Thursday, September 26, 2013

Visa News...

So this morning I spoke with the principal of our school here. The school itself is having a number of problems with its registration with the government and has been unable to have itself re-registered at the moment. This is causing a number of problems for the school itself. It seems like they will be getting a lawyer involved and wrangling with these issues.

For us this means that the end of the month is approaching and it will not be possible for our permissions to be extended. Technically we overstayed our last visa and paid a fine for this, and so today it was decided that we'll leave the country for a minimum of 3 months, after which time we will need to reapply afresh to return on work visas. We've been told that, in part because of the overstay issue, that during this time we won't be able to reapply to come back on other visas.

So as of the 30th we'll be saying goodbye to Mongolia for a little while. We are obviously disappointed to be leaving in this manner at this time. Particularly it will be difficult for the students at the college - I'm leaving three classes mid-semester and it's very unclear exactly how those courses will continue. For us there is the frustration of leaving on very short notice, the disruption to building relationships and strong connections here, interruptions to language-learning, and a sense of uncertainty about the future plans.

However it is not truly that great a hardship for us - we go back to a beautiful, rich country where we have many friends and family, and are well-supported, and look forward to the opportunity to return here shortly. So don't feel too sorry for us! Instead please be especially in prayer for the college and for our brothers and sisters in this country. The college in particular needs to find ways to go forward and overcome these bureaucratic hurdles.

Monday, September 9, 2013

College Picnic - Autumn edition

Today we had the college picnic for semester. We headed out to the same location that our church held our summer camp. Checking the weather forecast, it was 2 above, -2 with wind, when I left home, with a promised top of 11 and a 40% chance of rain. Not a great forecast for a picnic.
The way these things go is that I turn up at college and wait for people to tell me what's going on. So I turned up early, and ended up in a microbus heading out to Gachort, and we were there before 10am. It was indeed chilly. Others arrived over the next two hours, and proceedings began at midday. 

We started with some singing, including songs with actions lead by students wearing onesies. So bizarre. Anyway, then we had a short sermon from 2 Tim 4, it was intelligible to me and quite on target. Then we had a time, well, I need to go back to explain the next part. Students have been assigned other students to secretly encourage and leave gifts for, over the last few weeks. So today what happened (as I can figure), is that students lined up at the front with gifts, facing towards the stage, and then students who had been their encourager came up and stood behind them, then the first line of students would turn around and see who it was and give them a gift in return. Alas, some students were not at the picnic, and just the nature of running such a line up as well, meant that some would turn around to no one.

After this we had lunch. Mongolian food is not my favourite. Nonetheless, we divided up by year group and I joined in some lunch with my students. They always worry that I do not eat enough. Partly it is because I eat so little in general, and because I have breakfast unlike many mongolians. Still, we got through lunch and enjoyed our fellowship.

In the afternoon there was some playing of basketball and football. Also some organised games. One of these involved bible charades. And then there was a race by year group, with each person's leg tied to the next person's. Also there was what I would call a bush dance. Very similar to the heel-and-toe.
There were some falls

Bush Dance time!

After this there was more free time for the playing of basketball and football again. As you can tell these are critical sports here. Finally we wrapped up around 4:30 with a group photo and the drive home (which was surprisingly quick).

I always find these types of events interesting, because I am literally the only foreigner present. It serves both to remind me of how foreign I am, but also that part of me is localised. I am accepted and brought into local ways. And our unity is not in my mongolian language skills, but in Christ.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A short visa update

Well I have today had a little more insight about exactly the situation with our visas and so I thought I would write and especially give you a clearer picture of the goings-on.

When last I wrote the information was that we could stay for the month. The question is about what happens after then. At the moment the issues seem to revolve around the registration of the college with the city council, and then permissions for foreign workers, etc.. Lately we have been hearing from many of our colleagues about increasing difficulties for foreign workers in Mongolia, and registration periods being shortened as well.

If at the end of this month we aren't given the right permissions, then we will need to leave Mongolia, and will not be ably to reapply for at least 3 months. For us that would mean coming back to Australia for that time. Obviously that would be very disruptive for us, and it would also be disruptive for classes at UBTC, as I would be leaving just short of mid-semester and it's unclear what arrangements could be made for those subjects.

So our main prayer at this stage is that the right permissions will be granted to the college and for us, so that we don't need to go anywhere and can continue on with our work here.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

No one knows what tomorrow will bring

On friday the news seemed to be that we would pay a fine and then be able to stay. This didn't make the most sense to us but we go by what we are told and just keep asking what's going on.

Today I arrived at school again with the plan to ask what was going on. The principal of the school told me that actually we now had to leave Mongolia within a few days, because of the visa issue. So we immediately began thinking through the many issues and options that needed to be considered.

In the afternoon I was inquiring about getting our passports back, because obviously they are necessary to travel. Then the news came that actually we are allowed to stay for one month. Within this month it may be possible to get permissions to stay longer. If not, then we will need to leave at the end of the month and possibly stay outside the country for a longer time.

As you can see, it is not always 100% clear to us what is going on, where we are going, what we are meant to be doing, or what will happen tomorrow. God is teaching us many things about trusting him, relying on him in prayer, so that whatever happens we are praying that God will put us where he wants us, with the good works he ha prepared in advance for us to do, and that he will be with us in all this.