Is That A Light At The End Of The Tunnel?

Wednesday came and we did not end up at immigration.  We were hoping to take our letter from The Labour and Welfare Office with the required date on it but we could not.  The letter was re-written with everything possible contained within it but it needed a stamp.

The boss of the office was there to sign it but he is not allowed the stamp in case he stamps the wrong documents or gets carried away and stamps any that he fancies stamping.

The lady with the stamp was out of the office and always keeps the required stamp with her.  We did not know when she was due to return.

Thankfully she was around early Thursday morning, so at 8am we collected our newly corrected letter and met with Alta who had the two letters from Global Reach requested by immigration on Tuesday.  Alta also had a coveted Mongolian stamp, embossed with Global Reaches’ details,  in case we needed to make up – I mean write – more necessary letters.

At 8:15am we flagged a passing car down and the three of us made our way once more back to immigration, back to counter number 4, back to Mr Unpleasant.

Counter number 4 was in a reasonable mood.  One assumes that at the start of the day, after a brief respite from stamps etc. he has happy thoughts.  Alta and him joked, he checked our paperwork, asked for no more documents and issued us with a large bill to take to the onsite bank to pay.

Before we approached the bank we needed to pay 1000 Tughrik each to collect the mandatory application forms we had to complete.  This money was payed directly to counter number 2.

Counter number 4 instructed us to pay 2 x 77, 000 plus 2 x 36, 000 Mongolian Tughrik.  We think some was for the visa change, some for the reissue of our new ID cards but in reality none of us really knew or dared to ask exactly what it was for.  This totaled 226, 200 = £103.42.

We took the bill, some more paperwork and our passports to the cashier who checked it over and requested 229, 800 Tughrik.  Big sigh all round but without blinking Tim dipped into his wallet and handed out the full amount.  We were issued with four receipts each to sign and to take back to counter number 4.

It appears we have cracked the bureaucrats!  They have accepted our mountain of paperwork with various official stamps and we are due to go back next week to collect our passports and ID cards.  Now, of course nothing is definite until we have these items in our hands but we are pushing forward and assuming our trip is back on.

Alta was so shocked by this process and outside made the following comment “Those people in there are so much younger than me in their faces but their brains are so much older.  In five years they will all have the faces of bureaucrats.  It is so sad.”


Bureaucracy At Its Finest

For anyone who loves administration this blog entry will be a real treat for you.

Today we received our letter of permission from The Labour and Welfare Office. This letter allows us to approach the Mongolian Immigration team.

This is what happened at immigration. Tim & I met Alta at a hotel in the city centre. We took a taxi to the immigration office, which is situated inconveniently out of town near the airport, around 20km away. Upon arrival at immigration we took a ticket and waited our turn to be seen.

Counter number 1 told us to go to counter number 2.

Counter number 2 told us to go to counter number 3.

Counter number 3 checked all our paperwork, checked Alta’s ID and told us to go to counter number 4.

Counter number 4 was unfortunately manned by an unhelpful, bureaucracy loving, rude man, who Tim and I had on a previous visit the misfortune of dealing with. He told Alta that the letter from The Labour and Welfare Office needed a date on it or we would have to leave the country to change our visa.

After arguing with each other for a few minutes the guy dismissed Alta and moved on to serve someone else. We jumped in another car (in Mongolia one flags down a real taxi or hops in someone’s car when they stop) and headed back to The Labour and Welfare Office. Alta checked with them about this ‘missing’ date and was told it was not required. The office even called a senior immigration person who also said it was not needed.

We hopped into another passing car and went straight back to immigration.

Back at counter number 4 Alta relayed this information to Mr Unpleasant. He listened, shrugged and tuned out. We ended up speaking with someone more senior. The more senior person said “Fine” but now we had to get a letter from Global Reach (our sponsor) requesting permission to change our visa from “S” category to “HG” category.

The three of us had a think about how we could get this letter without travelling back to the city again. Then we realised we already had this letter. Alta headed to counter number 3 to the senior guy to explain this and show him the existing letter.

He read it, thought a while only to explain that because the letter contained other information we really needed to bring a letter with only the required information in it.

