Thursday, August 30, 2018

What you need to know about ASU

One former employee’s thoughts and observations

To read in Mongolian,
Please Click Here. 
 **I have paid to have the first half of this post translated into Mongolian. Everything that follows the red NOTE (more than half way down) is in English only. Thank you. 

I recently finished out my contract with the American School of Ulaanbaatar (ASU). Before departing, I shared as much information as I could with my library assistant and Mr. Roger Dutcher (former Elementary principal, now the Secondary principal). I am doubtful that my position as Teacher Librarian will be filled. Now that I am free and clear of ASU, I want to clear the air with some unpleasant truths about the institution. These are my personal thoughts and reflections about ASU.

My intention and hope is to (A) inform potential hires about the institution as an employer, and (B) inform parents--of current students as well as potential students--of all the reasons why they should look for a better place to educate their children. Your child/children will NOT be challenged at ASU. The standards are NOT high; the education is not rigorous. Your child will NOT be prepared for a university education abroad upon graduation from ASU.

It is my observation that the money parents pay for tuition doesn’t go where it should--into the education of their children. Rather it goes into the wallets and purses of the owning family. They are: Founder Zorigt Dashzeveg (whom I never met and rarely saw), his wife and the school’s Managing Director Oyunsuren Dugarjav (known as Ms. Oyunaa to employees and students alike), and two daughters that are actively involved--Gantbolor (Bolor), who is the current Board Chair, and Ariun (who was the guidance counselor the previous two years--not sure what her position will be this school year). I think it is important to note that NONE of these family members have any degree in the field of Education.

Elementary School, Grades PreK-5
While I know that private schools CAN be both effective and make money beyond their expenses, ASU is NOT an example of that. Below this initial listing of information you will find an accounting of my personal work experience at ASU. I recognize it may not be of interest to many. It should be noted that these are solely MY questions, concerns, observations, and reflections. I will discuss later on in the piece how things began to degrade in December of 2017 when it was made clear that Dr. Sutton Jones would be departing ASU at the close of the 2017-18 school year. She was my supervisor for two years and it is my opinion that in her three years at the school she worked hard to effect positive change--the very thing she was tasked to do (increase rigor in the classroom; provide professional development to all employees; hire CERTIFIED teachers and complete full reference checks; hold teachers accountable; etc). I believe she succeeded at these things and that teachers in the secondary building felt supported by their administration team (which was: Dr Sutton Jones and Ms Effa). However, the owning family made it clear this past winter that they wanted to be in greater control of ALL aspects of the school (not just the business side of things as had been done until the 2017-18 school year).

The following is a listing of various concerns and observations I have in regards to ASU. Whenever I state “ASU” or “the School” I am referencing the owning and operating family--names noted previously. The foreign administration, principals and vice principals, are in a different grouping and addressed accordingly throughout.

