Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What I Did for My Summer Vacation

August was an extremely busy time at the ACMS. The center hosted a group of 15 US teachers for three weeks as part of the Department of Education's Fulbright-Hays Seminars Abroad program in addition to our summer language program and our usual work assisting scholars during the peak field season. The teachers spent 3 weeks in New Zealand before arriving in Mongolia, and in late July I flew there to meet the group and lead them north with a stopover in Beijing. The program was focused on how environments and landscape affect culture and history, and New Zealand and Mongolia both offered plenty of opportunities to compare and contrast these effects. For example, they both have more sheep than people, but only one has lovable little penguins with foot injuries.

As leader of the seminar in Mongolia I was in and out of Ulaanbaatar most of August, and as such this blog suffered a bit. Then at the end of August I moved to Madison, WI, and Robin Charpentier took over as the new Resident Director. Transition has made the blog suffer even further. However, as we enter October I am finally able to refocus some time on it.

Since July a lot has happened at ACMS and in Mongolia. ACMS relocated its US office to University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison) in mid-September. Details on the move will be forthcoming in the next few weeks as we produce formal announcements and press releases. The Center for East Asian Studies has offered to host ACMS at UW-Madison, and they have been kind enough to appoint me an honorary fellow to facilitate my integration into the UW-Madison community. This move offers a lot of potential for growth for ACMS, as well as a very large academic community to promote Mongolian Studies.

I would be remiss in not thanking Western Washington University (WWU) for hosting ACMS over the last four years. WWU was a significant partner in the early stages of ACMS' development, providing much needed administrative and moral support. We, of course, look forward to continuing to work with WWU in the future as a member institution.

In Mongolia the Oyu Tolgoi agreement experienced a roller coaster ride over the summer. As of writing this, the agreement was still not signed but it was closer than it has ever been before to being completed. It is definitely a policy issue that seems determined to remain unresolved.

Ulaanbaatar also suffered from severe flooding over the summer. It was one of the rainiest summers I experienced there, and numerous times the lack of drainage and poor urban planning contributed to city wide flooding. I remember seeing an article I unfortunately did not read on a news website with the title "It's not the government's fault. It's the sky's fault." I wish I had read the article to determine whether the author was being sarcastic or not. I fear he/she was not.

More in the coming weeks...