Here are a couple crazy things I bet you didn’t know about Ulaanbataar. I should preface this by saying this is not a social commentary, just things I’ve heard or observed.
Apparently there are 300 cars registered in UB EVERYDAY!!! Mongolia has about 2.5 million people in it, and just over half of them live in UB. 300 cars a day! Isn't that mind blowing? No wonder I can’t cross the street! Soon, I won’t be able to breathe either!
Second thing, with cold weather comes a variety of cold weather surprises like frozen vomit. I’m not kidding. I’m not trying to be mean, but the amount of frozen vomit that can be found on the street here is alarming to me. This was noted by another foreigner just last week, so I know it’s not just me. What’s the deal? I asked my Mongolian teacher and she noted that Mongolians have very weak stomachs. She also said that vodka may have something to do with it. Using my vomit-o-meter, I can tell that people have been eating tsuivan, a “quick” Mongolian dish made with noodles, meat, fat, oil, carrots and cabbage. Seeing this regurgitated and frozen on the ground all over town makes me never want to eat tsuivan again. I guess I just have a different cultural construction about appropriate places to puke. For that matter, urinating or pooping are also differently constructed and handled here. UB has this weird convergence of city and countryside, and consequently very few public toilets (the ones that do exist you have to pay for) so I see kids (4 years old or younger) pooping in street at least once a week. It’s customary to pretend like you don’t see it and just keep walking. I even saw a kid, with his mothers assurance, poop about 30 feet from the Sukhbataar statue on the square. Oddly, I was the only one who was even acknowledging this scene. All of this gets me thinking about how we determine what is or is not acceptable, and for whom at what age. I'm obviously the odd man out in this context. I would love for a Mongolian in the States to tell me about all the strange observations that they have about Americans. There is one thing that Mongolians always tell me they think is weird: blowing your nose into a tissue and putting it in your pocket. The whole idea of blowing your nose indoors is strange to Mongolians. Ergo, notions of acceptability vary based on time and place. (ZING!)