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The New Internationalist welcomes your letters. But please keep them short.
They may be edited for purposes of space or clarity.
Include a home telephone number if possible and send your letters
to the nearest editorial office or e-mail to : [email protected]

Natural methods
[image, unknown] I am sorry to see that you suffer from misinformation about Natural Family Planning (Of Woman Born NI 303). You confuse withdrawal (dear to teenagers) with the Rhythm Method (abstinence based on calendar calculations). The only thing these methods of contraception have in common is that they don’t work much better than no precautions at all.

On the other hand, Natural Family Planning, given a success rate of 98 per cent, is comparable with oral hormones. Because it relies on intelligence, correct information and co-operation; because it won’t make anyone rich and gives power only to its users, it may seem an idealistic method. But by your dismissive approach you may have put off a number of individuals. To redress the balance I suggest that interested readers look at A Method of Natural Family Planning by Anna Flynn and Melissa Brooks.

Deborah Sutcliffe
Hornsea, England

Erratum: On page 30 of NI 303 the title of the International Planned Parenthood Federation was given incorrectly.

Missing Tibet
How disappointing to read in Howard Davies’ report on the plight of Bhutanese refugees in Nepal (NI Interview NI 302) that the Buddhist nation of Bhutan ‘is sandwiched between China, India and Nepal’. Surely Mr Davies has heard of a country the size of Western Europe called Tibet, a country which I believe borders Bhutan, a country from which hundreds of thousands of refugees, myself included, have fled Chinese oppression. If people continue to remove Tibet from the world’s maps then China will have succeeded in its obliteration of a nation. If publications such as NI collude in this, what hope is there for us six million surviving Tibetans?

Sonam Choephel
Clitheroe, England

Editor: We apologize for not including Tibet in the list of countries bordering Bhutan, which was not intended in any way to denigrate the struggle of the Tibetans.

Jeans junk
Why is NI so hard-pressed for suitable world issues that it ended up choosing an inconsequential topic like ‘jeans’ (NI 302)?

The underlying message to us readers is that nuclear proliferation, genocide, human-rights violations in Turkey, the Balkans and elsewhere, as well as the growing gulf between North and South are subsidiary issues to the nitty-gritty of jeans manufacture.

Anthony Grivas
New York, US

Throwing stones
As a previous construction brigadista to Cuba I found the Cuba (NI 301) edition of the NI quite fair if somewhat superficial, doubtless due to space limitations.

Cuba faces a severe threat to its survival from the US, a consequence of which is an enormous distortion in its economic life and its principles.

With regard to its human-rights record, those who live in glasshouses should not throw stones. When the US and Canada were faced with a perceived external threat from Japan during the Second World War, they garnered up all their citizens of Japanese ancestry and imprisoned them in specially built camps. During the McCarthy purge in the US large numbers of US citizens were likewise sent to prison or were blacklisted and fired from their jobs. Why should the Cubans be any different?

End the embargo without any arrogant conditions and then the human-rights affairs in that country will be solved.

Ed Simpson
Apsley, Canada

Illustration by VIV QUILLIN

Malaysian migrants
In your Update (NI 302) on the ‘plight’ of migrant workers in Malaysia you imply that Malaysians are treating these people unfairly. Please be reminded that the loss of employment is now a pervasive problem in South-East Asia and is suffered by workers in all sectors – not exclusively the migrant ones.

Secondly, your quote on the wages of workers is misleading and does not warrant comparison with American or European wages since the standard of living is very much lower. The labourers are paid decently by local standards and certainly at least five times higher than what they would earn in their home countries.

Lastly you fail to include in your report that boatloads of up to 1,000 illegal immigrants are arriving daily. Crime rates are rising and illegal squatter areas mushroom across the country. We have no resources to cope with these people and the additional problems they represent.

Yap Mun Ching
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

South African fraud
While I agree with Lara Hearn’s complaint on the letters page (NI 302) about New Zealand being placed below South Africa in relation to indigenous peoples, I would warn against any comparisons with South Africa that fail to mention the enormous historical and racial fraud on which that country is still based.

White wealth and black poverty are still based not only on white conquest, but on the their spurious ‘history’ of South Africa’s settlement, which for decades falsely claimed that blacks and whites arrived ‘simultaneously’ and the blacks only settled 14 per cent of the country and almost none of the mineral-rich areas.

In truth, the blacks settled more than 50 per cent of the land before the whites arrived, including nearly all the mineral wealth. This fraud, coupled with apartheid’s racist land laws, enabled the whites to ‘rip off’ some three billion rand annually for at least 40 years; a point largely ignored even today, when ‘Reconciliation’ fails to include fair reparations.

John Clarke
Denham, England

Just deserts?
Your book reviewer (NI 300) is disappointed that a history of Canada’s native peoples opens with a ‘regurgitation of the Bering Strait Land-bridge Theory’, which he/she believes has been created by Canadians who can’t deal with the reality of the aboriginals having been there, literally, forever.

The theory is not a myth generated by guilty European-Canadians but science’s best guess (based on evidence) at how humans came to populate the American continent. Your reviewer seems to believe that if the native people have existed there eternally then they deserve something better than the appalling injustices perpetrated on them by Europeans. But if they themselves are mere migrants from ‘somewhere back in Siberia’ then they got their just deserts.