  • The School does not maintain Social health notebooks for foreign teachers--or at least they were NOT maintained during my three years of employment. I’m told that Orchlon, ISU, and other international schools in the city DO maintain these for ALL their faculty (as that is the law to my understanding). Foreign administration at ASU is NOT knowledgeable about this requirement. I had friends married to Mongolian citizens which is why I was aware of it;
  • I am not confident that my Personal Income taxes were paid (10% deducted from each paycheck and withheld by the School’s Finance Office) to the Mongolian government. For that matter, I am not confident that income taxes are paid for ANY foreign employees. I suspect this because after meeting with legal counsel in the fall of 2016 (regarding the social health notebook situation previously noted) I learned that the Social Health and Personal Income Tax offices communicate on a periodic basis. If Social Health notebooks aren’t maintained for foreign employees, then I think a reconciliation between these two offices would show the absence of “notebooks” in both offices for all foreign employees. As the sole income for my family of three at the time (2016), I opted to not pursue inquiry at my local tax office;
  • Before leaving in June 2018 I was made aware of the fact that for the upcoming school year (2018-19) the School is purchasing ONE copy of a textbook and all other copies (from 15 to 60 for class/grade sets) will be manufactured/reproduced in Mongolia, thereby breaking copyright law. I know that former administration (Dr. Sutton Jones) fought against this decision, but lost. The owners want to cut money corners anywhere and everywhere they can;
  • ASU makes students and faculty “fundraise” nonstop so that the very things that tuition should be covering (ACAMIS sports trips, musical and drama productions, cost of referees for sporting events, cost to rent soccer field, etc) can be paid for. It was common to see our administrators (Dr Sutton Jones and Ms Effa) in the lobby on most days selling baked goods in order to cover the costs associated with standard and expected programs. I will note that at the end of this past school year I heard that a small amount of money was earmarked for the next Musical (no mention of the fall Drama production though), and also a bit for referees for sporting events;
  • The School uses Illegal copies of software (ex. Microsoft Windows, etc);
  • ASU recently drafted and put into use what some can call a “racist pay scale structure” to save money and devalue professionals (those certified in North America, Australia, or the UK will make $5,000 more--annually--than those certified elsewhere). This decision was made solely by the owning family with no input or agreement from foreign administration;
  • There is NOT equality across the “local hires” (foreigners who are married to Mongolian citizens or foreigners who initially came to Mongolia with another organization, such as Peace Corps). Some “local hires” get housing, some get housing AND health insurance, others get none of these benefits. I was a fully certified foreign teacher with a Masters degree. I was placed appropriately on the pay scale (last I knew it spanned from $27,500 to $37,500 depending on years of experience) but received NO other benefits initially. International Health Insurance was added for my last year of employment but only because I asked about the social health notebook situation;
  • There are a few employees at ASU that I believe are here for other reasons (specifically--doing “God’s work” as missionaries). Please know that I don’t have an issue with missions work in general; however, I don’t approve when it is shielded or cloaked by other work.  It is my belief that Ms. Sharon Ellis (many years employed as a teacher at ASU, and will be the Middle School Coordinator this school year) maintains her employment at ASU so that she and her family (husband and son) can have Visas for Mongolia. Their real work is missionary related. They are listed on numerous church websites in the U.S. (Examples include: Lighthouse Assembly of God and the Victory Christian Center.);
  • It is also my understanding that Mr. Roger Dutcher and his wife (employed as a teacher at the school) came to Mongolia for missions work of some sort, initially, and then transitioned into education. However, as far as I’m aware of their contracts reflect them as “foreign hires” and not “local hires” as all the rest of us are; 
  • It should be noted that the administration in the Secondary Building for this school year (2018-19) has ZERO years of experience in managing a Secondary building. Mr. Dutcher is not certified, to my knowledge, as a teacher (of any grade) and has never taught secondary students; he does have an administrative licence from some establishment in the U.S.; Ms. Ellis, to my knowledge, is certified as a Reading Specialist only for students through grade 8. She is not certified for any of the upper grades. Ms. Ariun has a degree in business and has no formal degree in Education. Ms. Effa--the ONE person on the administrative team that DOES have secondary experience--both as a teacher and as an administrator--has been moved to the Elementary building. These changes--announced by the Board Chair (Bolor) this past December--left most of the staff and faculty perplexed--and concerned--about the future of the school; 
  • There have been major changes made to the hours of PE and English for the Middle school students for this new year.  Physical education classes/hours are being dramatically cut and instead the school administration and/or Board are adding around 10 hours of English classes. Secondary school students will have very little Physical Education activities, and lots more English classes creating an imbalance in educating a well-rounded student;
  • ASU wants its high school teachers to teach Advanced Placement courses, but it will not invest much, if anything, towards that training. Offers made this past spring were for HALF of the cost of training ONLY. The School refused to pay anything towards lodging or airfare. Teachers are not paid enough to afford this kind of professional development in addition to looking after their family financial needs. I believe the school may have teachers teaching AP courses for which they have not received proper or any training;
