Last updated 3/5/2019 at 9:09am
The grins stretched across everyone's faces like the great Gobi Desert stretches across Mongolia to the doorstep of Khovd Province, home to Borrego Springs' new Partner Town, Khovd, Mongolia.
Officials from the two communities on opposite sides of the world exuded friendship and hospitality while signing the official documents sealing this partnership, all the while hugging and exchanging gifts. The fact that few spoke each other's language did not cause one moment of pause. Smiles and gestures go a long, long way.
This unlikely moment of international friendship and formal signing took place at the Borrego Springs Library Feb. 11, a day the Library is usually closed. Thanks to our gracious Librarian Cynthia Thompson and Cristin McVey, the Library opened for the event and tours were offered to our Mongolian guests.
Following an inspirational singing of our National Anthem by Miss Borrego Dennise Cecena, our Mongolian guests sang their anthem while playing a jaw-dropping video of soaring eagles, spacious valleys, lofty mountains, majestic herds of camels, galloping horses and colorful gers and people.
The moment brought tears to some eyes, and made us realize that we really have more in common than not.
Although the signing of the documents was easy, the pronunciation of our new Mongolian friends' names was a challenge!
Khovd Governor Dugerjav Batsuuri along with County Supervisor Jim Desmond's representative Juanita Hayes, signed the Partnership agreement while five dignitaries from Khovd looked on. Also present were the Mongolian Consul General, Galbadral Enkhtur and the Vice Consul Bayartsengel Damdinjav. The smiles, the hand shaking, the hugging and the gift exchanges cemented the deal.
What followed resembled a United Nations roundtable. 17 leaders from Borrego Springs' business, tourism, ABDSP, education, service clubs, art and planning committees shared their role in our unique community as well as an idea about how each could partner with a Mongolian counterpart.
This was presented to our Mongolian friends via their interpreter Sainbayar Vasha, Khovd University's Head of the Foreign Language Department. Sainbayar then translated into English each Mongolian's ideas for future partnerships and cooperative endeavors.
Ideas were exciting, far reaching and included university/high school student exchanges, creating/partnering with a Mongolian Soroptimist Club, sharing ideas around city/community planning, exchange of human resources (especially in the sciences), development of cooperative tourism and hospitality, building trade partners, exhibitions of Mongolian art and of course a trip to Khovd this summer by Borregans!
Khovd was chosen to be our Partner Town after an unforgettable trip to Mongolia last summer that included two students from Borrego Springs High School and me, along with a small group from San Diego.
Among many gorgeous places, we visited Anza-Borrego Desert State Park's Sister Park, Ikh Nart Reserve, outside of Ulaanbaatar. The ties and friendships created by this long standing partnership were tangible and upon our return, the Mongolian Consul General in San Francisco Galbadral Enkhtur, inquired as to our interest in creating Partner Communities with a town in Mongolia. We jumped at the idea and he personally chose his hometown, Khovd, after hearing that Borrego Springs is multi-cultural and is incredible in its natural scenery, topography and paleontology.
Khovd is known for its extreme climate variance from summer highs of 104 F to winter lows of -22 F! It is also home to 17 ethnic groups (more than any place in Mongolia), ancient rock paintings, sapphire lakes, watermelon crops, animal herding, ger (yurt) summer camping by the rivers and close by in the Gobi Desert, the largest dinosaur fossil reservoir in the world.
One can't help but wonder what could happen if this type of far-reaching friendship building between disparate places on our globe was duplicated thousands of times each year. What incredible cultural understandings, tolerance and world friendships this could bring to our world. Might we even dare to think it could break down barriers and lead to a more peaceful world? Just a thought.
Note: Honorary Mayor Andy Macuga signed the agreement earlier as he was not available on February 11.