Monday, August 25, 2014

Mongolia Brief August 22, 2014 Part V



U.Bilguun: Knowing that few Mongolians studied in top American universities gave me a lot of encouragement
The following is an interesting interview with a Mongolian Harvard University student, Bilguun Ulammandakh, who’s majoring in politics and economics.

U.Bilguun has many readers on his blog. When his “Advice for Learning English Language” was published on iKon.mn, over 10,000 people shared it on social media and some 60,000 people read his blog.
He is considered by many to be a young man who will accomplish great things in the future.
Can you introduce yourself?
My name is Bilguun Ulammandakh. I was born in Slovakia, lived there for around ten years, and came to Mongolia in 2002. I studied at School No.23 until eighth grade, transferred to Hobby School, and enrolled in Harvard University after graduating. Now, I’m in my fourth year, studying economics and politics.
Harvard University doesn’t force students to choose their profession in the first year. This must give a better opportunity to choose the right profession?
Indeed. Not many young people know what they want to do for the rest of their lives even when it’s time to enroll in universities. Particularly, there are people with many interests. Taking this to account in America, freshmen are given opportunities to choose a variety of subjects and decide their future profession.
This opportunity was very important for me since I have many interests. I wasn’t absolutely sure of which sector to choose. I mainly chose linguistic lessons and realized it wasn’t for me and decided on politics and economics.
You speak six languages. Which languages are they?
I was born in Slovakia so I know Slovak. In middle school, I learnt English and Russian. At Harvard University, I got interested in French and went to France. I also learned Chinese for two years and went to a two-month Chinese language course during summer holiday and lastly, Mongolian.
Many people dream of studying in America’s top universities visit your blog for advice. What’s your initial advice to them?
Many people asked me the same question and I give the same answer. I started a blog and told my readers to clarify things if they don’t understand something on my blog.
Primarily, I tell people to increase their English language skills. If your English is good, filling out an application form is easy. There are many intelligent young people in Mongolia. They probably only have language difficulties.
How many Mongolian students are there in Harvard University?
When I first enrolled, there were only two Mongolians, who were accepted after studying in the USA.
Later, I wrote about how I entered Harvard University on my blog and many were inspired. A student from Hobby School enrolled in the following year that I got accepted and two students in the next year. Now, including me, there are four students in bachelor programs.
Will you proceed for a master’s degree?
I’m planning to work for few years after graduating and then, study for a master’s degree. I think it’s better to get work experience before studying for a master’s degree.
I haven’t decided where to work but I will work and live in Mongolia in the future.
Can you elaborate on your summer job during your holiday?
I’m doing internship in two organizations. One is a company named SkyPath Partners for finance, strategy and management consulting, and investment services. As I don’t have any work experience, I’m starting everything from the beginning as an assistant worker.
The second place is Think Tank, a national institute for research and advocacy on political strategy. It publicizes researches and affects governors. I assist in the organization’s research works.
Why did you decide to work for these two organizations?
I inquired about many organizations when I came to Mongolian in the summer. The workers at SkyPath Partners LLC are exceptionally experienced, knowledgeable, and skilled and I liked them.
The company didn’t take interns but after pestering the CEO and giving an interview, I was finally accepted. The person who actually persuaded the CEO was a former-graduate of Hobby School, G.Batzul, who works there.
The CEO is a man who used to lead the Oyu Tolgoi project, Cameron McRae. He is participating in establishing a national institute for strategic studies and asked me if I wanted to join. I accepted the offer.
You started reading in English at the age of ten. How did you develop your reading habits?
Everyone knows the advantages of reading like expanding your knowledge and enhancing language skills. When most people start reading, they get bored and lazy. I was just like that.
I started to like reading books because of Harry Potter series. I reread all the chapters in Slovakia. When I came to Mongolia, nobody had heard of the books. I felt unfortunate that this amazing book wasn’t known to others and tried to translate it into Mongolian.
After, I read The Lord of the Rings and began reading tricky books. Like so, begin reading simple and interesting books and work your way to more difficult ones. Now, I’m reading Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, about how the brain functions.
In addition to studying politics and economy, I’m interested in brain science and philosophy.