  • Also, it is not uncommon for the School to require teachers to teach courses for which they have no training or experience. For example this past school year saw our Drama teacher being required to teach a Music class. He was slated to also teach “Beginning Mongolian” to foreign students but a last minute change saved him from that class which would have been outside of his expertise and training;
  • As is common at most places of employment where Mongolians are running the show--nepotism is ever present. Current employees can and will find jobs for their family members--it doesn’t seem to matter if there is a better or more qualified person out there;
  • If the owning family members don’t like you, you are replaceable! We witnessed Mongolian hires, as well as foreign hires, being let go and replaced. Or in some cases, no real replacement was hired and current teachers added additional classes for which they were not especially qualified. This past year had a science teacher relieved and then when students graduated without prerequisite science courses for a University acceptance there was a bit of trouble as to how to handle the situation. Foreign administration was NOT on board with these changes; it was a decision made by the owning family with no real understanding of how it would impact the education being offered and how it would affect graduating seniors’ transcripts;
  • Ms. Oyunaa is known to fire and hire on a whim--especially with her Mongolian staff members. If you stand up to her, you may be fired. She is a classic bully and runs the show with intimidation and threats;
  • The ESL position was filled this past year (2017-18) by a teacher that was neither ESL qualified, nor certified as an actual teacher. The school refuses to invest in a true ESL qualified teacher--something they need terribly!;
  • Speaking of which, I encourage parents to ask if the teachers teaching their child is (a) certified in the subject area they are teaching, or (b) if they are certified at all, for anything! A school that proclaims to offer an international education should have ONLY certified teachers employed; 
  • A number of the apartments in the Teacher Apartment Building (located behind the Secondary Building) have black mold growing in them. This was repeatedly reported to Ariun (who also functions as the building manager for the Apartment Building). I was told that maintenance would visit to scrape and repaint. As you probably know, this is NOT how you eliminate mold. Teachers and their children were repeatedly sick because of this ongoing issue;
  • The school indicated they would purchase air purifiers/filters (from SmartAir Mongolia) for teachers living in the Teacher Apartment Building to assist with battling the air pollution. The School has never delivered on this promise;
  • In June of 2018 at least one student walked across the graduation stage who had NOT completed his/her graduation requirements. This happened PRIOR to the arrival of Dr. Sutton Jones (before the 2015-16 school year), and has again come to pass once her departure was announced by the Board Chair in December. I believe this is a practice condoned by the owners, not at ALL by the foreign administration. The School is “graduating” students who haven’t yet met the graduation requirements;
  • I know of at least one teacher that had to fight (threatening legal intervention) to get his plane ticket home at the end of his contract. The Managing Director attempted to wiggle her way out of making good on his contract (again--just to save money for her and her family). Thankfully his doggedness and commitment to integrity paid off--he got his ticket;
  • ASU “outsources” its cafeterias (one in each building) to other companies. I take no issue with this; however, it should be noted that these businesses operate on a “cash-only system” and it is my belief that no taxes are being paid for the business they do;
  • At the end of the school year some students are “passed” for courses even though they did NOT earn a passing grade. This is NOT condoned or approved of by the foreign administration or the teachers. It is a decision made by the owning family. This is one reason why students graduating from ASU are not prepared for university abroad--they do not know the content and haven’t mastered the skills necessary;
  • Parents should be aware that they have a book deposit due to them at the time their student graduates or transfers out. Make sure you get your money back--if you don’t ask for it, the school may very well keep it; 
  • ASU allows unprepared and ill-matched students to take Advanced Placement courses for which they score poorly;
  • Strangely, ASU can find the money to pay a stipend to visiting business people for their Career Day (a pet project of Ariun, guidance counselor), but can’t afford the sports equipment (ie soccer balls or volleyballs) necessary for student athletes to train and practice. Despite the school having a soccer field, students are banned from using it to prevent the grass from being ruined. Why have a soccer field in the first place?;
  • The school employs a dance teacher--Mr. Khangai--who is rumored to have been trained in and to have performed as a ballet dancer in Russia. Strangely, in the concerts I observed, ASU students performed ballet “exercises” as a routine and performed dances that were copied from YouTube (ie Shadow Dance using music by Michael Jackson). We are yet waiting to see Mr Khangai choreograph and teach students anything with originality or complexity. We are yet waiting to see him dance! He often takes his students “out” for KFC or ice cream, instead of spending time teaching in the classroom. He has also been repeatedly warned against teaching in Mongolian as ASU is a school with all classes (except Mongolian language and other foreign languages) being taught in English. Mr Khangai continues to do so despite warnings from foreign administrators and complaints from foreign parents.  His contract is renewed by the school year after year and we are not sure why.
  • The Owning Family is constructing a LARGE building in Zaisan (along the road that leads to Bogd Khan Man)--question is-- what will be its purpose as is incredibly large for any family-focused need;

