Weather in UB

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Going, going

View from balcony August 2007
View from balcony July 2008
This Sunday is my last day in Mongolia (for now). This also mean the end of this blog (for now). I don't know what my next undertaking will be, but I am leaving this country having successfully completed my research. I even earned myself a Masters degree.
I'm not really sure what to end with, but I dug up a picture I took when I first moved in my apartment in late August 2007 and I'm putting it next to a picture of my view now. As you can see there is a major building boom here in UB. This place is changing daily. It'll be interesting to see what transpires in Mongolia both politically and socially in the coming months and years.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Mongol:

I saw the movie Mongol last night. I was lucky enough to be sitting with a physical anthropologist who focuses on the region. This movie was so historically inaccurate, it was nerve wrecking. It should be tagged "The un-true story of Genghis Khan". The actual story of Chinggis Khan's life, as depicted in The Secret History, is far more interesting then Sergei Bodrov's fictional script. Not to mention the fact that the movie seems to lump Central Asian culture (from multiple centuries) in to one pan-Mongolian theme (Uzbek clothes, Tibetan earrings, Turkmen rugs and head scarves, Kazakh gers...) The film also depicts Borte (Chinggis Khan's wife) as slutty, which is sick. Borte is held high in Mongolian culture as a devote wife and mother, and almost a goddess. The actors (Chinngis is played by a Japanese actor) speak Mongolian in the movie...or at least you think they do. Mongolian is not my native language, but I can say with certainty that their Mongolian was awful. Especially the actor who played Jamukah. I guess they made them speak Mongolian to make the movie seem foreign and interesting. To me it just made it seem ridiculous.
I totally understand why my Mongolian friends said the movie was terrible. It's just another movie wrongly depicting Mongolians and Mongolian history. I suppose if you watch it as a work of pure fiction (which it is) you may be able to appreciate the cinematography.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Highlights from Beijing

My friend and I took a long weekend in Beijing last week and these pics are some of the highlights of that trip. I had major culture shock in Beijing because UB is nothing like that! We had a great time and oddly enough when we landed back in UB we were both happy to be home. The weather in China was pretty rainy and smoggy/foggy. It looked like they are pretty well prepared for the Olympics minus the pollution. However, if you are thinking of going during the Olympics, good luck getting a Visa because the regulations have changed and Visa's are being denied left and right (at least in UB). Warning sign in the hutong (click on it to read the fine print)
Great wall under great clouds
Taking the cable car down from the wall
Jocelyn and I renting bikes-the best thing to do in Beijing
The Forbidden City
Bill Clinton sat in the cable car I sat in
Ulaana storms the Great Wall in honor of the Mongols
Mao!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Bee Venom Therapy

bee keeper has the bee in hand
bee keeper pushes the stinger into my arm
The stinger in my arm (it hurt the longer I kept it in)
I thought I was just being a tough chic, but apparently bee stings are therapeutic. Taking a chance and letting the beekeeper sting me with a live honey bee in far eastern Mongolia (days from the nearest hospital) wasn't stupid...it may have in fact made me healthier!
http://www.ahealthyme.com/topic/beevenom :

People who use bee venom for medicinal purposes don't wait around for random insect attacks. Using long tweezers, they pick up live honey bees (which they've usually raised themselves), put the insects next to their skin, and let them do what comes naturally. You might have thought that your single encounter with a bee was enough, but people undergoing apitherapy may get stung 80 times a day or more.

Why would anyone subject himself to such pain? Because bee stings are thought to help ease the symptoms of a wide variety of diseases, including arthritis, multiple sclerosis, tendonitis, and fibromyalgia; they're also thought to promote desensitization to bee stings. These claims don't come from beekeepers looking for a profit; they're made by patients whose experience with bee venom has turned them into believers. One woman says that 80 stings every other day helped reverse her rheumatoid arthritis. A woman with multiple sclerosis found that the leg spasms she'd been having calmed down after she started using bees to sting herself a few times each day.

Thanks to Rachel for taking these pictures!

