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Elements of Writing: Orientation (Part 3: The Great Mongolian Bowling League)

Elements of Writing: Orientation (Part 3: The Great Mongolian Bowling League) - Ed Borowsky


Spark: The Mongolian-American Taxi Driver


The spark zapped me when I was coming home to Orlando, Florida, from my sister's house in Chicago. I hopped into the taxi and the taxi driver asked me where I was headed.


I said, "Home, Orlando."


He replied, "I'm going to Orlando next month."


I asked, "Are you going to Disney?"


"No, bowling tournament."


I then asked, "Where you from originally?"




"Is bowling big in Mongolia?"


"No! On Thursday nights, AMF bowling alleys all over the country have a promotion called Quarter Mania. Between 5 p.m. to midnight they offer twenty-five-cent games, twenty-five-cent bowling shoe rentals, and twenty-five-cent hot dogs."


I then asked, "How many people are going to the tournament?"


"Over six-hundred," he said.


Spark. Six months after that chance meeting, I went to the bowling alley in Orlando to meet the manager of the lanes. She told me that she remembered the tournament and pulled out her records, which indicated that there was about 60 Mongolian-Americans in attendance that day. I must have heard him wrong, but still, with their accompanying family members, I thought that was quite a turnout for the first-ever Mongolian-American bowling tournament in the United States of America.


In 1990, Mongolia declared their independence from Russia in a silent coup that put the Mongolian population of 2.7 million in great peril. It thrust the country from an old Soviet-style communist state to a capitalist democracy overnight.


This idea swirled round and round in me. I sat down numerous times in the span of two years trying to write the book without success. The fact that I had only met one Mongolian/American was holding me back.


One morning I woke up around 5 a.m., in that half-awake/half-asleep dream state, I realized that I could write the book from the perspective of a seventy-two-year-old Jewish man. I had found my voice that early Sunday morning and "The Great Mongolian Bowling League of the United States of America" was born.


Orientation: The Great Mongolian Bowling League


Bowling is the crucible holding the story, however, "The Great Mongolian" deals with aging and the questions we all ask as we get older. "Did I lead a good life?" "Was I a good person?" "Did my life have meaning?" If you'd like to find answers to these questions, I encourage you to read my book.


The orientation is, "Can one live a simple life in a small town, work a small job, live without a family, and find meaning and fulfillment in living?"


I'm happy to report that "The Great Mongolian" took first place in the Novella category in the 2019 International Book Awards.


In reflection, I got that spark when I entered the back seat of that yellow taxi cab and now as of this writing sparks are still flying. There are more adventures of the protagonist Harold Kushner and his sidekick Murray to come.


Would you like to learn more about Orientation and the other Elements of Story? I'm also interested to know, have you ever had a chance conversation that sparked a story? I'd love to read your comments.


-Ed Borowsky, Author

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The Strange, Wonderful Roads We Travel...


How many literary works by American novelists have "Mongolian" in the title? Not many but my recently published book happens to be one of them. I thus looked to the obvious route to promote my book, contacting via email the Executive Director of the American Center for Mongolian Studies.


The next day, I received an email from Jonathan Addleton, Executive Director. I was surprised to read that he already had discovered my book. He commented that he'd enjoyed the read immensely, and that between its humorous lines he found an ever-deeper meaning. He informed me that his organization, in their monthly publication, had reviewed the book and had distributed the review to approximately two thousand of its readers, consisting of academics, people in the foreign service, diplomats and experts in Mongolian studies.


He went onto say that he had included my book in a presentation he had made in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, to an audience of Mongolians. And after Ambassador Addleton had included my book cover in a PowerPoint presentation and after his talk, several Mongolians in the audience came up to him and asked where and how they could purchase it.


I was thrilled to hear all of this! Because I never have been to Mongolia, and at that point had only met one Mongolian in my life — a taxi driver in Chicago who told me the story of how he liked to bowl and ended up going to Orlando, Florida, for the first ever Mongolian-American bowling tournament in the United States of America.


