into difficulties.

A World Bank report, Capturing the Sun in the Land of the Blue Sky, describes the difficulties faced by the Mongolian government on its ambitious project.

By 2005, five years into the plan, 30,000 families had been kitted out with an SHS, but then the programme began to stagnate. "The government of Mongolia recognised that considerably more effort was necessary not only to keep the programme on track, but to scale-up implementation in order to achieve the National 100,000 Solar Ger Electrification Program target," the report said.

In 2006, the World Bank agreed to cover half of the initial outlay costs for each family as well as after-sales maintenance, with 50 centres set up across the country, including at least one in each of its 21 provinces, so that the herders would not have to travel to Ulaanbaatar every time the solar panels needed maintenance.

Migara Jayawardena, a senior energy specialist at the World Bank and lead author of the World Bank report, told Al Jazeera that more than half the nomadic people in rural Mongolia now have access to modern electricity services thanks to the programme - exceeding the original target by 35 percent.

"The overall project structure, including the private dealers and sales and service centres, also remain in operation, and could possibly serve any herders who remain un-electrified, or those who may want to purchase upgraded SHS that can support a larger variety of appliances," he said.

Too expensive?

Despite the financial help, the solar panels can still be prohibitively expensive. The cost depends on where the SHS is produced. The most expensive are from Germany, Japan or China, and can cost from between 150,000-800,000 togrog ($88-467).

Batsaikhan, a nomadic herdsman from Huvsgul province, said cost is a major factor for him. "I would very much like to be able to have the solar panels," he said, "but I cannot because I do not have enough money. It is difficult to save when there are things we need urgently. We see them on sale and one day I want to be able to afford this."

The SHS project also offers environmental benefits to a country where the ratio of carbon dioxide emissions to economic output is ten times higher than the world average, because of the increase in mining over the past decade as the true extent of Mongolia's mineral wealth became apparent.

"SHS is a clean energy source and does not have emissions that would result from using candles, kerosene or diesel," said Jayawardena. "These latter forms of lighting would have local pollution impacts. SHS result in reduced indoor smoke pollution that often leads to respiratory and other illnesses. The utilization of renewable energy from an early stage of modernising do provide a low emission path from the onset, which can have longer-term implications as the country moves forward."

The solar systems are slowly replacing the diesel generators used by some nomads as a means of generating power, although they are still using stoves for heating, burning wood coal and dung throughout the year.

Jayawardena's paper emphasises the importance of minimising disruption to Mongolian nomads' traditional way of life, which could easily have died out with the onset of globalisation.

Accomodating the nomadic life

"The availability of electricity has, of course, improved the quality of life of the herder communities," he told Al Jazeera. Seventy percent of the herders reported "increased productivity" as a result of access to electricity, with 90 percent using mobile phones (compared with a pre-project level of 0 percent). Seventy percent own a colour TV, which have become the most widely used source of information.

"Of course, since they are nomads, traditional electrification of fixed lines are not compatible with their nomadic ways. They would need to change their lifestyles in order to acquire a typical electricity connection," said Jayawardena.

"However, with the availability of portable SHSs that can be easily assembled and disassembled, the technology is adapting to accommodate the herder's nomadic lifestyle rather than the other way around. This enables those who wish to remain herders to continue their nomadic lifestyle while still acquiring access and the benefits of modern electricity - thereby preserving their traditional lifestyle."



Definition List:
  • frigid: very cold
  • to roam: to walk or travel around an area without any definite aim or direction
  • inhabitant: a person that lives in a particular place
  • intrepid: very brave; not afraid of danger or difficulties
  • dorm: [slang] dormitory
  • to stagnate: to stop developing or making progress
  • outlay: the money that you have to spend in order to start a new project
  • extent: how large, important, serious, etc. something is
  • utilization: to use something, especially for a practical purpose
  • dung: solid waste from animals, especially from large ones
  • disruption: to make it difficult for something to continue in the normal way
Pronunciation:
= frigid
= roam
= inhabitant
= intrepid
= dorm
= stagnate
= extent
= utilization
= dung
= disruption

Monday, March 24, 2014

LYRICS: Avicii - Wake Me Up

Avicii - Wake Me Up

Feeling my way trough the darkness
Guided by a beatin heart
I can't tell where the journey will end
But I know where to start

They tell me I'm too young to understand
They say I'm caught up in a dream
Life will pass me by if I don't open up my eyes
Well that's fine by me

So wake me up when it's all over
When I'm wiser and I'm older
All this time I was finding my self, and I
didn't know I was lost

So wake me up when it's all over
When I'm wiser and I'm older
All this time I was finding my self, and I
didn't know I was lost

I tried carrying the weight of the world
But I only have two hands
Hope I get the chance to travel the world
But I don't have any plans