Friday, July 4, 2008

More Dornod pictures

Taking a break from the tension of the past few days here in UB (things are calm now), Todd gave me a CD with the pictures he took of our Dornod trip. These pictures prove to me that professional photographers really do take better photos then us normal people. I picked these pictures from over 400 on the CD. You can click on them and see bigger versions.
I recently spent a weekend in Beijing too. I'll be sure to post some pictures from that trip soon.
Enjoy!
http://www.toddforsgren.com If you wanna see more of his stuff!

Old woman giving post-rain offering to the gods in Sumber.
The beekeeper and his bees
Bullseye in Choibalsan
Strike, Choibalsan
Happy parents of Yussentumor
The sweetest candid shoot of Saraa's older brother playing with Saraa's cute baby!
Sumber Buddha's, up close and personal
I hope you enjoyed these and remember to check out Todd's site.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Shock: Post election riots

There really isn't much I can say. There were protests outside the MPRP (Mongolian Peoples Revolutionary Party) headquarters yesterday. It started out being over allegations of election fraud, but turned into something different and ugly.

http://www.mongolia-web.com

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7483286.stm

I have a feeling that some people here are frustrated. Frustrated with unemployment, lack of services and they felt the need to take it out on the ruling party. Sadly, they burned a large portion of the MPRP building (possibly burning the archives) and the looted a nearby art gallery and the State Symphony. It's a sad day for Mongolia.
Check out these blogs: http://asiangypsy.blogspot.com/
http://www.terrycom.net/blog/

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Steppe Adventure

I think our trip out to Dornod (Choibalsan, Buir Nuur, Sumber and Khalkh Gol) is best expressed in a photo-blog.
We drove 14 hours in the public Furgon (UAZ) to Choibalsan on a relatively overcast and nice day. 14 hours was a pretty short drive and we got there with no problems. We spent 2 days in Choibalsan where I got to show my UB friends around and catch up with all my old Choibalsan friends.

Ochiroo and I outside the Light Center Orphanage

Toroo's baby, Yussentumor (9 metals) PreNadaam archery contest in Choibalsan (Sidenote: They are shooting in the direction of the Mormon church)

1939 commemorative tank in "Friendship Park" in Choibalsan
Lenin looks over the rubble of the old Russian section of Choibalsan
1939 war statue and mosaic, outside the Choibalsan Museum
After being in Choibalsan for 2 days, we jumped into the "Dornod 6000" and headed for Buir Nuur. It was ride filled with very flat landscape, steppe eagles, gazelles, and herds. Because we were going to a border area, we had to stop at a few military outposts and register. We had special permission from the government in UB to go to these areas. The military posts were so random and remote , but all the "roads" led to them. There were always little , scrappy kids playing around outside who were pumped full of candy, a delicacy from the city.
The Dornod 6000

Stretching a military checkpoint
Amazing steppe land
When we were close to Buir Nuur, we weren't sure if we were actually seeing the lake or a mirage. It was just looming on the horizon. Once it was in full view, we were all instantly in awe. Large bodies of water are rare in Mongolia (minus lake Hovsgol) and we could not see across this lake.
Buir Nuur, China 11 miles in the distance

Buir Nuur at sunset, Annie, Rachael and Todd in their skivvies.
After the lake we went to Khalkh gol soum which apparently used to have a large, wonderful orchard. However, after the Russians left, the orchard fell apart. Now animals graze at bushes and trees. I bet it was nice to have fresh fruit back in the day. After that we went on to Sumber to see Ikh Burkhant. Consequently the shrine is located next to a military check point . They found some flaws in our documents and ordered us to take some cute kids, a pregnant woman and an old man in our car to the next town as punishment...cute kids as punishment, ha! On the way to Sumber soum we stopped at several war moments. They were a strange site out on open steppe land.
IKH BURKHANT INFO: a huge image of Janraisig (Avalokitesvara in Sanskrit) carved into the hillside. The carving was commissioned in 1864 by local regent Bat Ochiriin Togtokhtooriin, or To van (van means ‘lord’) and was reconstructed between 1995 and 1997. Source
Ikh Burkhant at a distance

