I meant to update last Friday when I got home from school but was prevented from doing so by an unexpectedly long and flustered day. Fridays are already my busiest day of this week, and this one was even more so because of an event that could have long-lasting implications for ХАА-н МСУТ: the labor minister came to call.
From what I understand, the situation is as follows: the most recent election brought a different political party to power, and with that came a change in the prominent government positions. The new labor minister is reviewing all the institutions of “higher education,” a term I’m using generously, and a number of directors have been replaced. My director is not a member of the newly-powerful Democratic Party, and as a result, she’ll be particularly subject to scrutiny.
I had a very small part to play in the inspection process: I hung out in the director’s room while we waited for the labor minister so that I could greet him with her when he arrived. As a foreigner, I was definitely a status symbol, and she wanted to make sure he knew I was there. After that, all I had to do was rejoin the other teachers and wait for them to make speeches I couldn’t understand.
I can’t imagine that they would replace Tsooj. She’s the most motivated and enthusiastic Mongolian I’ve ever met, and one of the most Western-thinking as well. When she gets an idea, she follows through with it; when she schedules a meeting, she expects you to show up on time – a truly novel concept in this country, as I’ve discussed previously. Obviously, the fact that she’s acted as my benefactor biases me in her favor, but I don’t just like her for her generosity. She’s caring and conscientious and committed to her job – she’s usually there from 8 or 9 am to 6 pm, and I’ve never seen her wasting time on Facebook and the like.
If the labor minister does choose to replace her, it will make my decisions about next year much easier. While I haven’t discussed it here previously, I’ve been contemplating extending my stay in Mongolia to a second year, and which way I’m leaning changes on a daily basis. But if they replace Tsooj, there’s no question about it: I’m gone. I want no part of an education system that would fire someone so good at her job out of politics, and I wouldn’t want to live in Mongolia without her friendship and support. It’s thanks to her that my apartment has, through the additions of a hot plate, a mattress, a toaster oven, and a vacuum cleaner, become more livable. She’s the one who has taken over my linguistic and cultural education: adopting me for Tsagaan Sar, giving me lessons in Mongolian, teaching me to make buuz, tsuivan, and huushuur, and now arranging music lessons for me. And while she credits me with the remarkable improvement in her English, all I’ve done is give her the motivation to study (and all that required was being here). She’s done all the hard work herself.
So best of luck to you, Tsooj. If they’ve any sense at all, the board will decide in your favor.