U.S. Mongolia Relations—And What They Mean to Us


Ambassador Addelton has a fascinating background. An American citizen, he was born and raised of missionary parents in Pakistan. He worked in the foreign service, served in Afghanistan and was appointed Ambassador to Mongolia under the Obama administration.


In our conversation, I asked him why the people in the United States were not aware that in 1990 Mongolia declared Democracy from the Soviet Union, which toppled their society. Imagine going from an old Soviet-style state to democracy and capitalism almost overnight. Those who held jobs in communist factories were suddenly out of work and had to find new ways in which to make a living. The society was upended, but not for the determination of their people who had managed to make the transition at great cost to themselves.


I asked Ambassador Addelton this question: "Shouldn't the largest and greatest democracy in the world, The United States of America lend their support to a country of under three million people who chose their freedom at great peril?"


Economic aid, as well as technical assistance provided by the Soviet Union ended abruptly and as a result the country experience great challenges. Enterprises closed as foreign trade had broken down, while inflation skyrocketed. Food had to be rationed as the transition wreaked havoc on their lives.'


Mongolia is surrounded by two authoritarian countries, Russia to the north and China to the west, south and east. At any given moment, the Chinese or the Russians could have changed their minds and decided to take back Mongolia for whatever reason. After all, a vast amount of natural resources were discovered in the Gobi Desert after Mongolians declared their independence.


We in the United States of America live in a democracy that is, as of this writing, two-hundred and forty-three years old. We fought for our independence with coin and blood; given the state of the world today, it seems we need to continue to protect and fight for our freedoms, because our freedoms can be lost. We can never let our guard down.


Certainly, to have other democracies flourish in the world only strengthens our democracy, which continues to exist in this hostile world. Other countries would love to see America fail, as our very existence threatens their forms of totalitarian governments. The principles that American soldiers fought and died for make our society great, such as the will of the people, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, free and fair elections and the baseline agreement that all men are created equal.


How the Mongolian-American Community Welcomed Me In (It Was Kind of Like When the Great Mongolian Bowling League Adopted the Fictional Harold Kushner!)


In early 2019, Jonathan invited me to attend a Mongolian-American conference held in Washington, D.C., where I was fortunate to finally meet a group of Mongolian-Americans. There are now approximately twenty-eight thousand Mongolian-American Immigrants living in the U.S.A. The Mongolian-American population has settled primarily in the Los Angeles, Denver, Chicago and Northern Virginia. With all the conversations about illegal immigration today, Mongolian-Americans are a shining example of how our legal immigration system works. The weekend I spent with them, demonstrated to me that our legal immigration system is alive and well.


Remember, Where Would the USA Be Without Legal Immigrants?


After spending a weekend in Washington, D.C., with my new Mongolian-American friends and American friends of Mongolia, I reflected on my own immigration story.  I feel blessed that I am second-generation American. My grandparents emigrated at great risk to themselves and they sacrificed as my parents did, so that I and my children could have the opportunity to live free and reach a level of freedom and prosperity that we could not have experienced anywhere else in this world. To the Mongolian-American community, we all should say:


"Welcome, my fellow Americans, welcome to the American Dream. Thank you for believing in democracy and capitalism. Thank you for being part of the American story and thank you for embracing the Constitution of the United States of America.


"We're so glad you're here. Come knock on my door anytime if you need anything. I can't bake all of you an apple pie or bring it to your new home because you are twenty-eight thousand strong and I don't know how that would be possible. But I've realized that I will be with you, at the Fourth of July parade, celebrating our freedom together."


There's one more thing; I urge our government to support Mongolia in their quest to sustain the journey to democracy. I believe by bringing awareness to the American people through in-depth reporting on their fight for independence in 1990, we can help Mongolia thrive, thereby solidifying another democracy and capitalist system in our world.


—Ed Borowsky, Author

The Great Mongolian Bowling League of the United States of America

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