Ikh Burkhant

2 of the cute kids we had to drive to the next town
1939 war monument
1939 Khalkhiin gol war museum, Sumber
What the war may have looked like: panorama inside the Sumber Museum
Memorial to the soldiers inside the Sumber Museum. Sumber is kind of a sad town. You can see remnants of businesses and buildings that used to be. However, after the Russians left, everything was dismantled. We did get to see some really great community horticulture which my friend Todd is photo documenting. We also visited a bee keeper and his bees. He convinced me that getting stung by a bee had medicinal properties and that I should allow him to sting me. The fool that I am, I let him. He picked a bee outta the bunch and jabbed it in my arm. I had to keep the stinger in for 30 seconds (pictures to come). At first it didn't hurt that bad, but then it hurt like hell. Thank GOD I hadn't developed an allergy to bee stings. Consequently, I do feel stronger! Sadly, it is not the season for honey yet. We drove back to Buir Nuur for one more night and a 1/2 day of swimming, and headed to Choibalsan.
We stayed one more night with my friend Naranbayar in Choibalsan and caught the furgon home on Saturday morning at 9. It was raining... a lot. Rain is a huge problem on roads with no pavement. Needless to say, it took us 12 hours just to go 123 km (72 miles) . The entire day was about getting stuck in the mud and pushing the cars out. With public buses like this, 2 buses travel together on long journeys to bail each other out. However, we had to rely on bigger cars like the the one pictures below. All in all it took 20 hours to get back to UB. It was rough for us as we were sitting next to the engine block the whole time (in the UAZ, the motor is actually next to the driver, so the people in the row behind him have a big engine block which is about 10,000 degrees burning their legs). We drove through the night and finally made it home.
Pushing
Big car to the rescue
Some of these pictures are care of Christian Packard. His blog is here: http://altanzam.blogspot.com/
and for another view of the trip check out Todd's website: http://www.toddforsgren.com/MNblog17.html that link will take you directly to his post on Dornod.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Dornod!

On Friday my friends and I are going to embark on a journey of somewhat epic proportions. Well, it's only "epic" because most of it has no road, just bumpy, dusty paths. We are driving from UB to Choibalsan, Dornod Aimag (650km, 300km paved) which should take about 17hours. This trip 2 years ago (pre-pavement) took 24 hours to several days! Hooray for pavement! Let's hope they paved the road well so that it survives many ice cold winters and super hot summers!
We are going to spend 2 days in Choibalsan hanging out with my friends there and enjoying some time on the shores of the mighty Kherlen river. My friends are particularly interested in seeing the old Russian parts of the "city" (50,000 people). We'll go to the Lenin statue and the Choibalsan museum. It should be fun. During the week we are going to drive out on the open steppe to Buir Nuur, a lake that is 90% in Mongolia and 10% in China. Then we will visit Khalkh Gol which Russian history buffs know is the place where Russian fought Japan in 1939, leading to the start of WWII. We will then go on to a small soum called Sumber which has a giant buddha "Ikh Burhan" (Great God) built in stone into the side of a hill. Sumber is also know for it's honey which I cannot wait to taste!
I promise to take lots of pictures. The weather here has actually been quite hot so hopefully we will get to do some swimming in all of these waterways!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Re-appreciation

Pitt students assembling a ger
"Khudor" guarding the gers
A horse race
Herds coming home at dusk
Sunset in Bayanchandman
I was helping the ACMS guide a group of University of Pittsburgh students who were in Mongolia as a part of a study abroad program that looks at China and it's periphery. This year they focused on Inner and Outer Mongolia. I just got back form spending 3 days in Tov Aimag, Bayanchandman (Mongolian for: Rich past, present and future) soum. This soum is on the "Darkhan road", about 60 minutes outside UB. There we got to stay with a herder family, build a ger, ride horses, do some sightseeing, slaughter a sheep and a goat, and eat a tasty hurhog (delicious pressure cooked meat). The best thing about a hurhog is that they use hot rocks to help cook the meat. They heat the rocks in the fire and then put all the meat and ingredients into a canister with the hot rocks and let it cook. When its finished they take out the rocks and everyone juggles hot rocks in there hands, covering themselves with oil. It's supposed to be good for your health! The great thing about this trip for me was watching the students discover and realize things for the first time. Not much surprises me anymore having lived here on and off for nearly 3 years. It's nice to be reminded about how unique Mongolian culture is.
Note on the weather. The herders said that the weather is about 3 weeks behind where it shoudl be. If you look at the pics you will see that this area hasn't gotten much rain. Which means the animals aren't fattening up. I was looking forward to the first airag of the season, but that'll have to wait a few weeks.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