Wish that I could stay forever this young
Not afraid to close my eyes
Life's a game made for everyone
And love is the prize

So wake me up when it's all over
When I'm wiser and I'm older
All this time I was finding my self, and I
didn't know I was lost

So wake me up when it's all over
When I'm wiser and I'm older
All this time I was finding my self, and I
didn't know I was lost

I didn't know I was lost
I didn't know I was lost
I didn't know I was lost
I didn't know I was lost

Monday, March 17, 2014

LYRICS: Royals by Lorde



"Royals" by Lorde
Sung by the Florida State University AcaBelles
(acapella - style of music without instruments)

[Verse 1]
I've never seen a diamond in the flesh
I cut my teeth on wedding rings in the movies
And I'm not proud of my address,
In a torn-up town, no postcode envy

But every song's like gold teeth, grey goose, trippin' in the bathroom
Blood stains, ball gowns, trashin' the hotel room,
We don't care, we're driving Cadillacs in our dreams.
But everybody's like Cristal*, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece.
Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash.
We don't care, we aren't caught up in your love affair.

And we'll never be royals (royals).
It don't run in our blood,
That kind of luxe just ain't for us.
We crave a different kind of buzz.
Let me be your ruler (ruler),
You can call me queen Bee
And baby I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule.
Let me live that fantasy.

[Verse 2]
My friends and I—we've cracked the code.
We count our dollars on the train to the party.
And everyone who knows us knows that we're fine with this,
We didn't come for money.

But every song's like gold teeth, grey goose, trippin' in the bathroom.
Blood stains, ball gowns, trashin' the hotel room,
We don't care, we're driving Cadillacs in our dreams.
But everybody's like Cristal, Maybach, diamonds on your timepiece.
Jet planes, islands, tigers on a gold leash
We don't care, we aren't caught up in your love affair

And we'll never be royals (royals).
It don't run in our blood
That kind of luxe just ain't for us.
We crave a different kind of buzz.
Let me be your ruler (ruler),
You can call me queen Bee
And baby I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule.
Let me live that fantasy.

Ooh ooh oh
We're bigger than we ever dreamed,
And I'm in love with being queen.
Ooh ooh oh
Life is great without a care
We aren't caught up in your love affair.

And we'll never be royals (royals).
It don't run in our blood
That kind of luxe just ain't for us.
We crave a different kind of buzz
Let me be your ruler (ruler),
You can call me queen Bee
And baby I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule, I'll rule.
Let me live that fantasy.

[* Cristal is the brand name of a Champagne produced by Louis Roederer.]

Monday, March 10, 2014

People power: Mongolia’s battle against tuberculosis

Originally posted on "TheConversation.com" on 15 October 2013
by Cameron Wright

Volunteers take anti-TB medications to around 400 patients each month. Image from shutterstock.com

Chinggis Khaan (or as he is known in many countries, Genghis Khan) is Mongolia’s national hero. The famous 12th and 13th century leader used considerable military and political savvy to build one of the largest empires in history. But while he was building an empire, another invader silently spread from person to person.

This invader, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, favours stealth over force. The disease that it causes, tuberculosis (TB), has endured from ancient times into the 21st century.

It is estimated that one-third of the world’s population is infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis and around 5% to 10% of these will develop active TB in their lifetime.

Even with effective antibiotics, TB is still a major global health problem, though it is rarely seen in developed countries such as Australia. TB disproportionately affects the world’s vulnerable, with over 95% of active cases and deaths caused by TB occurring in developing countries. Mongolia has a high burden of TB relative to its population.


Chinggis Khaan’s status was re-affirmed in July when the capital,
Ulaanbaatar’s main square was renamed Chinggis Square. Image from shutterstock.com

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) most recent Global TB Report estimated that in 2011 there were 8.7 million new TB cases and each day, the disease claims around 4,000 lives. For a disease that is treatable and curable, these statistics are alarming.

This year I’m working with the Mongolian Anti-Tuberculosis Association (MATA). Founded in 1993, MATA is a “home-grown” example of community health workers having a positive impact on TB control. Through a nation-wide network of 300 health volunteers, this organisation coordinates the provision of anti-TB medications, mainly targeting people unable to visit health clinics regularly.

The WHO recommends that anti-TB treatment is given through a scheme known as DOTS (directly observed treatment, short-course), as adherence to medicines over the typical six-month treatment course can be sporadic unless patients are adequately supported. Under DOTS, each dose of anti-TB medication is supervised and signed off by a health worker or volunteer.

MATA volunteers take anti-TB medications to around 400 patients each month through home visits, with volunteers serving patients living in their local city sub-district or town. An additional 280 patients attend contracted cafeterias for a free meal along with their anti-tuberculosis medications.