While I was proud to work at the school in my first two and a half years, the last few months (Dec 2017 to June 2018) saw things take an incredible downturn. Since our reaccreditation through WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges, announced in May of 2017) it became clear that the Owners did not value the hard work we--the teachers, staff, and foreign administration--had all done, and instead they began to focus on profits and “perceived” status. ASU may look bright and cheery inside--I do love the skylights and plants throughout both buildings--but I assure you it is a facade for a mediocre, at best, education. 

Please think twice about working at ASU or about sending your children to the school. The owners are bullies and do not have the training and experience they SHOULD to run and operate a good educational institution. While the school  was initially built with the engagement of a foreign board of educational experts, the owning family has since disbanded them and the Board is comprised of two family members (Oyunaa and Bolor) and two foreign administrators (Mr. Dutcher and Dr. Geshel for the upcoming school year). If you know anything about having a governing board--you need an odd number of people in order to have any results from a vote on policies or changes. It is my belief that the owners will do whatever they want with their school, and they choose or hope to employ foreign administrators that will simply be “yes” men or women--just going along with the family’s choices (as standing up to Oyunaa and her daughters is nearly impossible). You can imagine how this will affect the education being delivered.

You are welcome to stop reading at THIS POINT. What follows is a more detailed accounting of MY personal experience in being hired and employed at ASU, as well as how it came to pass that I left ASU and subsequently Mongolia as well. (I have chosen to not pay for that part to be translated into Mongolian.)

***NOTE: The following is available in ENGLISH ONLY, I did not pay to have it translated.

I was employed by the American School of Ulaanbaatar (ASU) for three school years, from the fall of 2015 through the spring of 2018. I worked one year in the Elementary School (grades PreK-5) and two years in the Secondary School (grades 6-12). I was hired in early spring of 2015 after being interviewed by an educational consultant, Mr. Gary Diamond, who was based in Canada. He had helped the owners (Founder, Zorigt Dashzeveg, and his wife and the current Managing Director, Oyunsuren Dugarjav) get the school set up and established in the early 2000s.

After passing that initial interview, I was interviewed by the Elementary Principal, Mr. Roger Dutcher, and was shortly thereafter offered a Teacher Librarian position which I accepted. I was hired as a “local hire” because I was moving to Mongolia for personal reasons (pursuing a personal relationship with a Mongolian citizen). It was my mistake to disclose as much as I did--but I had never worked in international education before AND I subscribed--and yet do--to the belief that honesty is the best policy. Unfortunately Mr. Diamond and more importantly--the school’s owners--saw me as a cost-saving hire. As a “local hire” I was not afforded the additional benefits that “foreign hires” receive (flights home, moving allowance, housing, health insurance, etc). However, I DID offer the school a certified teacher (State of Colorado) with a Master’s Degree (MLS). These qualifications matter when sharing statistics with potential parents and their students--both qualifications make the school better equipped to offer the education they proclaim to deliver. So while the School wanted my qualifications AND experience, they (the owning family) did not want to value them by affording me appropriate and complete benefits. I was naive and didn’t know better. That happens sometimes!

I worked in the elementary building for Mr. Dutcher my first year and then migrated to the secondary building where I worked for Dr. Sutton Jones (Principal) and Ms. Effa (Assistant Principal) for the next two years (2016-18). My passion is working with adolescents and teenagers, as well as the faculty that teach them. I was thrilled for the change!

In that first year at the secondary I brought subscription databases (EBSCOHost) to ASU. We were the second school in the city, after the International School of Ulaanbaatar, to offer this necessary research tool. I worked to create a Consortium through EBSCO to try and offer discounts to more schools in the city that wished to participate. It was my pleasure to teach students how to do academic research and to cite their sources properly. I worked with teachers in every department except math (they don’t do that much research!). I offered lessons around evaluating sources of information, how to make a bibliography, how to incorporate quotes into one’s own writing, how to write a strong thesis statement, how to create engaging presentations, and even how to organize and manage a Gmail account (ASU is a Google school and uses their suite of products--as do most, if not all, of the international schools in UB). I also helped organize and coordinate UBSLA--the UB School Librarian Association--a grassroots group that shares best practices and information around school libraries. It existed prior to my arrival, but myself, along with the librarian at ISU, kept it going and active.

with some of my AP students
This last school year (2017-18) I added the teaching of Advanced Placement Literature & Composition to my resume and enjoyed teaching nine seniors. Additionally I helped a number of students with the editing and revision of their college/university essays.

