Sumpteretc's Blog

What's on my mind at the moment

Month: April, 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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!