Sumpteretc's Blog

What's on my mind at the moment

Month: October, 2009

Homeschool update

Today, in history class, we began studying the Chinese, specifically the Ming dynasty. We looked on the internet for some good pictures of the Forbidden City. There used to be a site that gave 360-degree views from various points in the city, but it didn’t seem to be working today, so we just Googled images of the city. We went to Explore Cool Places to find out the secret code embroidered into the emperors’ robes. And we also did a little reading about the porcelain that we now call china at Ceramics-C is for China. We finished this evening by heading out to Sansar Asian Food for a Chinese dinner and tea.

Tiffany and Elijah eating lemon chicken

Tiffany and Elijah eating lemon chicken

Visa Affidavit

Just last night, I was telling Tiffany that we probably ought to check our passports to see whether our student visas expired after one year or two. Then today, the director of our school came to us and started explaining to us the hoops we would have to jump through to get our second year student visa. She explained in Mongolian, of course, which was extremely helpful. Later, she came in and gave me a sample letter that I needed to write out by hand, filling in all the appropriate blanks. It is basically a request saying that it takes a long time to learn Mongolian, and that I need to study for another year. It’s a tad ironic, because I have to write it in perfect Mongolian, which tends to give the lie to the idea that I need to study for another year. I asked the director if I had to handwrite it, and she indicated that I did. If I typed it on the computer, she said, they would just think she wrote it. (Which, of course, she did. I just copied it.)

I have seen these handwritten affidavits on several other occasions. Once, for example, I signed my name to a handwritten full page, having no idea what it said, just that a friend had written it. That was just to get some boxes out of customs. I think that, in America, most bureaucrats would look askance at handwritten document, especially those created by foreigners who are still relatively new to writing with a different symbol set. Here, though, it seems to be the mark of authenticity.

By the way, in Mongolia, almost everyone writes in cursive, which is not, of course, the first symbol set you study. So, for the first several months, you can read nothing that anyone writes. Then, you start to learn cursive. I can do a reasonable job at it now, although I still make a few errors. I almost never write in cursive in English, so it was a bit of a learning curve for me.

Of Oyu Tolgoi and Sudden Departures

Well, it’s finally happened. After a decade of bickering and 2-steps-forward-3-steps-back negotiations, Mongolia today signed an agreement to allow Ivanhoe Mines and Rio Tinto to exploit Oyu Tolgoi, ostensibly one of the largest copper and gold mines in the world. There has been surprisingly little fanfare over an event that has the potential to significantly change the lives of the average Mongolian. Here are a few of the highlights from an article in the Sydney Morning Herald:

  • The nation’s employment rate is tipped to jump more than 10 percent. The mine will employ as many as 3,000 workers, with thousands more finding jobs along the supply chain.
  • Oyu Tolgoi is expected to produce 450,000 tons of copper and 330,000 ounces of gold annually over 35 years.
  • Per capita disposable income is expected to rise by 11.5 percent.
  • The project could boost Mongolia’s per capita GDP, at about 1,800 US dollars in 2008, to 15,000 US dollars by 2015.

If you haven’t bought stock in one of these mining companies, you may have already missed the boat, but hopefully Mongolians will be able to keep corrupt politicians from pocketing the bulk of this windfall.

On a more mundane topic, I started classes with a new teacher today. My former teacher, Nyamaa, has been working on a deal to go to Japan for a few weeks. On Thursday, she told me dejectedly that they were not going to allow her to come to Japan unless she had a translator (since she speaks no Japanese or English) and overcame some other insuperable obstacle. The next afternoon, she walked into my classroom and showed me her visa to go to Japan and informed me that she was leaving Saturday morning at 6 a.m. So… she’s in Japan. It seemed a little sudden, but that seems to be how Mongolians roll.