Why I Left ASU

I had planned to stay on at ASU for another school year in hopes of seeing my former husband’s son (from a previous marriage) graduate from ASU. However, I was greatly disappointed when it came time for contracts to be renewed this past winter. In early December 2017 we (employees of ASU) received an email from the Board Chair (Gantbolor Zorigt) which declared the Board’s intentions for whom would be serving in administrative positions for the coming year (2018-19). For those of us working in the secondary building, this was the beginning of the end! Everything that had been built over the previous two and a half years (under the strong leadership of Dr. Sutton Jones) began to unravel--almost immediately.

Under the leadership of Dr. Sutton Jones we had raised our rigor and done what was necessary to get reaccredited through WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges). We, in the secondary building, had a principal that supported us and lobbied for the things that mattered to us AND to what we knew was best for our students. Dr. Sutton Jones wasn’t afraid to stand up to Ms. Oyunaa (Managing Director)--a woman that bullies all those around her. The owners are business people. They do not know the field of education and have no formal training in the field--ie knowledge of best practices, new developments, pedagogy, etc. While the owning family’s intentions for ASU were perhaps good, it is, in the end, a Business Venture and they have it to make money--to keep themselves in expensive cars, fancy clothing and shoes, and to pay for their plastic surgeries and travel. The ASU school slogan is “Home of Future Leaders.” But I found this to be a farce! I believe they have been maintaining their “business” by engaging in any number of illegal or nefarious ways.

But first let me get back to my failure to renew a contract with the school. During the fall of 2016 I had met with Ms. Oyunaa to inquire about the existence/whereabouts of my “social health notebook”--something I was under the impression that ALL individuals working in Mongolia--no matter domestic or foreign born--were supposed to have, BY law. I was told that ASU did not have to provide that for me. However, if I wanted it then I was provided with a printed memo which showed what it would “cost me” from my pay to enroll in the program. Upon receiving that document I met with legal council at Anderson & Anderson in Grand Plaza and received initial legal advice. I was educated about the fact that “yes” I should have both a “social health notebook” and a “personal income tax booklet.” Ten percent of our pay (as foreign teachers) is withheld by the school to pay our Personal Income Tax for us. This is clearly stated in the contracts we sign. In the discussion with the lawyer it became clear that ASU was probably NOT paying for and maintaining the social health notebooks for its foreign staff. At this point I began to question if our personal income taxes were paid as the lawyer explained that these two offices (Social Health and Personal Income Tax) check in with one another monthly to make sure that everything is on the up-and-up, so to speak. The lawyer informed me that I could check on this by going to my local district tax office and could ask to see my Personal Income tax booklet.

But here is where I found myself stuck. I was the sole income for my family of three at the time--myself, my Mongolian husband, and his teenage son. I couldn’t risk getting myself fired--even if it was the ethical and right thing to do. The Managing Director did offer to add me to the International Health Insurance for the next school year. She said she understood that us “women of-a-certain-age” need to have it. It was added to my contract for the 2017-18 school year.

Some of my colleagues at ASU were other “local hires.” Foreign trained and certified teachers who came to Mongolia for other reasons--some were Peace Corps, some worked previously for ELI, and yet others are married to Mongolian citizens (as I was). In recent contracts for local hires they were given the option of (a) housing allowance OR (b) health insurance. When I was offered my renewal contract on January 22 of this year I decided to request a change. I wanted to drop my health insurance (it only benefited me) and instead ask for the housing allowance (as it would benefit my family). I made the request through Mr. Dutcher as he had been appointed as secondary principal for the coming school year. My request was denied.

