Friday, April 25, 2008

Making Summer Plans

June is right around the corner, which means an influx of international scholars trying to make tight research and study schedules fit into the precious days of Mongolian summer. Most universities will conclude classes and graduation ceremonies by mid-June, and students and faculty will begin escaping to the countryside to enjoy much anticipated opportunities to bask in the warm sun outside. Much to foreign visitors consternation it seems as if no one is ever around during the summer for meetings, collaborative work, completing paperwork, or answering questions, which is probably not too far from the truth. Nine months a year most of us spend huddled in either overheated or under-heated buildings dreaming of a temperate world outside in which our breath doesn't freeze to our eyelashes. Summer is approximately 90 days long, and the majority of Mongolians and expatriates make the most of it by not working all that hard on things that require staying indoors.

Some things to keep in mind if you are intending to visit Mongolia this summer for research.
  • Naadam -- This mid-summer holiday takes place July 11th, 12th, and 13th. You will note that it is a couple weeks after classes end, so don't be surprised if colleagues make an early start for Naadam. It is also a couple of weeks before classes begin again, so don't be surprised if colleagues take their time getting back to work. Bottom line is that Naadam is a time to enjoy the summer and an opportunity to participate in sports outside, so be prepared to take some time off from your work during the Naadam holiday. If you have a tight work schedule with limited time, plan to come to Mongolia before or after Naadam.
  • Lodging -- July-August is the peak tourist season in Mongolia. Prices rise and rooms become scarce. Plan ahead and contact people who can assist you in getting a deal as opposed to paying international tourist prices.
  • Prices -- Inflation is high around the world at the moment, and Mongolia is suffering from a severe bout of approximately 17% per annum at the moment. Everyone is adjusting to price increases, both consumers and suppliers, so don't be surprised if prices seem "out of whack."
  • Visas and Permits -- Remember that you must have proper visas and permits to conduct research or study in Mongolia. Information about regulations is available at the Office of Immigration, Naturalization, and Foreign Citizens website. Contrary to popular belief, Mongolia does in fact have laws and regulations, and those who make an effort to understand them are less likely to find themselves in trouble. Remember, if you plan to stay in Mongolia longer than 30 days you need to register with the immigration office. Make sure you give yourself enough time to do this if you have plans to immediately venture into the countryside. Visa and permit violations come with fines of $100-$1,000 which are assessed on a case-by-case basis, and in some cases deportations do occur. Read the post earlier this week about animal tagging to learn about those new regulations for research permits.
  • Safety and Security -- Mongolia is generally a safe place to be, but summer can see a rise in thefts and assaults. The best strategy is to remember that Ulaanbaatar is like Baltimore, MD. It's a great town, but there are some neighborhoods you shouldn't visit or things you shouldn't do if you're from out of town. Don't travel alone at night. Don't be conspicuous with your money. Don't wonder around off the main streets. Don't talk to strangers (for those of you who missed that day in kindergarten). Remain aware of your surroundings, but also relax and enjoy the warm weather.
Summer is a great time of year, and we look forward to seeing you at the ACMS. See you soon.

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