blocked! access forbidden....

If this is a free, open, and democratic country, why can't I access my blog? I asked myself this question last week, when my ISP blocked blogger. Today they are blocking www.registan.net
If you can access registan.net, it's a great site with all kinds of stuff about Central Asia. Now, what does Mongolia have against registan.net?? Probably nothing. I doubt it's deliberately blocked. My server might run off a Chinese server, and I'm sure the Chinese government has a problem with registan.net. If this is the case, it's unfortunate that I am being subjected to censorship.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A little weather came our way


This morning I woke up to snow. It's not uncommon to see snow in Mongolia in May and often well into June. That doesn't mean that I'm still not surprised when it happens. It's strange to see green trees confused, cold, and covered with snow. Sadly, the snow fall does not stop the construction that now plagues my ears day and night. These are pics from my window.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Contemporary Mongol Jams!

Lots of you said you wanted to hear more Mongol Indie Rock. Here are some Youtube Links to some cool bands. If other Mongols know about other bands, leave a comment.
Pilots
A Sound
Mongol Hip-Hop!
Tatar
Mongol R&B
Bold

Enjoy...that Tatar video is hilarious

Rockin UB

Totally Rocking
Totally sick and still rocking (the face mask isn't a prop. Generally, when people are sick in Asia, they wear a face mask).

Some friends and I were lucky to catch some great Mongolian rock bands the other night at the UB Club. The audience was predominantly Mongolian, the atmosphere was great and the music was really good. Most of the people there were teenagers who were really excited to be seeing cool rock bands playing. These teens have yet to develop hipster indifference when it comes to music. They were jumping around and having a blast...I was too.
video video
Other UB stuff that's going on: It was 85F yesterday and today it turned back to winter with a current temp of 36F at 1:30pm. It's also snowing. Spring in Mongolia is notorious for crazy weather. It's just too bad because it was a really beautiful weekend and it looks like it'll be a blustery week.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Outbreak!

The Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease (HFMD), or as my Mongol nedz call it "the disease from China" has gotten much worse. They closed all the primary schools and other places that children frequent...like the Tengis Movie Theater. This was particularly upsetting to me because Tengis was supposed to get the new Indiana Jones movie. I really wanna see it. Anyway, I think it's great that the government and Ministry of Health moved quickly to close schools and slow down the spread of the disease. The sad part is, apparently 100 people a day are becoming infected (mostly 2-4 years old). The other crazy thing is the amount of MIS-information going around. People were saying that is was in the food coming from China and others were saying it was in the water. Some people have been keeping their small children indoors for nearly 2 weeks even though the disease is not airborne. It's only transmitted by touch. It's an ugly disease, that's for sure. You get sores on yer tongue, hands and the bottoms of yer feet. The Ub Post covered the outbreak this week.
The other big news around here is the coming election. It's gonna be an interesting election year considering that many Mongolians are dissatisfied with the parliamentarians. Come June it will be election madness with concerts everyday, free stuff being thrown at me, and lots of promises. Just like the USA.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Spring is over

I think there was a week of spring, and suddenly everyone is saying it's summer. Mongolians always say they have 4 seasons here, but I think it's just 2, summer and winter. A week of fall and spring don't count for much in my book. It's 70F here today, but I remember from my days in Choibalsan, the weather here can change back to winter quite quickly. Snow in June is not uncommon.
Here are some pics from a recent Hash House Harriers run/walk
Smoggy UB in the distance
Trees!

The view from the top