I am going to pause here in my accounting of events and am inserting the email which I wrote and sent to this school year’s appointed administrators (Mr. Dutcher, Dr. Geshel, and Ms. Effa) and the Board Chair (Bolor Zorigt):

The following is the email I sent on February 8, 2018. I attached to it a copy of my contract and the “written request” which I had submitted to the Managing Director and that had been denied:

Good Morning,

As you are the Board Chair and the Administrators for next school year I wish to share the facts of what has occurred over the past few weeks. I hope you might keep these in mind as you consider hiring other "locals" for ASU positions in the future.

After receiving my initial renewal contract I requested a change: to drop Health Insurance and elect Housing Allowance (HA) instead.  Other locals have the HA (______, _________, and _____); _________ has the HA and when he asked about health insurance, our Managing Director told him he could have one or the other--he chose to keep the HA. My request to make the change was denied (though I was told I could take what WOULD be paid towards Insurance--which is in USD and less than half the value of HA--towards HA, BUT it would be converted to MNT first). I found this to be unfair and discriminatory. I elected to not renew employment as it goes against my integrity, values, and self-respect. I intended to find other "local" employment as I am a local hire, married to a Mongolian citizen, and we wished for our his son to graduate from ASU.

Towards that end I also followed Clause 5.8 of my contract (attached) and submitted a written request to our Managing Director to waive Clause 5.7 (non compete clause) so that I could find employment in order to pay said ASU tuition. My request for the waiver was denied. To my knowledge this clause (5.7) has never been invoked in the history of ASU. I know that _______ openly interviewed/spoke with ISU last year and this clause was not invoked.

I am an excellent educator and have served ASU with commitment, integrity, and heart. After being here two short months, I rose up and took charge of a WASC Focus Group (as the other employee appointed was ineffective) which I know contributed to our successful accreditation. I served on the 10 Year Anniversary Committee. I brought research databases to ASU--something we need if we intend our graduates to be University-ready after graduation. Since taking over our ASU Facebook page I have grown our "follower-ship" from just over 2,500 followers to more than 5,700. I took on teaching AP Literature in addition to my full time Teacher Librarian duties. Tomorrow we will deliver over 450 NEW books to the Veloo Foundation Kindergarten as a result of our recent Book Drive. These are just a few examples of my hard work and dedication to ASU and its students.

I hope you might understand why I feel discriminated against and why I cannot stay. I did not ask for MORE than anyone else. I asked for what was fair and equitable. First to be taken advantage of as a "local hire" to save money, and then to be abused as a "foreign" hire by having clause 5.7 invoked and a waiver denied....I'm left not knowing what to make of these decisions. They are not rational, reasonable, or equitable.

Moving forward I hope that ASU will develop a fair and equitable Employment Scale for the future (perhaps something like ISU's which has varied options like: Foreign Hire, Local Foreign Hire, and Local Hire). As you know finding people willing to come to the cold and pollution of UB is getting more difficult. I believe hiring locals should be a benefit to both the school and the employee; however, I hope they (local hires) do not find themselves in the unfortunate situation such as mine. As a result of the decision to not grant me a waiver allowing me to find alternate local employment (despite being a "local hire"), I am forced to seek employment overseas.

Towards full transparency, I have attached here a copy of my current contract and the waiver request I submitted on Monday (which was denied).

Please know that I will serve out my remaining contract with the same hard work and enthusiasm as I have served to-date. I am fully committed, as always, to the success of our ASU students and it has been a pleasure teaching and learning with them for these three school years. I have already begun to pass off information and documents which I think Mr. Dutcher will find helpful/useful for whomever you find to replace me.

Many thanks to each of you for your support of me and my endeavors at ASU across these three years.  


Not one of the administrators replied to that email. Not even with a word of recognition towards my struggle. Bolor, the Board Chair, did reply and indicated she’d like to speak with me after the Tsagaan Sar holiday (Feb 16-20). She didn’t say what she wanted to talk about. To be honest a part of me was fearful of being fired before my contract was completed.  

