Weather in UB

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The BBC prompted me to write this

The BBC prompted me to write about 2 things:
1. Asashoruyu (aka Dagvagdorj)/Sumo
2. The HUGE baby born in the Altai region in Russia.

About's huge here. I was over at the Japanese-Mongolian center (funded by the Japanese government) and people were sitting around watching sumo, talking about sumo and eating cymo (Sumo cookies)! Mongolians love wrestling, and when one of their own, Dagvadorj, is on top, they love it even more. Beating the Japanese at their own game! But Dagvadorj has proven to be quite a handful for Japanese Sumo. They've dubbed him the "bad boy" of Sumo. It's all over the Mongolian and Japanese news. Everyone watches his every move. Check out the BBC article

What are they feeding the women in the Altai region? This lady had a 17.5lb (7.75kg) baby. Those are some kind of potatoes, noodles, and tomatoes! Here is the link

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mongolian Hip Hop

Preface: I've spent 2 days trying to get the videos from the hip hop show to load. I have finally conceded. Mongolian Internet: 1/Annie: 0

The exportation of culture or pieces of culture is something that is particularly fascinating to me. I think that one of the most interesting recent exports of western culture is Hip Hop. It’s all over the TV here in Mongolia, and it seems to be a big part of youth culture. When it comes style, Mongolian teens seem to like the same things American teens like: flashy cars, cool clothes, and bling. Even more fascinating is the way these things get adopted or adapted (As Gita Steiner-Khamsi puts it “Mongolized”) and then they become a part of Mongolian culture. Sometimes signs, emblems, or words lose there original meaning and become something completely different.
Last night I went to a Hip Hop concert with some friends. This concert was in honor of the 2 year anniversary of the Mongolian Hip Hop label, 2016 Studio. We got to see a bunch of different acts that are on this label. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised. Some of the groups were really good. One thing that was funny for me was the constant use of words like: “Yo!” and expletives, such as “Motherf&#$%#!” or just plain old “F&%#”. The funniest thing about hearing these words was not that they were out of place with the music, it was just that they seemed to be haphazardly thrown in. Perhaps the goal was to add street creed to the performers. It was obvious that Puff Daddy (aka P. Diddy, Sean “Puffy” Combs) is having his dream of a global empire come true right here in Mongolia. All the performers were wearing Sean Jean, Phat Farm, and Starter Jackets…Whether or not these were legit or Chinese rip-offs is another question.
The performers all were lip syncing, except for the beat-boxers! They were my favorite, because they just got up on stage and did there thing, impromptu. There was also a young boy and girl who rapped together. They were about 10 years old I would say. The little boy had the best stage presence of any of the performers last night. You could tell that he has been watching Jay-Z and Nelly videos. Of course, no Hip Hop show would be complete without scantily clad dancing girls. These particular dancing girls happened to be wearing diaper-like shorts!
I tried to upload the videos I took, but my internet is too slow (shocking). So I checked Youtube...
Here is

Quiza (the only mongolian rapper who doesn't take money from alcohol or cigarette companies):
Now YOU can enjoy Mongolian hip hop too!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Fall in Mongolia

I know I've been a slacker about posting things this week. I guess I've been busy (imagine that!). I do have some great ideas for things I want to blog on. Those are gonna be really good (I promise) once I get the pictures to go with the posts. The story I have for you today, is rare. It's about fall. Mongolians always claim that there are 4 seasons here, just like in the US (I should say, the Midwest). In my two years living here, I never saw 4 seasons, I only saw winter and summer, and those were pretty extreme! Upon reflection, I think there was a week of fall and spring, but those were so quick, they can hardly be called seasons. However, the weather has been so warm here recently (70F today), that I can actually see fall! The oddest thing about the weather is that no one knows what to do. The government turned the heat on in all the buildings on the 15th (last year it snowed in early September). So my apartment is sweltering because it gets lots of sun and the radiators are cranking out heat! I shouldn't complain, it'll be cold soon enough!
On another topic that has to do with global warming, it was a "no car" day in Ulaanbaatar yesterday. Of course, the government forgot to inform the general public so there were these insane traffic jams. They blocked off all the traffic in the heart of the city, forcing all the cars to the outer roads. I don't think there were actually any less cars on the road, but the "no car" day did give kids a chance to ride their bikes on paved roads, and it allowed pedestrians to walk freely without the fear of being run over by a speeding car.
Here are some nice photos from this weeks Hash that show fall in Mongolia. The pictures were taken just outside Terelj, a national park near UB.