Presumably then, by this logic, we now all have to pretend that any indigenous group who have suffered genocide at the hands of new colonists had been in residence since before the big bang.

The immorality of the treatment of native Canadians by Europeans is not a function of the length of native residence, but of their very existence as people and as a people. No-one deserves to be treated in this way. We are all migrants.

Paul Doyle
Rockhampton, Australia

Road Rage
Your website address for Road Rage (NI 301 page 33) is incorrect. It should be: <www.hrc.wmin.ac.uk/campaigns/ef/rr/index.html>

Roy Bishop
Sydney, Australia

Topic time
We are holding our annual meeting to decide on topics for next year’s issues. If you have ideas that you would like to send in, please send in a paragraph (not one line and not three pages!) on each proposal to Nikki van der Gaag in Oxford by October 15th. You can post it or e-mail me on [email protected]

The views expressed in these letters are not necessarily those of the New Internationalist

[image, unknown]

Journey to the end of the earth
Louisa Waugh takes off for Tsengel, a village at the far western end of Mongolia.

My friend, Sodnem, whose post-box I share, was on the phone.

‘There’s a letter for you from someone called Abbai who lives in Tsengel village in Bayan-Olgii. It says they do want an English teacher. What’s it all about?’

I stiffened. ‘Oh God,’ I thought. ‘Now I have to go!’

For the previous eight months I had talked almost incessantly to friends and colleagues about going to live in the Mongolian countryside. I’d made and changed plans, switched my choice of landscape (Mongolia has desert, mountains and steppe) and my earnest ramblings had gradually become a standing joke.

The problem was Tsengel village was about as hidden and rural as you can get. Bayan-Olgii, Mongolia’s most western province, is popularly known as the Tibet of Mongolia. Its stark, fierce mountains and treeless valleys are home to Mongolian minorities – Kazakh herders and Tuvans from the nearby central Asian republic. Tsengel, population 3,500, and more than 2,000 kilometres from Ulaanbaatar, is Mongolia’s furthest-west village.

After a sleepless night sitting up persuading myself how wonderful it all would be, my friend Chimgee and I rang Abbai to verify my arrival a month later. The crackling connection took 45 minutes to secure, only confirming my view that I had booked myself into a place at the end of the world.

Abbai, Tsengel’s governor, said the local school director was already drawing up the schedule for my four-month visit. The panic started. I began to shop for a siege – buying coffee, canned fish, pasta and tomato paste in bulk – trying to wind up my journalism and eating as much good food as I could in preparation for several months of noodles and boiled meat.

Illustration by SARAH JOHN

And then just two weeks before my scheduled takeoff, I fell in love.

I didn’t move to Mongolia to meet an Englishman, but Gulliver, a shy gentle musician, captivated me. Whilst I nervously tore around saying goodbye to my friends and panicking over what I hadn’t done, we spent every spare moment wrapped around each other ignoring my imminent departure. I looked around at Ulaanbaatar’s rubble-strewn streets and tiny candlelit kiosks and felt sick with nerves. I knew this city with its dodgy heating system and power cuts. Tsengel had four hours of electricity a day (usually), one shop and no running water. This was going to be tough.

The evening before I left my friends came round, helped me finish packing and left me laden with books and chocolates. Gulliver and I fell asleep halfway through the night, exhausted by my emotional turmoil. I awoke with a jerk and with a feeling of panic rising in my chest, looked at my clock and swore. It was 6:15 am – in 15 minutes I had to be at the airport 25 kilometres away or risk losing my seat.

The driver of the first car we hailed tore along the almost empty streets towards the airport and I finally checked in at 7:35. At 8:10, still waiting for the boarding sign, I wandered over to luggage security to have my hand baggage (which included a bucket full of toilet rolls) checked. The officer took my flight bag, frowned and said casually, ‘You’re very late — the plane has gone.’ A terse conversation was barked between officers and we were suddenly herded through several corridors to the departure hall. Another officer glanced at my ticket and shook her head, ‘The flight has gone!’

I was shaking my head and weeping. Gulliver speaks no Mongolian and just looked confused. But a well-dressed Mongolian tapped me on the shoulder, ‘The plane is going, but if you run fast you can catch it.’ I momentarily threw my arms around Gulliver’s neck, and then I ran out onto the tarmac. A woman was gesturing frantically to me and pointing to the plane being towed toward the runway. ‘Run, run!’

After 100 meters I abandoned my bags and ran blindly towards the plane waving my arms. A figure appeared brandishing a walkie-talkie.

We scurried towards each other and I gibbered, ‘Bayan-Olgii.’

He retrieved my bags whilst speaking into his radio. Three minutes later I shakily boarded the plane. An immaculately dressed stewardess smiled at me and said, ‘I’ll take your bags. You go and sit down.’

I was on my way to Tsengel.

Louisa Waugh is a freelance writer who lives and works in Mongolia.

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New Internationalist issue 305 magazine cover This article is from the September 1998 issue of New Internationalist.
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