We left the office and outside Alta called her husband. It turned out that his brother worked in a building opposite immigration. The brother-in-law agreed to let Alta use his PC/printer so off we went to create the requisite document. Said document created, we went back to immigration, back to counter number 4.

Counter number 4 informed us that this letter needed to go to the 2nd floor to be registered. Translated as signed by someone. Alta went up to the 2nd floor, came down again, got a signature from counter number 4’s boss who also checked all our paperwork and said it was all in order and then had Alta escorted by counter number 4 guy back to the 2nd floor.

Alta reappeared and said we had to wait 30 minutes for the letter to be ‘registered.’ An hour later she trudged back up the stairs to get an update. The letter had been signed – hooray! Not so fast. The letter now needed a second signature from the actual boss. Another hour and a half passed by. The time was now 4.40pm and with the offices closing promptly at 5pm we were running out of time.

Alta chased the letter signing again, only to be told the actual boss wasn’t in the office. She was communicating this to us when the boss came walking into the office. Alta walked back up to the 2nd floor, found the lady with all our paperwork and took her to the boss. The boss read through everything and signed the letter.

This was then passed back to senior guy, mentioned earlier, who decided there was one last hoop to jump through. We had to get the date put on the permission letter from The Labour and Welfare Office (remember this isn’t actually needed) and two more letters from Global Reach. The two additional letters needed two pieces of information that are contained in one letter but have to be separated. Why? I hear you ask. Well, if you have to ask that question then you really have no interest in admin whatsoever and this blog entry is not for you.

So at 4.45pm we left immigration. We will return tomorrow to see what paperwork is mandatory on a Wednesday.

This photo is a special “Happy Hour” offer at a pub we drink at. Instead of “Buy one get one free” one has to drink rather more here. Not surprising when you consider the sort of day we’ve had!
Happy Hour Mongolian Style

Thank Goodness For Mothers

Not just for the obvious reason that without them we would not be here but Tim’s mum found, scanned and emailed us a copy of our marriage certificate.  Thank you so much Gill.

We are now off to meet with our sponsor again to hand over our Mongolian language certificates, a letter from the school and the marriage certificate.

We found out earlier today that the Mongolian authorities are going to change the visa we have from a study visa to a work visa-  lots of possible issues surround this but I have to go out in a moment so cannot explain.  I have heard this is possible but no-one knows anyone who has actually done this so still dubious we are going to pull this off.

Also, only Tim will be issued with this and I will stay as his ‘partner’.

Visa….The Ongoing Saga

Last Thursday our sponsor submitted an application to the Labour and Welfare Office requesting permission for us to stay in Mongolia and carry out our research.

Yesterday the Labour and Welfare Office requested copies of the signed contract between us and our sponsor and our education certificates (in Mongolian, which is not possible).  We had a meeting with our sponsor to hand this all over and to sign the contracts.

Today the Labour and Welfare Office have requested our marriage certificate, which we do not have and is of no relevance to the situation and a certificate for us each from the school to say we speak Mongolian.  Our teacher is preparing the required certificate and a letter (just in case) today but maybe they will turn us down because of the missing marriage certificate.

Basically, we have to submit as much paperwork as is possible to the Labour and Welfare Office who apply to Immigration for approval of our sponsorship.  If all goes well; the company hasn’t already met its quote (very Communist), we are not criminals etc. then the Labor and Welfare Office issue a certificate.

If we get that far the next step is to go to Immigration, where we have to have our fingerprints and photos taken (again), fill out a registration form (again) and give them tons of paperwork (that they have already seen and have copies of) to get a new registration card.

We must get all this done by the end of next week or we have to leave BUT we need to apply for an exit visa to leave and we are quite likely to run out time for that SO we will get into trouble.

Immigration can take around one week to issue the registration card so really we have no time left anyway.  The only other option is apply to leave now.

And yes, I am mightily annoyed and frustrated about this whole situation.

Text just in from our sponsor………only Tim will be issued with a visa and I can apply to stay as his wife but I cannot prove I am his wife.  Bollocks.

