Lindsay Myron
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Swine Flu Changes Everything

November 16, 2009 @ 10:51 PM | Permalink

November marks my last month with SIT in Mongolia and this month is devoted almost entirely to conducting free-roaming research on a topic of choice.  I was planning on traveling north to speak with vegetable farmers in Selenge province for a week.  I had hired my translator, mapped out my route and had packed my bags.  My E.T.D. was scheduled for 10:30 Sunday morning when the northbound train emits its first chugs and choos toward Sukhbaatar.

Major emphasis on the E.

Swine flu first reached Ulaanbaatar on October 12 and in a little over four weeks 15 people have died and over 1000 cases have been confirmed.  In an attempt to curb the rising numbers primary school breaks have been extended, kindergartens and internet cafes have been closed and all bars, restaurants and disco clubs have been forced to shut their doors at 9pm on the dot.  Warning signs describing symptoms and delineating standard reaction protocol have been taped to the sliding doors of transit buses and on the revolving doors of post offices.  Restaurants and café’s have pasted with regret:

Lemonade became the beverage of choice for street vendors as they stocked their cardboard sales boxes with face masks in every hue.  But despite the vast availability of those fashionable facial germ guards, the eminent threat of contagiousness has taken its course and people have fled the capital carrying the flu to the countryside.  Currently 18 of the 21 provinces in Mongolia have identified cases of swine flu and numbers continue to rise.

So an executive decision was made on November 4th: the nation would go into a "state of high disaster preparedness."  Thenceforth all kindergarten, primary and secondary schools have been closed, all open markets have been shut down, all public cultural events or centers have been cancelled, major conferences are to be postponed and all public transport to and from the countryside has been nixed for two weeks at least. So much for my northbound train.

Limited healthcare accessibility in the countryside has only exacerbated the threat of swine flu and its spread. It was a blunt, but intelligent play on part of health authorities, but it threw my research plans for a spin. So I got to working on a plan B and managed to find some loopholes in the health alert to let me leave the city. I found out that with an exact itinerary, a signed departure permission form from one’s accredited organization and a doctor’s physical sans swine flu symptoms, one can leave the city if they travel via private transportation.

So after SIT graciously signed my permission form and a 98.6°F was taken at the Sukhbaatar district hospital I passed through the northern city limits in a hired Japanese van. Before entering Darkhan provincial center our van was stopped to have the floors sprayed with bleach at a price of 1000 tugrug, but other than that my forms weren't bothered and my field research continued successfully only a day behind schedule.


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Lindsay, Enjoyed the woven threads of humanity in the family lesson on telling time. Thanks for sharing. TIm

Tim Matthews on Nomads Give New Meaning to the Cuckoo Clock 2009-11-03

Ouch. Not a fun way to finish off the semester. Get well soon and safe travels; look forward to seeing you back on the hill next month!

Matthew Hintsa on I've Never Been More Afraid of Pigs 2009-12-06

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