In the meantime I activated a profile on TIE Online and began to apply for jobs. I should note that my personal life had shifted. I’d left my husband, but yet hoped to maybe be able to afford his son’s tuition for the Grade 12 year at ASU. I applied for over 12 positions around the globe--in Asia and in Europe. I received an inquiry from a school in Turkey. I interviewed (Feb 20), was offered a contract (Feb 22), and accepted it (Feb 23). We were back in school Feb 21-23 but Bolor did not appear and I received no email requesting a meeting. I thought she had forgotten or simply changed her mind. I needed employment and the offer from Turkey was good, and included ALL the things that ASU didn’t want to afford me--housing, flights home, insurance.

On Monday, March 5th, the Board Chair did come to see me and offered what I had originally requested (swapping Housing Allowance for Health Insurance). This was SIX weeks after my initial request. I declined  her offer and then explained that I had accepted employment elsewhere. She was surprised and said something like, “Oh, I thought you knew we were going to meet.” To which I replied yes, but that she hadn’t indicated about what. How was I supposed to know they would “throw me a bone” and finally do the right thing? Another colleague, who originally came as a foreign hire, has been losing benefits every year since beginning a relationship (and subsequently marrying) a Mongolian citizen.

So yes, ASU is always looking for ways to UP their profits, and to de-value their foreign employees. They need/want qualified teachers, but their pay scale is on the low end (as compared to other schools around the globe). It’s my understanding that the ASU teacher Pay Scale tops out where the ISU pay scale begins!! You can see why ASU wants that non-compete clause--they want foreign teachers TRAPPED at ASU, or to force them to leave Mongolia. They do not want them moving to work at ISU which offers better pay AND benefits, and certainly more respect and valuation. ASU wants to be considered in the same circle or at the same level as ISU--to be considered competition--but they aren’t even in the same realm (in my opinion).

My personal life unraveled and therefore in the end I’m glad to have left Mongolia. I’m in a warmer locale. I live in a place with good air. I’ll receive all the benefits a foreign teacher should be afforded--no matter their reason for living as an expat abroad. The Universe or God or Whatever-you-prefer-to-credit knew what was coming my way personally, and therefore protected me by NOT having me sign an employment contract for ASU (and Mongolia). I am thankful for my time in Mongolia and certainly for all the good friends I made; however, I’m relieved to no longer be working for an institution that I find to be morally and ethically bankrupt. I am sad for my colleagues that yet remain there for at least another year. My intention with this personal blog post is to educate potential hires and parents of ASU students (current or potential) of the reality of the education being delivered, and to make a better choice for their career or for their children.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Some Parting Thoughts on Mongolia

I expect I will have a bit more to write about Mongolia....but this is the last post that I started from WITHIN Mongolia. I have since arrived to Turkey and am now busy with orientation for the new job. But first....some parting thoughts on Mongolia. 

Mongolia is a LARGE country and travel takes time. I didn't see as much of it as I had initially hoped, but then I also didn't know I'd be leaving after just three years. So it goes! That said, this map indicates the major points/places that I visited/traveled to. I never made it far east or far west (Altai mountains). But I did make it south to the Gobi Desert and north to Khuvsgul Lake and a good many places out and around. Note that Ulaanbaatar is the red point on the map. I recommend you click on the map to increase the size so that you can see it a bit better.

In my final weeks of my living in Mongolia I was graced with my first paid writing gig. I've been writing some travel posts for Selena Travel Mongolia's Travel Blog. Thus far I've shared about Hustai National Park, the Gobi Desert, the lovely Terkhiin Tsagaan Nuur, as well as this post about how to best be prepared for travel within the country (so many things I wish I had known before I arrived). There are more to come. It's been a great way to reflect on my time in this unique country, the places I've felt, the people I've met. 

For many months now I've wanted to share about an aspect of Mongolia (UB) which I did strangely appreciate. Many employers still have their employees wearing uniforms. And I don't just mean khaki pants and a polo shirt. The women wear smart fitting dresses--they remind me of what stewardesses wore back in day. The men also wear uniforms but it's usually a shirt and tie, not as cute as these I've captured here for you. I felt a bit strange taking random pictures of workers but wanted to illustrated what I describe. Clockwise from the top left they are employed at: Shangri La movie theater ticket office, AirMarket (plane tickets) office, and then the bottom two are two different banks--TDB (my bank) and then the National bank (where I had to pay my utilities each month). 

