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Mongolian Hands Come Together in Difficult Times

October 23, 2020

There is a small circle of “Mongolphiles” that came together in the early 1990s as Mongolia began to emerge from the yoke of Russian domination to become a democratic country. An American artist by the name of Susan Fox, photographer of the image below, posted a series of questions some time back to form the basis for oneself to be designated a “Mongolphile.” After a period approaching some thirty years, I think our circle fits that mold. Our group ranges from retired former U.S. diplomats, learned Mongol scholars, educators, business personnel and charitable foundation supporters. We all have one thing in common and that is to do what we can to help the country and the people. Some time back we drank the “Kool-Aid” which was most likely fermented mare’s milk followed by copious quantities of Genghis Khan vodka.
Somewhere along that timeline, we had a gathering of our group of “Mongolphiles” in the Texas Hill Country. We were focused on the North America Mongolia Business Council as many of us had varying commercial interests in Mongolia. Since then, our commercial involvements have diminished though our philanthropic precepts and concerns for the people there remain strong. It was interesting that Mongolian visitors felt right at home in Texas with the wide-open spaces, cattle and sheep.

We were led at that time by Steve Saunders, the gentleman on the far right in the image below, who remains our spiritual advisor. Later, I will refer to Jim Wagenlander who is an Honorary Consul of Mongolia in Denver, and although present at the Texas event, he was not in this image as he probably took the photograph. However, his wife Mary Lee is next to me on the far left. She is far more important than any Honorary Consul though she is talking to the Honorary Consul of Mongolia for Texas. To my right is Myrna Ann Adkins, who we will talk about later, shown talking to Joey. Pam Slutz, former U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia, is to the right of Joey.  
During the pandemic, some of us have had the opportunity to pull together and make some things happen. There are three cases that arose in September ranging from one that worked, one that has failed to work due to a bureaucratic flaw or more likely a deliberate intention of the part of the U.S. government, and one that remains in the future and will hopefully work.  

The most satisfying case so far has been that of 9-year-old Aligermaa (Ali) Enkhmurun a citizen of Mongolia who came to the U.S. over a year ago through the ministry of Children’s Circle Mission under the mission founders, Lita & Nancumar Kharmai. Ali received surgical treatment for anthrogryposis at Shriners Hospital in Houston and Paley Orthopedic & Spine Institute in West Palm Beach, Florida. In late August, Lita contacted me as Honorary Consul of Mongolia in the Texas part of the world seeking assistance to get Ali back to Mongolia as they, as U.S. citizens, could not escort her home.  

Well, as I usually do with difficult Mongolian compassionate matters, I passed it on to Myrna Ann Adkins in Denver who is a well-known educator and deeply involved in charitable causes. Myrna, in turn solicited the help of Jim Wagenlander, Honorary Consul of Mongolia in Denver. Thanks to my assistant, Karen, and Jim’s assistant, Namuun, it all came together. Perhaps Karen and Namuun should be given official titles of Deputy Honorary Consul’s of Mongolia. The Denver Sister Cities program provided the structure for us to donate the airfare costs. Another Denver-based philanthropic friend, Walt Jenkins of the philanthropic Zorig Foundation, was on the same flight to Ulaan Bataar though he is enduring a long and lonely Covid-19 quarantine period there before he can resume his efforts. Ali, together with Lita and Nancumar Kharmai, are shown in the image below. The smiles you see, as they prepare to depart for Mongolia, give you an indication why these people are so dear to us.
The next case which also occurred in September was a letter received on the 19th at our Mongolian Consulate, in the thriving metropolis of Comfort, Texas. Mr. Batzorig Avarzed advised us that he was the winner of a diversity visa to the United States but the U.S. Kentucky Consular Center could not locate his case to give him an interview number in order for his final interview at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Ulaanbaatar. Texas Deputy Honorary Consul of Mongolia, Karen Letz, took this case under her wing and made contact with the Kentucky Consular folks until they came up with the number and timeline details of his case.

On October 4, we received in our Mongolian consulate office an official letter from the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Mongolia that the interview was granted in the U.S. late in the day on September 30, 2020. However, as the United States Kentucky time is twelve hours behind that of that Ulaanbaatar, it was not received until October 1, 2020 in Mongolia and it was too late as the program had already closed for the fiscal year because of the time difference. It is beyond belief that the poor bureaucratic soul who sent the letter had the courage to make such a stupid statement. However, in such matters there is no place to go. It seems like a throw-back to the former commie regime of Mongolia rather than the “Third Neighbor Policy” put forward by the U.S. State Department. Maybe the intention is “let’s be neighbors but keep your people at home” which is reminiscent of the border wall with Mexico. Nonetheless, sadly Batzorig and his family, shown below, will not be coming to the U.S. anytime soon. However, Batzorig is not deterred as he has applied for the DV 2022.
Also in September, we received a letter from Brett Shaffer who is applying for an English Teaching Assistantship in Mongolia through the Fulbright Student Program. He asked for an interview with me to learn more about Mongolia. We did a Zoom call to give him my views on the country and the exciting time he would have there if everything worked out. He then came back to me and asked about connections to hospitals and clinics in Mongolia where he could do volunteer work. In actual fact, a Mongolian friend, a Thai friend and I had previously operated TMB (Thai/Mongolia/Bridge) as a small clinic in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia to evaluate and recommend patients to Bumrungrad International, an outstanding medical complex in Bangkok. However, we closed the facility following Bumrungrad’s acquisition of a private hospital in Ulaanbaatar.  

Therefore, I once again called upon my “Mongolphile” Florence Nightingale, Myrna Adkins, to Zoom up with Brett and brief him on possibilities and point him toward the best way forward. It was no surprise that they bonded through another Zoom call. At this juncture, we are waiting for the Fulbright process to be completed but we are all most hopeful that Brett will become a future “Mongolphile.” As you can see below, he certainly has the perfect smile to fit in with any Mongolian.
I think everyone would agree the meager staff at two of the Honorary Consulates of Mongolia were active in September. In case any of you are considering becoming an honorary consul for some country, it is not a lucrative position as there is no compensation despite costs to carry out the task. However, once in Napa Valley I tried to visit the Opus One winery and was told only if you are in the wine/restaurant business or a diplomat can you receive a tour. I planted the Mongolian flag on our rent car and off we went for a personal tour with a bottle of Opus One wine shared afterwards. You will note from the card provided by the U.S. State Department that the “bearer is not immune from arrest.” Nonetheless, I continue to point out to Joey that the “bearer shall be treated with due respect,” particularly by the consul’s consort, but that falls on deaf ears.
Despite all of the consulate involvement, it was a great opportunity for many of us “Mongolphiles” to re-connect. I would also add that most everyone in our group is a recipient of the Mongolian Polar Star which is the highest award of the country to a foreign citizen. It has been a great ride on an unbroken Mongolian pony in the steppe and we hope to remain riding that pony for a long time to come.

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