In your opinion, are centers for providing information about foreign universities working adequately? How did you overcome such difficulties? Did you get any help from someone?
Initially, I didn’t know how to apply to foreign universities or what to do. I got interested in seventh and eighth grade.
In eighth grade, I told my foreign teacher that I wanted to study in a top American university but couldn’t pay the tuition or submit application forms. The teacher consulted on what I should do, which websites to visit, and that I needed to give SATs. Summer holiday started and I collected the basic information from websites and researched about enrolling into the best university.
I realized I needed to score high in SATs, be active in community work, and have excellent marks on all subjects. I worked hard in tenth and eleventh grade. Knowing that few Mongolians studied in top American universities gave me a lot of encouragement. Later, I applied to USAP program of the Educational Advising and Resource Center, which provides excellent information.
How did you manage tuition issues for studying at Harvard?
The university provides scholarships consistent to family income and capability. If you’re accepted to Harvard University and your family’s annual income is less than 70,000 USD, all your expense is paid by the university.
On Twitter, you said that you were walking to work. Do you work besides studying?
Last summer, I did a research work at Harvard Business School for three months. After that, I went to India to do another research work. I mainly work as an assistant for research works of professors.
Did you have problems finding your true self from among many students of different nationalities at Harvard?
I became considerably confident after participating in many activities and achieving success in high school. I thought I was rather capable. When I went to Harvard University, everyone studying there were the best and I started to fear. On the first lessons, I was given assignments to write ten-page long essays. I had never done this sort of assignments in Mongolia but majority of my friends had completed such tasks before. Like so, I faced many obstacles which I didn’t know or couldn’t do at first. Every time, I got plenty of help from professors.
The first year finished in this manner. I didn’t have subjects which I felt were challenging in high school. I used to sail through my homework. I was urged to push myself when I came to Harvard. I got many great practices from my friends.
When will you graduate?
I’ll graduate in December. I was supposed to graduate earlier but I had to delay my graduation as I took a leave to travel.
Where did you travel to?
I went from Boston to Hawaii. I stayed there for a week and went to New Zealand to practice meditation and hike for 20 days.
I traveled alone but it was a wonderful trip where I got to meet many new people. From New Zealand, I flew to Singapore and spent quite a long time there.
You must enjoy traveling. Can you tell us where you’ve traveled to?
After finishing my first year at the university, I attended a two months language course in Paris. During the weekends of this period, I toured many amazing countries such as Italy and Spain. When I finished my second year, I went to Beijing to learn Chinese for two months and visited large cities in China. Last year, I traveled around the big cities in America.
Where do you get traveling expenses?
I try to work it out with my work salary. When I really don’t have enough, I ask for help from my parents.
Can you share your dreams?
I wish to contribute in Mongolia’s development.
Obviously, I want to be able to think that my life has been satisfactory and productive when I recall my life. This is the gist of it. I don’t have any detailed plans yet. I’m still a young man, I’ll be graduating soon. Anyway, I plan to spend my youth in the business sector.

Hakuho M.Davaajargal donates 30 million MNT to baseball players
August 24 (UB Post) Mongolian grand champion of Japanese professional sumo wrestling Hakuho M.Davaajargal donated 30 million MNT for the transportation cost of the Mongolian baseball team.
The team is set to take part in the 2014 Asian Games, which will be held in Incheon, South Korea from September 19 to October 4.
The head of the Hakuho Foundation, M.Battseren and general manager of the foundation B.Batjargal handed the donation to the baseball team on Thursday.
Vice President of the Mongolian National Olympic Committee Ts.Damdin, State Secretary-General of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism P.Altangerel, Head of the Management of Physical Culture and Sports Policy Implementation Department of the Ministry Z.Bakhytjan attended the granting ceremony.
Hakuho M.Davaajargal is a known baseball enthusiast. This is the second time he helped the Mongolian baseball players. The first donation was given during the 2010 Asian Games.

S.Enkh-Amgalan: It would be tragic to buy Mongolian paintings from foreigners in the future
August 24 (UB Post) The studio of painter S.Enkh-Amgalan is different from other painter’s studios.  It has a sofa, stove, bed, LCD television, a big collection of albums, and amplifiers of different sizes. “A studio is the palace of a painter. We spend special moments of our lives in the studio,” commented S.Enkh-Amgalan. Unuudur interviewed the artist, who recently opened his solo exhibition “Steed of the Sky” at Blue Moon Art Gallery.