My "legal team"
Post Script:

July 31st marked my day in Mongolian divorce court (civil court) and I am relieved to report that after nearly three hours of testimony, counter-testimony, interviewing of witnesses, and so forth--the judge granted the divorce. I had a GREAT "legal team" there to support me--my lawyer, my translator, and two great friends. I am blessed to find/make a tribe wherever I go in this world. 

I'll be forever thankful for all the friends I made in Ulaanbaatar; now it's time to expand that network with new friends in Turkey!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Reflecting on City Life in UB

When I arrived to UB I was, for the first time, entering into what I considered "big city life." I no longer had a car for commuting or carting things around. I would be walking, taking public transport, or a taxi to do everything I needed to do. This took some adjustment at first. Example: I learned to NOT use a rolling cart at the grocery store. I could carry home only what filled the smaller hand-held basket. I have enjoyed living in a neighborhood, of sorts, within which I can walk to most anything and everything I need. The grocery store. A hair and nail salon. The post office. A coffee house. Waxing Boutique. The vet clinic. 

My local mini market--Jurj (Orange) Market
Nearly every city block offers up a restaurant, a grocery store or mini market (or multiples), a stationery store, a pharmacy, and an ATM. Not to mention bars, karaoke joints, banks, and bakeries. 

I made a new friend last week--a volunteer from Australia who has been in UB for just three weeks. While she's had her organizational orientation, I'm enjoying showing her around and sharing information to help ease her assimilation into the city. Yesterday we made a a little walking tour of the downtown--near my old apartment. I showed her my salon, the local American Corner in Natsandorj Library (English books to borrow and hosts movie nights and special speaking events), my meat guy (Australian butcher at the grocery store located in UB Department store), as well as TEDY (mobile phone needs), and the Tengis movie theater. It took me months to find the places I preferred and needed. Expats are good at sharing and swapping information--but you have to have the time and opportunity to meet them and connect. When you're new in town it can be a bit overwhelming--especially if you are also learning the ropes of a new job or volunteer gig.  

One of my local coffee shops
When I arrived to UB it was my first experience living as an expat abroad. Thankfully one of my soon-to-be fellow teachers had opted to spend the summer in UB. She reached out and showed me around. She told me where the various markets and stores were and where to locate certain harder-to-find items. (Thanks, Christy!) She shared with me the various ways she connected with other expats and got outside the school bubble. 

While my new acquaintance is not new to living as an expat, she is new to UB and I have three years of accumulated knowledge to share and pass on. As I've brainstormed and made lists of the places to show and tell, it has confirmed how much UB did become my home. It was scary and strange when I arrived. I missed my Walmart and McDonalds and Barnes and Noble. I missed being able to buy exactly what I wanted at the place I knew would carry it. I was frustrated. BUT....time passed, I learned the ropes and routes of UB, and now I confess to feeling a bit nostalgic and sad about my upcoming departure. I KNOW I will learn my new city and neighborhood, just as I did UB. But to think of beginning again is.....well.....something. It's not frustrating. It includes excitement. But also I guess a tinge of anxiety. The good news is that I'm already in contact with teachers at my next school and they've been most helpful as I pack and plan for arrival.  

In front of Performance theater
I look around at UB--the Russian apartment blocks mixed with the flashy, slick skyscrapers. The brightly painted concrete and the cobblestoned, uneven sidewalks. The Cyrillic alphabet amongst the KFC and Burger King brands.  It is not at all what I imagined, and yet it is familiar and comforting. I had never ridden a public bus before I arrived in UB. The health department of Colorado Springs gave me a travel packet about Mongolia in which it told me to NEVER ride public transportation because I might contract TB. Of course....if I were a tourist and only here a week or two--very little need to ride the bus. But I was an "alien" citizen of UB for three years and I loved riding the public bus. Affordable. Convenient. Entertaining at times!

New growth--trees in UB, me too!
To wrap things up I have to say that I enjoy big city life. Now I'm upgrading from 1.3M to 4.2M. Wow! That sounds scary. But the word on the street is that Izmir is a large city with a small town feel. And that green areas abound--my next school campus has both pine and pomegranate trees. I'll have to let you know. Just remember that you'll have to find me on my new blog ( to read about life and adventures moving forward!