Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Statue remaining at ruins of Russian tank base
Team on the tank

Sunday we spent the day touring a few local sites which included the ruins of a Russian tank base and the Choibalsan Museum. We learned a bit more about the history of this city and this country and discussed how so much has changed since 1990 when the Russians withdrew from Outer Mongolia. When the Russians left, they left Mongolia with a huge gap in services and goods. They basically took their toys, and left. No more health care, no more food on the shelves, no more education . . . all the support that had been in place under communist rule was gone.  Our interpreter tells us of how life gradually changed for the worse, goods became scarce, and people changed careers in order to be able to find some work, somewhere. Doctors became business people and teachers creating a generation gap in the current medical system (see blog on surgical training). We had a patient who was an internal medicine doctor and went back to school in the 1990’s to become a school administrator and teacher. Apparently, these stories are common.

The Mongolian people have a fondness for the Russians that they do not have for the Chinese. The great wall was built by the Chinese to keep out Chinggis Khan (pronounced Chingus Han) It is the border separating Inner Mongolia from China. Outer Mongolia is the land north of Inner Mongolia and south of Russia that is also called just plain Mongolia. The geography can be confusing . . .

Jump Shot 
There is a rich history to this land. Prior to my trip, I read the book Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World by Jack Weatherford. It is a really well written account of the life of Genghis Khan and the extent of the Mongol empire, in its prime. I brought his second book: The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued his Empire; but I have not had time to read more than a few pages. Having read some of the history before I arrived has really helped me to appreciate the culture, and customs of the people. I am still in the process of learning about and understanding the complexities of modern Mongolian history but I have enjoyed picking up what I can from our translators Enkhe and Ooko. Again, learning more than I teach. 

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