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Archive for the ‘Daily stuff’ Category

I’m Back….

Wow, haven’t blogged here in ages.  Mostly that’s a sign of being settled in, I guess, and having a routine, so there’s not much to blog about!

Having said that, I thought the color of the water coming out of the bathtub tap was an interesting color this morning.  And it was actually darker than that, because the tub already had a couple of inches of water in it from the day before.  I closed off the plug yesterday and, apparently, there is no way to open it up again!

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I have odd little quirks when I’m overseas and in denial.  Little things I do that resist actually living in a place.  For example, when I first moved to Turkey, I didn’t sleep under the covers until October.  And it wasn’t just an “I’m picky about my sheets” thing, though that was part of it.  (I learned to bring good sheets with me, after that!)  Actually crawling in to bed seemed to admit I was in the place to stay, and I wasn’t even close to ready to do that.

Egypt was a breeze to settle into, but as you know, I’ve struggled with Mongolia…which took the form of refusing to learn any of the language.  And  I mean ANY.  Usually I at least pick up what I call taxi-driver language, if only to make getting around easier.  But up until last week, my two words of Mongolian consisted of “Thank you” and “straight ahead.”  I didn’t even know the words for yes and no.   Shame, shame.

I decided last week I had to grow up and give in to the inevitable.  I have now added yes, no, and  “turn left/right here” to my vocabulary.  Still pretty basic, but it’s a start.  I need to begin working on numbers.

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Haven’t posted since I returned from Malaysia because a) not much going on, and b) it’s been a bit tense with the anti-foreigner sentiment around here, and I was seriously freaking out over that.  Without going into lots of details, within a two week period, three of the teachers were attacked, one of them quite seriously.

Like the US, Mongolia has its own anti-immigration fervor, mostly aimed at imported Chinese workers, and apparently it tends to break out in spring.  It’s been particularly bad this year, and this is the first time it’s really affected the school.

Having been through three bomb attacks and 9/11 in Cairo and the earthquake in Turkey, I don’t think of myself as someone who panics, but I did over this.  Fortunately, everyone is fine, but as I was explaining to my (very sympathetic) boss, there’s a difference between the bag-snatching theft attacks in Egypt and Turkey (not that I ever experienced one of those) that are random and could happen to anyone, and being targeted simply because you’re a foreigner.  And I definitely stand out in a crowd.

Fortunately, I was never anti-immigrant at home, so I don’t have to deal with the personal hypocrisy it would cause to be anti-immigrant at home, then complain about being a potential target here!

It gets compounded as, when attacks do happen, Mongolians just ignore or watch. No one steps in to help.  Moreover, as with most places I suppose, the police tend to side with the locals; if you fight back and hurt somebody, you’re then embroiled in a legal battle and can’t leave the country.

Needless to say, after my initial “I am so out of here,”  I have calmed down.  The school held a couple planning sessions where we talked about how to avoid being targeted–though, again, even when I went into town by myself, I’ve never had a problem–but at least until fall, when all of this dies down (according to people at school who’ve been here a while),  we’ll travel in pairs or groups for a while!  (Could there be a more garbled sentence?  The English teacher in me protests!)

In defense of Mongolia, I will say this phenomenon is limited to Ulaanbaatar, and never happens out in the country, where nomadic attitudes about hospitality to strangers prevail.

And now for something completely different….

Gerald was here over spring break, which was a great opportunity (with the warmer weather, finally!) to get out and about and play the tourist with him.  Thanks to the Russians, there are only a few temples left in UB, but we went to Gandan, the largest temple in Mongolia (and also a Buddhist center of learning.  At least, Richard Gere went there!).  It houses one of the largest standing Buddhas in Asia, which is filled with, among other things,  a complete ger, with furnishings (according to the Lonely Planet)!  We went on the warmest day we’ve had so far–shirt-sleeves!–and were lucky enough to be able to watch part of a Buddhist ceremony.

Pretty cool, but the Temple Museum was truly stunning, and rather incongruously situated among the few examples of modern architecture in UB (see the photos for an example of what I mean!).  Mongolians practice a Hindu-influenced version of Buddhism, which was very obvious in the statues and masks here.  We also made the obligatory trip to Terelj and the big statue of Chinggis Khan.  We hired the school receptionist’s brother to drive us, a very charming young man.

I had to laugh because after doing to Turtle Rock, then going on to a few other stops and getting out to walk around a bit, stopping to have lunch at Ainshinn, we decided to head back.  Apparently, this worried him, and he called Annie to ask if there was a problem, if we were uncomfortable in the car or something, because we were heading back to town so soon.  We reassured him that all was well, and he offered to take us to the statue, a nice treat, as I hadn’t seen it. Much, much larger than I expected, and it housed a nice collection of Bronze-age artifacts.

Amusingly, you can climb to the top of the statue and out onto a platform for a view—but you exit the statue from Chinggis’s crotch….   I’m sure there’s something symbolic about that.

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Mongolian Fire-Drill

Different from the Chinese fire drill!   The science lab set off the fire alarm today (it’s 0 degrees outside), so everyone trooped outside.

Here’s a pic of the kids wrapped up in their blankets.  Sorry it’s a bit hazy. I had my phone in my pocket; it must have steamed up when I took it out.

On a different note, Gerald arrives in about six weeks. I’m going to try to set up a couple day trips to places other than Terelj (out to see the Mongolian horses in Hustai, for example).  So with luck I can actually post something different for a change, and give you (and me!) a broader sense of the Mongolian countryside.

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Just found out there were no flights out the day after the conference in Borneo, so we have to stay an extra day.  Wow, an extra day at a 5 star resort in tropical paradise–at the school’s expense.  How will I ever manage….  : )

Here’s the hotel, if you want to drool a bit.

BTW:  Check out this amazing photo essay of life in Ulaanbaatar

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Tsagaan Sar

Tsagaan Sar (Mongolian New Year) starts on Wednesday (can you say four day weekend!?).  It is a HUGE deal here–the Mongolians have been preparing and cleaning for weeks now.  Everyone with cleaners or drivers gives them an extra half-month’s pay in appreciation and to help out with expenses.

There is a lot of visiting, and exchanging of gifts and FOOD.  In fact, they believe that if you are are hungry at all during the first night, you will be hungry for the year so, as you can imagine, they eat a lot!  Buuz (mongolian dumplings), boiled mutton, cookies and these bread platter thingies are the main fare (see the video), along with a salty milk tea.

They make a centerpiece of the bread platters–they have to be stacked in an odd number of rows–then pile yogurt-curd cookies (a very unique taste) on top of those.  Everything served is white (tsagaan sar means “white month”), and the centerpiece can’t be eaten until the last day of Tsagaan Sar.  Here’s a video to give you a sense.  The song he’s singing is a famous Mongolian song–something about the earth and nature. (I’m being horribly vague on all of this, aren’t I?)

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Nanook of the North

Me and.....well, you know!

All bundled up for the 15 minute walk home from school.  No glasses because when I wear the face thingy, my breathing steams them up, and then it freezes and it’s like looking through a cloud!

There’s a pair of silk long johns under the pants, btw.  I need to have Gerald bring some ski-type pants when he comes to break the wind.

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