Cliterati in Mongolia Redux 212

Posted by: ming

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A busy home stretch, folks!
I spent Sunday from around 6am to around 11pm working for The Asia Foundation as an International Observer for Mongolia's presidential elections. A lot of amazing footage and stories, which I'll share with you shortly. The Asia Foundation continues to impress me with its innovative approaches and dogged commitment to supporting democracy in Asia, and just one day doing what these folks do regularly to that end had me tuckered out. Can't believe I share an office with these people!

In addition to editing Altai's book, it's likely I'll visit the UNHCR with Tumen Ulzii this week, if only to get more of a handle on whose court the resettlement-ball is in and make sure that the UNHCR knows that international interest in Tumen Ulzii's case is indeed considerable and, probably more importantly at this point, sustained.

Today I'll visit again with Chilaajav, the President of the Mongolian Writers Union, whose poetry I translated a little last year and will do more this summer; it's project that I've long been interested in doing but also likely that the guy will pay me to do it. Miracles!

I'll also work with Dashnyam, head of the Mongolian Academy of Traditions and the guy who brought me to WALTIC last summer in Stockholm, to place an op-ed in one of Mongolia's leading papers about PEN. He helped me do it once before. I'm less concerned this time around with my opinion-part of an op-ed and more with perhaps putting the PEN International Charter in the paper in Mongolian where everyone can read it and be clear on the fact that actual, accredited PEN centers are open to any writer to apply. There's only so far I can go as a young westerner spouting gospel about how detrimental infighting is to civic process, and I'd rather the document speak for itself.

In addition to being my Mongolian grandpa, Dashnyam was Sumati's favorite candidate for President in 2001, running for the Civil Will Party, garnering 7% of the vote, and described as the "Ralph Nader of Mongolia." Fitting that he was also the one to donate the space at the Academy for the December 2007 meeting about PEN that made the international news wire, the meeting to which I brought a copy of the aforementioned charter and watched it go around the table and be signed by some of Mongolia's most prominent writers.
However, those writers are not the ones a Mr. Ide of Japanese PEN met while he was here in in the autumn of 2008, when he came to do a workshop on PEN center formation. I was delighted to hear of the workshop from Mr. Ide, since it's the nuts and bolts of what comes after the signing of the charter that can get backlogged and slow the process for years. It also mattered a great deal to me that someone from Asia, and from a PEN center, would share the sentiment I tried to express about how the world wants to hear from Mongolian writers in even more practical terms. I was just a little white girl running around "representing" PEN ad hoccishly on the Cental Asian steppe for a year. I'm not a member of PEN in any country. I just think PEN's a fantastic organization and that Mongolian writers deserve a PEN center.

Anyhizzle, Mr. Ide worked with a Mr. Ganbat during that workshop. I don't know Mr. Ganbat and neither do any of the writers here with whom I am acquainted. So I think I'll introduce them all to each other, or at the very least make sure everyone has everyone else's contact information, before I leave. After a game of phone tag with the Japanese Embassy it was decided that tomorrow, near the Foreign Nations Center or something like that, Mr. Ganbat and I will have lunch. At which point I'll turn around excitedly and tell you all whatever he tells me about the workshop. Oh hooray for the long jump from signing something to doing something! Maybe a Mongolia PEN center will form before too long after all. I just want to make sure Mr. Ganbat knows of the wonderful writers I met here who'd like very much to be part of things PEN-related.

You'll also be hearing shortly of the Arts Council of Mongolia and all the awesome things they've been up to, with footage to boot! (VERY cool contemporary art scene here, people. VERY cool.)

So anyway, I'ma go try and make good on all this. Happy Monday to you and Happy Tuesday to me.
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