Which painter has most influenced you?
Renowned artist D.Chogsom was my teacher at the Music and Dance College. At that time, he painted his most famous paintings. I liked his use of particular colors. Even now, I learn a lot from my 80-year-old teacher.
Do you keep company with other artists? Does this affect you painting?
Every painter has their own qualities, based on their education and opinions. Foreign artists ask for permission before visiting our studios. I’ve heard that Japanese artists don’t visit each other’s studios at all. This means every artist’s methods must be private.
Are you cautious of bringing someone to your studio?
It is disturbing when someone enters while I’m painting. We call it inspiration, when a mysterious force comes to mind from the sky. It’s not about that at all. Cosmic forces brings changes to the human body, sometimes we feel heavy and sometimes refreshed. To find out your biologically creative hours is an important thing. Drawing an idea that suddenly comes to the mind is the most precious moment for artists.
How do you develop yourself?
I try to observe ideas and colors of foreign painters, and get inspired from stories about painters. But that kind of story is rare in Mongolia. Beautiful songs effect artwork.  I like listening to jazz and rock, especially The Beatles. Every Beatles song is unique.
Bright colors dominate your paintings. As one of the teachers of I.E.Rapin Academy said, bright colors make paintings abstract. What do you think about that?
Colors are uncountable. There are color rules to match them. A painting looks like it is screaming if the colors aren’t matching.
Do you agree that commissioned paintings are not alive?   
We are compelled to create under orders. Sometimes, we face financial problems because the state doesn’t care about us. But painting for someone else’s heart is agony for me.
A long time ago, one guy ordered a painting and paid a huge amount of money to the painter. The guy waited for his painting for a long time. One day, the guy came to ask for his order, but the painter painted it for him in ten minutes. “I paid you a lot, but you spent only ten minutes on my order. It’s a quick and unqualified painting,” the buyer said angrily. “I’ve used all my experience in ten minutes,” answered the painter.
Some people think we only paint when we stand and physically paint. First, we paint in our mind.
Paintings are a luxury in our lives. Mongolians aren’t that interested in buying paintings. How do you make a living?
We earn on our own, selling paintings. The state left us with pigments and a brush. Mostly foreigners buy paintings by Mongolian painters.
What was the most expensive painting you’ve sold?
I’m not Picasso, so my paintings aren’t too expensive. They all have the same price level. Art studies aren’t developed in Mongolia and people don’t know its value.
Do you have any heirlooms for your children?
Yes. I have some stored paintings that I painted during the 1980s.
Do you think about the future of the paintings you sell?
Once people pay and buy them, I’m sure they won’t leave them in the dust. I save photographs and notes of my artwork. I’ve been an active painter since 2000. During this time, I’ve painted 600 big and small paintings.
Have you ever thought about being born in other country?
Sometimes, I think that I was born in the wrong time. If I was born in France or in America, where people appreciate artwork, I’d pay more attention to my painting. Mongolian painters need state support. Of course, I love my vast and beautiful Mongolia.

Are we more #disconnected than # connected?
By A. Oyunzul
August 24 (UB Post) On a Friday afternoon in October 2011, Sharon Seline exchanged texts with her daughter, who was in college. They “chatted” about how things were going, and her daughter replied with positive remarks followed by emoticons, smiles, and hearts.
Later that night, her daughter tried to kill herself.
In the following days, it became evident that the girl was isolated in her dorm room, crying and showing signs of depression. Her real life was completely different from her posts on Facebook and Twitter.
One of the greatest inventions of mankind, which has shaped our lives beyond imagination is, of course, the internet. Social media connects the world despite time and space. To become a Facebook user, you don’t need to provide your state registration number or bank account information; you can even hide your identity if you want. Every relevant metric shows that we are interacting at blinding speed and frequency through social media.
A college professor in Austin, Texas, encourages students to post assignments on social media, giving students have the opportunity to present their work to a wider audience. The result: students’ writing skills and creativity improved and they began to work with each other more efficiently.