Volunteers are trained in the basics of TB and can become an important primary source of information, support, early identification of treatment issues and also a vector for encouraging contacts of patients to attend clinics for TB screening.

L-R: S Munkhjargal (MATA volunteer), D Enkhtsetseg (MATA Volunteer Supervisor), T Bayanjargal (TB clinic nurse in Ulaanbaatar) and Y Byambaa (MATA volunteer). These women are part of the team working towards eradicating tuberculosis in Mongolia. Photo Cameron Wright.

For their work, volunteers are provided with a small monthly stipend, the Mongolian equivalent of around 30 Australian dollars. They are supervised by MATA staff and work with tuberculosis clinic doctors and nurses who take responsibility for treatment decisions.

The results of this program so far are impressive. This is best demonstrated by looking at treatment outcomes for a specific group of new patients who have returned positive tests, of which approximately 30% of the national total are involved in MATA’s program.

Of 621 patients from this group enrolled with MATA in 2011, 600 (about 97%) successfully finished treatment and almost all of these were cured of the disease. This is compared to an overall treatment success rate for this group of around 88%, reported by the National TB Program.

I spoke to some volunteers based in Bayanzurkh district, an area of Ulaanbaatar (also known as Ulan Bator) with one of the highest prevalence of TB in Mongolia. I asked one volunteer why she was involved in MATA’s program and she replied, through translation,

There is a great feeling of accomplishment for me and the patient when someone finishes their treatment and is cured. Meeting these volunteers – and witnessing their dedication – makes me think that with time, the TB situation can improve.

Managing a community-based treatment program on a national scale inevitably comes with a set of challenges. The last two decades have seen widespread internal migration, especially during winter, from the countryside into Ulaanbaatar.

Multiple factors have caused this including the transition to a market-based economy following the fall of the Soviet Union, with people increasingly seeking opportunities in the city.

Urban slums are ideal breeding grounds for TB. Image from shutterstock.com

Adding to this, a series of dzuds (particularly harsh winters, commonly associated with a high livestock fatality rate) over recent years has made the continuation of a traditional herder lifestyle untenable for many.

This has led to an expansion of the “ger districts”, urban slums with a multitude of social problems and high rates of TB. The close living quarters during winter, when temperatures can plummet below -40°C, create ideal conditions for TB transmission.

Keeping track of TB patients who have started on treatment is one of the main problems our volunteers face in providing treatment, with many people returning to the countryside during summer. Other issues include reaching patients living in very remote places or those frequently moving around.

Lack of awareness and misconceptions can also be problematic when trying to encourage patients to complete their treatment. A 2012 national survey showed that most people know that TB is curable (84%) and is an air-borne infection (74%).

But many of those surveyed did not know treatment is provided free of charge (49%) or the signs and symptoms of TB (43%) which typically include a chronic cough, night sweats, unexplained weight loss, fever and/or tiredness.

Educating the public about TB can greatly improve case finding and treatment efforts and there is still progress to be made in this area. Providing high-quality training to volunteers is another important aspect of the program and this is complex to manage on a national scale.

Just over half of Mongolians surveyed knew the signs and symptoms of TB. Image from shutterstock.com

Earlier this year I had the chance to participate in the external review of the National Stop TB Strategy 2010-2015, conducted with the support of the WHO. This provided an opportunity for reflection; to praise the many positive achievements of the National TB program and to identify areas where improvements could be made.

My main observation working in the TB area so far is that teamwork is central to reducing the global TB burden. From MATA, to the National TB Program and more broadly the WHO, the Stop TB Partnership and the International Union Against Tuberculosis and Lung Disease (among others), there is a huge network of people working towards a common goal.

Through utilising these partnerships, praising the good and improving the not so good, we can work towards making TB join smallpox as a disease of the past, in spite of the huge challenges that lie between this goal and the present situation.



Definition List:
  • savvy: practical knowledge or understanding of something
  • stealth: the fact of doing something in a quiet or secret way
  • to endure: to continue to exist for a long time
  • adherence: the fact of behaving according to a particular rule, etc, or of following a particular set of beliefs, or a fixed way of doing something
  • sporadic: happening only occasionally or at intervals that are not regular
  • vector: something (like an insect) that carries diseases between larger animals and humans
  • to enroll: to arrange for yourself or for somebody else to officially join a course, school, etc
  • prevalence: that exists or is very common at a particular time or in a particular place
  • untenable: that cannot be defended against attack or criticism
  • to utilize: to use something, especially for a practical purpose
Pronunciation MP3:
= savvy
= stealth
= endure
= adherence
= sporadic
= vector
= enroll
= prevalence
= untenable
= utilize

Monday, March 3, 2014

FREE eBooks at the US Dept of State

ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNING

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