Look closely at this one. You can see me walking Pepa and Tsagaana and his owner.

At the risk of having this blog turn into one like my brother-in-laws (, I also had the pleasure of taking Pepa, the fearless, yellow lab for the weekend. She accompanied me on the Hash. There was another dog that did the Hash too. His name is Tsaagana (White one or Whitey). Tsaagana was a street dog and his owner took him in a more or less domesticated him. There is some discussion over whether or not Tsagaana is part wolf. Here is a picture, judge for yourselves.

Pepa was pretty scared of Tsaagana, because Tsaagana is pretty aggressive and protective of his owner. Pepa stayed close and basically dragged me up and down steep hills for 3 hours.
I've got a fun week coming up! I'm going to a huge Mongol Hip Hop show tomorrow. I promise to put up some pics and clips from that. Next weekend is the Gobi Marathon and that should also yield some good pictures and stories. Additionally, I should note that everything is going well on the research front.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Fresh air!

Here I am, enjoying what might be the last nice weekend. It's supposed to snow next week. I still think it's too warm, but this place never ceases to amaze me.

Yesterday's Hash run was so beautiful, I decided to post some pics. We went to the hills just north of UB and it was immediately striking how much cleaner the air is outside the valley I now call home. You can even see the haze of UB in the distance in the picture directly above. The crazy thing is, winter isn't quite here yet. In the winter time, the pollution is even worse because of the ger districts (ger=yurt) that are now popping up on the edges of the city. People who live in gers in this part of the country generally burn coal, and because UB sits in a valley (like LA) the pollution just hangs over you. I'm really looking forward to that!

On our hill climb yesterday we saw the biggest ant hills I've ever seen in my life. I had no idea that ants could make hills this large. Don't ask me what type of ants they are, because I have not idea! The other Hashers in the picture haven't given me permission to use their names, but some of you might recognize at least 2 of them. All in all, it was a great day for hiking, and I got to suck up some clean air.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Binge boiling

My whole family emailed me this article that was in the NY Times about drinking at the University of Wisconsin. Lucky for me I was too busy "studying" at the UW to get obnoxiously drunk and picked up by the police, then to have the Dean of students call my parents.
So today, in true Wisconsin Badger form, I found the one German butcher shop in Mongolia and bought some brats. Since I don't have a grill, I did something that would make any Midwesterner proud (especially my dad) I beer boiled my brats. My local "xync" didn't have any Chingis beer, so I settled for a few cans of Tiger (It's like the Mongolian Miller). You can take the girl outta Wisconsin, but you can't take the Wisconsin outta the girl, eh?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Research blunders

I am supposed to be journaling as part of my research plan and so far I’ve been pretty good about it. Here is a little piece from my personal research journal: I had my first real, official interview today. I was really prepared. After all, I have been preparing for this for nearly a year now. Needless to say, I still managed to forget to check the batteries in my digital recorder and alas, it didn’t work. I did have a pen and paper, so I took notes the old fashioned way. Over all the interview went really well, and I learned a lot. I also planned another meeting with this person. I laughed it off. I think that’s the first thing they teach you in Research 101, “1. Check the batteries.” I’ll just keep telling myself that it happens to everyone once ! The funniest part of the interview was when the secretary brought us glasses of Mongolian wine (at 2 in the afternoon). I was obliged to partake. When in Mongolia, eh? So, yeah, the research is off to a roaring start and I’m sure it’ll only get better.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Come party with Stalin!

Stalin used to stand in front of the State Central Library in Ulaanbaatar, but that just wasn't hip enough for him. Now he is in the middle of the dance floor at the Issmus nightclub. He literally towers over the people who dance below him. My friend said he heard that they actually built the club around the statue. It's about 15 feet high and made of iron. What an interesting place for Stalin to end up.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Vicious Beast or Docile Lab?

Pictures: This is Pepita. What's not to love? The other pictures are of our morning walk.