But does interacting and “socializing” behind a screen make us more sociable in real life? Like any revolutionary concept, social media has spawned a new set of threats and barriers.
Txt me later
As human beings, the majority of our communication is through face-to-face conversation. Studies show that 60 to 70 percent of our communication is nonverbal, aka “body language.” Indeed, it’s only when we can hear a tone of voice or look into someone’s eyes that we’re able to know when “I’m fine” doesn’t mean they’re fine at all…or when “I’m sorry” doesn’t mean what we think it does. Text messages give us the freedom to hide behind screens, and without the ability to receive nonverbal cues, the audience is none the wiser. With the majority of our communication tools stripped away in digital text, we are now attempting to forge in relationships and know people through phrases, abbreviations, snippets, and emoticons; which may or may not be accurate representations of the truth.
Constantly using abbreviations and snippets could lead to disorganized speech, which is one of the first symptoms of schizophrenia, says D.Oyunsuren, professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Mongolian National University of Medical Sciences. In the past, Mongolians used to ask after the well-being of elders, greeting them with, “Are you well?” But now, some young adults are greeting their elders saying, “Wassup?” which is confusing for the older generation. The professor also commented, “We have come to a generation where some young adults don’t know how to use Mongolian phrases. Poor vocabulary and grammar mistakes are normal for younger kids these days. Why? It is because of their excessive use of social media.”
But first, let me take a #selfie
The virtual world is an interesting community where you can project any image you want. With most people documenting their lives through social media, it is no secret that sites like Facebook and Twitter are used for self-promotion. It has some interesting correlations with self-esteem. According to a survey conducted by psychologist Jean Twenge, 57 percent of young people believe their generation uses social networking sites for self-promotion, narcissism, and attention seeking. The survey was conducted among 1,068 college students asked about social media use, generational attitudes, and if social media attention-seeking is helpful for success.
Jean Twenge commented, “College students have clearly noticed the more self-centered traits of their peers – it’s fascinating how honest they are about diagnosing their generation’s downsides … And students are right about the influence of social networking sites – research has shown that narcissistic people thrive on sites like Facebook, where self-centered people have more friends and post more attractive pictures of themselves.”
According to Soraya Mehdizadeh, a researcher at York University in Toronto, Canada, narcissism is defined as: a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration and an exaggerated sense of self-importance.
The researcher also stated that for the average narcissist, Facebook “offers a gateway for hundreds of shallow relationships and emotionally detached communication.” More importantly, for this study, social networking in general allows the user a great deal of control over how he or she is presented to and perceived by peers and other users. It is surprising how our online activities have more relevance to our true personality traits.
Virtual world: Children’s playground
It is no surprise to say that a child alone on a playground is a rather dangerous affair, considering the society we live in. Parents are more likely to leave their children in safe homes than let them play outside. So, as a result, with nothing better to do, children opt for their trusty old smart phones and computers.
Professor Oyunsuren clarified that the main source of all of social media complications is the lack of leisure activities and recreational areas. Sitting all day, behind a computer screen, with minimal movement of muscles, can result in lazy and unmotivated children. If these behaviors get worse, children could be diagnosed with emotiona; disorders such as depression and anxiety. Also, constantly receiving information online can decrease the critical thinking process, which is an essential factor for normal child development.
“Researchers claim that as society develops more and more, issues concerning emotional disorders will arise. This is a sign of people’s mindset and society is becoming contaminated. Disorders related to social media are a fairly new field for academic scrutiny, and Mongolia is not ready to do research on this complex issue,” stated Oyunsuren.
The first stepping stone would be to change our way of communicating with young adults. The younger generation is attracted to more colorful, clever and catchy phrases. Our approach does not have to be a six-page long philosophical essay about the core of human communication, something small but strong can make a difference.
As global citizens, we must find a way to take advantage of all the benefits of our technologically-enabled world, while ensuring that we aren’t losing touch with the most important relationships, personal and professional.

Administration litigation wastes the public budget
August 24 (UB Post) Occasionally, we wonder if laws and regulations were approved to be violated. Especially when gentlemen working in state management positions violate laws so well and the cost of their violations are covered by the state budget.
