UBiers: Garret Wilson


2015-02-11 10:11 GMT+8

We are delivering the next “Short Interview” featuring Expats in Mongolia, who are working and enjoying live in Mongolia and UB city. We aim to share their experiences of living in Mongolia. Our next guest is Garret Wilson, Director - Risk Management, Compliance, and Outsourced Services for Wagner Asia Group companies. He resides in Ulaanbaatar with his wife and children.... Certainly, it starts with “Why Mongolia?"

Why Mongolia?

‪I first came to Mongolia from 1998-2000 as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons) and as a volunteer English teacher. In addition to the missionary work, I was able to work on several humanitarian service projects, and in the process, gained a true love for the people here, the language, and the culture. I spent approximately half of that time when I was here originally in UB and the other half in other cities throughout the countryside. After I returned to my home country, the USA, I always felt a strong connection with Mongolians and something always felt like Mongolia was pulling me back. However, it wasn’t until my current employer, Wagner Asia, recruited me that returning to Ulaanbaatar to live and work actually became a reality. I now live here with my beautiful wife and three children. It has been three years since I’ve been back, and I’m enjoying every minute.

Is UB the coldest capital city?

Sure, it’s cold here for several months of the year, but it’s tolerable once you learn how to dress warm. I never experienced frostbite until I came here and learned the hard way to cover up my ears and even the tip of my nose. When in doubt, just do what the Mongolians do in the winter. They’ve survived in the cold for centuries, so I figure I can’t go wrong by copying them. I do admit, though, that a heated garage is one luxury that makes the cold winters here much more bearable if you drive a vehicle. 

What is your most favorite thing to do or see in UB, or in general, what do you like about UB?

I enjoy going to museums and traditional cultural performances. Considering the very limited resources for the arts here, Mongolian performing artists, dancers, singers, and musicians in particular, are very talented and put on quality performances. The history of Mongolia, and even the relatively young history of Ulaanbaatar, is fascinating to me. I love seeing photos or videos from 50 or 100 years ago in Ulaanbaatar and I often imagine what life was like here in that era before and during the communist times. Also, I am a Mongolian-language enthusiast, so anytime I can strike up a conversation with someone in Mongolian, especially with strangers whom I’ve never met, I’m enjoying myself. It’s ironic because I’m typically a rather quiet, introverted person when speaking in my native English, but I open up in Mongolian. 

Things you don’t like at all?

As a guest in this beautiful country, I don’t think it’s my place to criticize or find fault. I think if I were to focus on the negative, I would easily become bitter and frustrated here. Instead, I chose to try and focus on the positive. To me, there are so many things to like about living here. Most of all, I enjoy the people. Because I have witnessed the progress of Mongolia, particularly UB, over the past 17 years, I can attest to the fact that in many regards, Mongolia is getting better. I only hope that I can in some way help in that progress, contribute positively to the economy, and push Mongolia in the right direction. 

What would you suggest changing in UB?

Perhaps if we were to change UB, it wouldn’t be quite as interesting or adventurous as it is today. Some may view being stuck in traffic as a frustration, but oftentimes I am secretly grateful for long queues at the intersections because it allows me time to people watch, view the interactions of young families as they walk hand-in-hand along the sidewalks, witness the old grandma as she bravely crosses busy streets, or observe a businesswoman dressed in fancy clothes and high heels try to negotiate her way around large puddles of rain water. It can be a struggle maintaining this positive attitude because I desire for UB to overcome some of the many challenges it is facing at the moment. I so earnestly want for my Mongolian friends and family to enjoy life in this city without many of the seemingly unnecessary hardships. On the surface, the answers seem so simple – follow and enforce basic traffic laws, build proper infrastructure, create a culture of proper building and road maintenance and repair, implement proper civil engineering principles of zoning and ordinances and then strictly enforce them, implement and enforce international pollution emissions and safety standards, etc. To me, one of the most frustrating things to see is that Ulaanbaatar would have sufficient funds to be able to invest in these things if so much of it wasn’t lost because of missed opportunities due to nationalistic protectionism policies and if so much of it wasn’t wasted on corruption in both the private sector and the government. This money could instead have been used to benefit the poor by investing more in schools, hospitals, and other basic infrastructure. I believe we need to be realistic, though. I’m a relatively young guy, but I have been alive for 12 years longer than Mongolia’s democracy and free-market economy has existed. These things take time and require patience. However, this progress could be expedited if corruption was not a factor. 

What do you do when you miss your homeland? 

With modern technology, it’s not too difficult to reconnect with family and friends back in my homeland. I do love and miss seeing them in-person, but they are supportive of me and my family living here in UB. Luckily, because my wife is Mongolian, we have close family in this country too.  I come from the state of Utah in America, which has a very diverse, beautiful landscape, and it’s impossible to replicate the breathtaking beauty of the tall, snow-covered mountains, the lakes and rivers, or the red-rock canyons of southern Utah. Luckily, Mongolia has beautiful landscapes of its own, and although they are different, they can be equally as calming and comforting as what I became accustomed to back in my home country.

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