In a country where “hold the dogs!” is a common countryside greeting, you can only imagine the relationships that Mongolians have with dogs. I was watching my new friends’ dog, Pepita, so I was given the opportunity to walk Pepita through the mean streets of Ulaanbaatar. Pepita is a 2 year old lab. She’s super sweet and playful. Look at the picture…who could be afraid of her? Answer: Mongolians. My friend had remarked that he often feels like he’s walking a Bengali tiger down the street as people literally jump away or panic when they see the dog. For your edification, Mongolians don’t usually keep dogs as house pets. There are many, mean, mangy looking mutts that roam the street here that are quite scary lookin, so people generally have reason to be afraid. Additionally, in the countryside, dogs are often kept outside to guard the ger, the animals, and the family. Hence, before getting out of a car to approach a ger in the countryside, you yell “hold the dogs!”
Walking around with Pepita was a funny experience for me. Walking a dog in this city is anything but typical.

First off, there are no parks, so you have to dodge cars and open manholes, and you really have to pay attention to what the dog is chewing on. In Mongolia, if a mutt dies on the street, the carcass is left there to rot and other animals come and scavenge off that. Also, most people slaughter animals on their balconies and when they are done with the bones, they just launch em out the window. There were a few times where I had to pull a rib or some other animal part out of Pepita’s mouth. I was not about to be responsible for her choking on it. The Mongolians were really surprised when I was playing with her and letting her lick me. This concept was really foreign. I like to think I was a bit of a dog ambassador. Because I can communicate I was telling people about the dog and informing them that she was nice. I'm sure they thought I was insane.
My roommate informed me that Mongolia has a national dog. I couldn’t find any direct link to that, but I did find an article that takes a historical look at dogs in Mongolia

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Mongolian Nationalists

My friends and I have been talking about the Mongolian Nationalist groups that have come to our attention in recent days. They advocate for "traditional Mongolian morals and values." Here is a link to a UB Post article outlining the latest threats from the Nationalist parties. The bottom line here is that most of the jobs and construction projects are funded by Chinese or Korean companies. Therefore, many of the workers are Korean and Chinese. Unemployment is high in Mongolia, so people really resent this.

I wonder where the Nationalist parties draw the line? I saw them on TV the other day and they were all outfitted in Western army fatigues. Perhaps they didn't realize that the very clothes they were wearing were most likely made in China. I would recommend that they wear a "traditional" Mongolian deel, but most of the silk and fabric here is also made in China.

I'll keep you posted on what these guys do next.

My blog is blocked in China!

Picture: UB in the distance, near the Zaisan Memorial

This just in: My friend Alec (of Alec and Tosca's wedding) just notified me that my blog is blocked in China! Subversive material, no doubt.

Aside from the very important research I am laying the groundwork for, I’ve been partaking in many activities. First off, I joined a gym. It’s called “The Energy Fitness ANT” gym. I have no idea what “ANT” stands for. It’s relatively inexpensive and they have a few treadmills, bikes, weight machines, etc. Additionally they offer great classes. My favorite so far has been “Combat Class”. It brings me back to my kickboxing days. Just to attest to the difficulty of the class, 10 of us started and 4 of us finished the class. Mind you, I’m usually the only foreigner and I’m generally twice the size of my female, Asian counterparts. They marvel over that fact that I’m fatter than them, yet somehow I can work out longer and stronger! ARGH! The gym is also a great place to practice my Mongolian because the classes are in Mongolian. Hopefully phrases like, “jump higher” will come up often in my research.
I also joined the Hash House Harriers. Many of you are familiar with the group, if not members yourselves. Apparently the UB group is pretty chilled out. We actually only have about a month left until we pack up shop for the winter. For those of you who don’t know, Hash is an international running/walking group with a whole lotta party!
Thus far, UB is a pretty great place to live. Sometimes the cars and pollution are too much to take. I realize, however, that I will be in the countryside before I know it, so I should soak up the perks of city life while I can. I found a great vegetarian restaurant across from my office. It’s owned by a Mongolian who studied Yoga in India and believes in a meat free, fat free, sugar free diet. For those of you who know anything about Mongolian cuisine, this goes against everything in this culture. Oddly enough, at lunch time, this place is packed. Maybe they all go home and eat huge, fatty chunks of meat.