Just recently, a person who was discussing judicial reform emphasized that most judicial reviews of administrative affairs are suits about land and administration litigation. Statistics from the Mongolian National Judicial Research, Information and Training Center were assessed to clarify this information.
Out of 2013′s 1,097 first instance cases, when legal proceedings are first heard, 280 were land issues, 203 were state administrative issues, and 103 were about election disputes. The state officials’ disputes included illegal dismissals, changing people’s positions, and making wrong decisions. These cases went to trial and appellate court but the majority of the decisions made in the first instance cases were not changed. The following is an example of how first instance cases are reviewed, decisions concluded, and how much is paid in damages.
Two cases related to the employment of civil servants were reviewed by the Third Administrative Affairs Court on July 4, 2014. In October 2013, the governor of Bayankhongor Province issued orders to dismiss E.Tulga and U.Mart who were working as principals at the Zag soum school in Bayankhongor Province, and appointed an acting director. In response to the law suit brought on by locals about the illegal deposition, the dismissed directors were reassigned to their posts after six months and were told to retrieve compensation for the period of their unemployment from the Governor’s Office. E.Tulga received compensation of 4,638,130 MNT and U.Mart received 4,999,180 MNT.
Governor D.Jargalsaikhan’s breach of law resulted in a state budget loss of approximately ten million MNT. This is just one example of illegal actions by offenders in state management positions.
The second violation was made by the Head of the Professional Inspection Agency of Sukhbaatar border point in Selenge Province, who illegally dismissed an employee. A court ruling was made in March 2014, and 2,222,970 MNT was repaid to the employee from the state budget. The Governor of Zavkhan Province also dismissed a school principal and cost the Governor’s Office 2,381,320 MNT.
The complete version of Parliamentary Resolution 536 of Mongolian constitutional law was published on legalinfo.mn. It’s no wonder that the laws are violated, since the resolution has just way too many laws. However, it’s unfortunate that the offenders aren’t facing any losses and depleting public money, despite being found guilty by the court. These huge funds are being drained from public money after multiple breaches of the law made by governors of the 21 provinces, the capital and soums, as well as government body executives.
Mongolia doesn’t report on the total expenditure for resolving issues associated with state officials. These huge numbers came up from just reviewing the latest cases and decisions. If an integrated information system is developed, we’ll get a report of additional expenses taken from the state budget.
In the consolidated jurisdictional report of 2013, it highlighted, “Governors of all units make up the majority of defendants called to the Administrative Affairs Court on issues related to government authorities and officials.” Governors are changed after elections and gentlemen with power destroy the legal environment with blind actions, appointing “their men” to official positions.  It’s become a habit to illegally appoint someone for a position and use whatever means necessary to shield them, especially with ministers.
Civil servant selection has long lost its meaning. A perfect example of this wrongdoing is the selection of administrators for professional arts agencies last spring. Now, writing job descriptions for whomever they want and offering positions to people who don’t meet job requirements, has become an ordinary matter. Director of the Mongolian State Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet (MSATOB) also fired two employees she didn’t like. One dismissed employee, G.Erdenebaatar, issued a law suit and received some two million MNT as compensation. He was offered the opportunity to return to his original position but declined.
A woman who worked as a waitress at MSATOB filed a complaint with the court and got compensation and payment for her legal fees. Thinking this over, heads appointed by higher authorities strive on their own account, and act as if they’re above the law.  It’s regrettable to know that money, time and paper is misused for resolving the wrongdoings of offenders.
State officials’ issues are the most frequent cases brought to the Administrative Affairs Court, according to date from the first half of 2014. State officials’ issues increased by 48.2 percent compared to the first half of 2013. The number of lawsuits against state inspection agencies increased by 2.5 percent and the number of suits addressed to regulatory and enforcement agencies affiliated with province and capital governors increased by 80 percent. It seems that these organizations don’t follow procedures specified in the law when making appointments and decisions.
Normal people are accountable for their wrongdoings without being familiar with the law. Authorities of government bodies, who swear oaths, are supported by the state when they make poor decisions. Is this truly justice? We should make authorities who illegally fire two employees at once or make poor decisions repeatedly accountable. Until then, are we going to pat their heads, encouraging them by saying that people make mistakes? They must’ve been given their assigned positions because people believed that they could work more responsibly than others, so they should work harder.
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