IT Fails

I rarely make blog posts.  Sam seems to have it very well in hand, so I just get on with cleaning the apartment or doing the washing.  On this occasion though I felt I should make the effort.  Assuming there are some readers who we can classify as “IT Professionals”, this should give you a good laugh.


“LED Studio has encountered a problem and needs to close” – in foot high letters on a twenty foot tall screen on the busiest thorough-fair  in Ulaanbaatar and they’re still running XP!


Yes, that’s right, they’re running regular XP, not Embedded!  And there’s a nice little tower server at the side of the ATM so you can plug in a keyboard and USB key!  And, yes, I just put my card in it and withdrew some money!

Still Without A Visa

The latest news is that we are still without a visa extension.  On Tuesday we met with our new sponsor to collect our invitation letter.  We planned to visit immigration the following day.

I happened to ask our teacher later the same day if she would call immigration to check what we needed and it turns out we require a letter from the Labor and Welfare Service Agency.  The sponsor has to register us with them, which they are currently doing but this can take up to two weeks.

Arghhhhhhhhhh!  Bureaucracy has never been a personal favourite process of mine but this is nail bitingly tense.

We have until June the 1st to sort this all out.  It is now 16th May which leaves us 16 days to resolve everything.  I know, 16 days.  It is a real life drama.  Will they?  Won’t they?

More as and when we have it.

Hiking around Ulaanbaatar.

Our visa situation is still moving in the right direction.  We are waiting for a representative from our new sponsor to deliver a letter of request to Immigration together with a copy of the required certificate, and a couple of other documents.  We are hoping to have more information later this week.

The frustrating part is standing still.  We have started work tentatively on this project but we are reluctant to move forward until we know for sure we can stay.

We are still in regular contact with CuChullaine of The Long Rider’s Guild gathering his thoughts, ideas and information on Colic in horses.  So far we have written a research proposal, gathered a list of questions in preparation for designing our research questionnaires and discussed the methods we will use to gather information.  We are going to visit bookshops on the way to school today to see what is available on horses.  The aim being to find the right book to help with our study of Mongolian horse terms.

Tim and I still have to plot our route and apply for permission to access the areas we wish to travel through, fly our kit in as well as get it through customs and buy and train horses.  Oh well, life continues so this weekend we hiked up a hill south of Ulaanbaatar, taking us through the Bodgkhan Uul Strictly Protected Area.  As always when we walk together we brain storm a lot, so this weekend gave us a chance to add to our ideas on researching Colic in Mongolia for The Long Rider’s Guild Academy Foundation.

The walk started when we traveled south to the edge of town, the road ran out and the only option for continuing south was to go up.  We passed a number of Ovoo’s (shamanistic cairns made from rocks), a couple of Mongolian guys who were walking down and a group of young men who had a generator that they were using with a pneumatic drill to dig for….who knows.

After an hour we decided to have a rest.  We noticed three Mongolian men walking up the hill we were resting on top of.  Suddenly one of the men bellowed an aggressive call.  Not really wanting to test out our Krav skills we quickly packed up and started moving further up the hill.  The men were quite low down and were climbing up a really steep part so we had an advantage.

The main issue was my asthma.  Due to the dry, dusty atmosphere my lungs had trouble working properly.  Tim and I pushed on quickly, with me wheezing away.  Thankfully we got to the top of the mountain and moved fast over more even ground.  We didn’t see the men again and after another 40 minutes we entered a forest moving south, west towards the summit.

The walk was lovely.  We had clear, blue skies, a slight breeze and saw no-one else for another hour or so.  The only wildlife we saw were squirrels.  They are different to the UK squirrels, in that they look like a red squirrel, with long fluffy ears, but are charcoal in colour and bigger.  We reached a clearing that had picnic benches, seats and a BBQ area.

Tim and I descended east through more forest and began the long trek home, where we passed lots of Mongolians who were out for a walk.  The done thing to say to other walkers is “сайн байцrаана уу? сайхан яваж байна уу?” This translates as “Are you well (to more than one person)? Are you having a nice walk?”

We got a few surprised looks when people saw a гадаад хүн (foreigner) speaking these words.

We ended up at the Bodg Khan Resort; apparently a combination ger camp and nightclub where we hit the road and walked the few kilometers home.