In a testament to Mongolians’ eager participation in elections, during the July 2000 parliamentary election, officials in some rural areas rode on horseback, carrying ballot boxes from ger to ger, some of which served as official polling stations. (From the aforementioned PCV Politics guide.)

June 29, 2008 — Will we see poll boxes in gers? Not in a city like Darkhan. But Mongolia’s favorite nomadic national symbol still plays a big part in elections here. The inexpensive, easily movable ger makes an ideal campaign HQ. Like gigantic mushrooms, the campaign gers pop up every six apartment blocks. By day, they blare out Mongolian folk tunes from Chinese-imported CD players. By night, the gers glow with red neon. Ponytailed girls, in garish orange jerseys, wander out of the painted doors to press glossy calendars into the hands of passersby.

A ger from Ardchilsan nam candidate Tuvdendorj

True, I’ve only run across gers from the Democratic party. (Perhaps the Dems can’t afford office space like the MPRP. Or is it because the Dems seek the rural herder vote this time around)?

One Democratic Party candidate has stolen my heart – Kh. Temuujin.

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Like his namesake, Temuujin kicks ass… well, at least he did on a “Development Debates” reality TV show. Moreover, this Temuujin has sublime taste in political cartoons.

(Yes, Mongolia does have reality TV shows about development. Imagine Mongolian Idol, complete with viewers’ real-time text-messaged votes. But instead of warbling “Country Roads,” contestants argue over things like disability education. It’s quite suspenseful. When squaring off against two distinguished authorities, young Temuujin started off shaky – but he shot from 15% of the vote to 60% within the course of an hour.)

Here’s the MPRP’s “Ardiin Khuu” (Son of the People). J. Sukhbaatar. Lots of billboards show him clowning around with these two Olympic wrestling heroes, Kh. Tsagaanbaatar and B. Naranbaatar. Despite my protests that I can’t vote, I still got this cool calendar from his twelve-year-old minions.

But who knows who to trust? As we say here, “Snake has spots on the outside, human has spots on the inside.”

The next batch of Mongolia volunteers have received their invitations. Yaaaaaaay!

In honor of pre-service training, let me post a funny Naadam photo from last summer.

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That’s me guzzling the airag, Ulaaka doing bunny ears, Chris LP, Margaret, and Brie.

Saikhan gol

December 11, 2007

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Saikhan gol = beautiful river. From summer in Selenge. My host sister Boloroo, her husband Sugar, some young friends, and my eej (host mom).

Now we enjoy -23 celsius cold (-10 farenheit). I’m in UB, trying to keep my eyebrows from sticking together.

If you open our soum newsletter, you’ll see a list of lucky local men chosen for jobs at the mines. Women also work at the mines as chefs and administrators. According to a past volunteer, the mining companies come from US, Canada, China, Russia, and India. These companies must reserve 90% of their jobs for Mongolian nationals. In addition, the companies must give 30% of their profits to the Mongolian government. Of course, the companies are also supposed to dispose of their chemicals properly.

Unfortunately, not all mining companies comply with Mongolian rules. Disclaimer: Please note that I’m very unclear on the details here… But from what I remember, one company in our aimag (province) belongs to a politician’s brother in law. The politician handed over extraction rights without going through a licensing process. He excused the company from following any safety procedures. In order to blast the gold out of the rocks, the company used mercury. The mercury then seeped into the river of a nearby soum. One PCV had to leave site at
that soum because of chemical contamination.

“Ninja Turtles,” or illegal miners, number about 100,000 in Mongolia (or so says Lonely Planet). They get their name from the green, shell-like buckets on their backs. Some ninjas may have invaded the mountains close to our soum. The Peace Corps is on the alert for cyanide contamination. Eek.