Yesterday I got a message from a longtime reader asking if we were OK, which prompted me to to see when my last post was made. I had a vague sense of “sometime during the summer.” It was nearly three months ago, when we were back in the US to get the dogs. Things have been a whirlwind since then, and I haven’t been up to sitting down and writing. Even now, I should be grading papers and writing midterm study guides. But once you start doing something like this and it becomes part of your life, and the people who read it become part of your life, it needs attention.
I have been wanting to write about a lot of things. I want to write about what it was like bringing the dogs to Mongolia through Istanbul – wild! I want to write about our idyllic two days in Turkey in July, at a small hotel in a small village near the new Istanbul airport. I want to write about our final arrival in Mongolia, and the last few weeks of summer vacation with the dogs finally here. I want to write about taking one of our dogs, Mussolini, to the vet for a couple of serious chronic conditions and getting his medication from the US (he has stabilized, fortunately, and one of the medications is working for him, though the other caused serious side effects). I also want to write about our adventures in the Mongolian health system since Emerson started experiencing some strange health issues; we still don’t know what’s going on. I also want to write about being back at Mongolia International University in person, the unsettling mixture of online and what they call “offline” (and I call in-person) classes.
Nothing much exciting is happening, otherwise, because the pandemic is raging strong here; we don’t do much except go for walks outside. We have no plans for travel. We are both hoping that the Mongolian government continues to allow in-person school, and that no one tests positive in our classes. I’m planning to get a Pfizer booster next Friday (they have them for “old” people 55 and over, which I will be in a few weeks, and also for teachers, so I definitely qualify on those grounds). It’s weird, but I still feel safer here than I did in the US in part because I’m vaccinated with Pfizer and most people who are getting covid now got the Sinopharm or Sinovac vaccines, which are not nearly as effective, especially since the Delta variant hit Mongolia a few months ago. I also feel safer because people are generally much better at wearing masks. We wear masks whenever we set foot out of the apartment, even to put out the trash. It’s just polite.
But this semester is a genuine struggle. In part because of the previously mentioned health problems, and in part because I am teaching four courses and have also taken on new administrative duties at the university. Shortly after we arrived in Mongolia in May, my department chair informed me that she was leaving Mongolia. About a month later, I was informed that I would become the new program manager of the Media and Communication (MC) program, part of the new School of International Studies and Communication. We were merging with the International Relations Department and a new International Law major. The IR department chair would become the Dean of the school, and I would take care of the existing MC majors and the Communication part of the new school. So that was a whole ton of stuff dropped in my lap.
Time for writing has become exceedingly scarce. I am sad about this. I am looking forward to our extended winter break, and I am not going to teach four courses next semester, so I should have more time. And I am hoping they will hire someone else to be program manager in the future. Right now, there are only three MC faculty (myself, a Mongolian TV producer who teaches part time, and a Korean marketing professor who is still teaching from Seoul), so we will be hiring more people. I am looking forward to a lighter workload and more writing time, but as always, the need for faculty here is tremendous.
Now you have a taste of some of the things to come. We are hoping to explore some parts of Ulaanbaatar we’ve never been to before, including an area we saw from the bus the other day that looked like a genuine ghost town. I’m excited about that. Emerson’s fall break is coming up soon, as is my midterm exam week (which is less busy because no teaching), so we should have time for an adventure or two. Thank you for staying with me, and please stay tuned for more.