Weather in UB

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Preparing for Tsaagan Sar

Ice covered sidewalk, just outside Parliament. I doubt the Parliamentarians walk to work

Fishy ice sculpture in Sukhbaatar Square.Tsaagan Sar market-FAT tailed sheep, outside the Lenin Museum aka Freedom Square
Tsaagan Sar Market- Milk vendors

As promised, here are some nice pictures of life in Ulaanbaatar.
Well, Actually the first one is not so nice. I fall nearly every day here. Everyone does, or they just slip and slide their way down the sidewalk. In the middle of all the sidewalks here, the ice is smooth and black from people literally sliding wherever they are going. It makes it really treacherous for those of us who just want to walk normally.
I was showing a friend around town today and I suggested we check out the Tsaagan Sar market. I don't think he had every seen so many animal carcasses just hanging out of the backs of cars! Some of the dead sheep had come from far Western Mongolia. As every good Mongol knows, meat tastes different from different parts of the country. I, however, can't tell the difference between mutton from Uvs or mutton from Khenti. The Tsaagan Sar market also had all kinds of white food: arrul, uruum, and other dairy product delicacies.
I also showed my friend the giant bust of Lenin that is inside the old museum. They are currently doing renovations in there, but I think the bust is gonna stay. Maybe it'll be a dance club or something!
V.I. Lenin and I inside the Lenin Museum

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Waiting to inhale

My courtyard with the garbage collection in the a.m., pollution looming.

Rounding the corner, trying not to inhaleVisibility, less than a mile

If the pollution wasn't there you would see a ger district in the hills.
I promise I'll write something that shows this city in a positive light soon! I think the winter blues are getting me. The mornings are the worst here. No one wants to leave the house because the air is so bad. I go to the gym everyday to get rid of my excess energy and to clear my head for thesis writing. Perhaps I'll take some pictures at the gym! I took these pics this morning around 10am. The taxi driver actually encouraged me to take pictures. I told him that my friends didn't understand how bad the pollution problem is here.
Usually by the middle of the day it clears up a bit, only to get awful again at night.
I can't wait to get outta the city!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Why I'm called Ulaana

Some people call me Ulaana because of my red hair. Other people call me Ulaana because of my red cheeks!

I took some cold weather pics. After walking home today, I ran inside, grabbed my camera and headed for my balcony. It's a start! I think I'll take the camera outside of my home today! I know I lived here for 2 years before, but I guess I forgot how cold -40F actually is. To be honest, after -10F it all feels the same to me...unless there is wind. The worst thing about living in UB in this weather is the pollution. As you can see in the picture, that haze is pure smoke. The smoke comes from gers, cars, and coal burning power plants. This picture was taken at 11:30 am. Just for reference, in the summer, you can see the mountains in the distance. In the winter, I'm lucky if I can see the building across from mine!
I still love it here for some odd reason. I was at the disco on Saturday night and a Mongolian man turned to me and in English said, "it's Mongolia, you never know what's gonna happen." He said it!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Thick Blood

It's been a while since I wrote anything. I haven't succumb to vodka poisoning , although there are still 750 bottles of poison vodka somewhere in this country. The speculation is that herders bought those bottles and because herders live in very remote places, they may not know that they have been recalled. YIKES.
Winter weather has really hit Mongolia with a vengeance in the past week or so. Records were broken all over the country last week for lows. Usually at this time of year it starts to warm up at the end of the "9 sets of 9". During the first set of 9, cows horns freeze. There are different indicators throughout the 9's. Somewhere in the middle vodka freezes, and then it gets warmer with different warm weather indicators. The city folks I live around laugh when I bring up the 9's, but in the countryside, following the 9's is serious business. All I know is that it's 9:45am and it's -31F. Yuck.
I promise to take some winter pics of UB for you all to see. It's just that it's so cold and to take off my gloves and expose my hands is frightening. I'll have to get a little fur coat for my camera too.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Vodka free Tsagaan Sar?

Tsagaan Sar (White Month) is coming up, and police and politicians are appealing to the people to think twice about drinking vodka. My Tsagaan Sar experiences have been so vodka soaked, it's hard to imagine a celebration here without it. However, the general consensus is that it might actually be MORE enjoyable if you are not being forced to drink.
Below is an article from the UB Post
Illegal Vodka Production Uncovered in Police Raid
Written by Ch.Sumiyabazar
Thursday, January 10, 2008.
An illegal vodka distilling factory in the Songinokhairkhan District of Ulaanbaatar was discovered in a police raid last Sunday.
The Uurag Altai company, whose operation license was halted two years ago, was found distilling vodka with the fake label “Morit Khangai”, whose vodka has killed 14 people and hospitalized dozens of others. Also found were 200 liters of chemicals used in producing vodka, fake covers and print labels. “The small room where this business was conducted was horrible, small, and had a terrible stench. A container used for mixing chemicals was unclean. There were no safety or hygienic standards at all,” said a police officer.

Last week, two additional deaths were reported due to tainted vodka produced by the Asian Wolf company in Baganuur District that killed eleven people on New Year’s Eve. The deaths followed an emergency situation banning sales, distribution and bottling of alcoholic products in the metropolitan area. More than 60 people are receiving medical treatment in local hospitals in Baganuur, around 30 are in UB hospital due to poisoning. Relatives and families of those who died, received compensation of Tg900,000 each by the Government.
Chief officers of the professional inspection agency and local police department of the Baganuur District were released from their posts and held responsible for the situation. The Government of Mongolia last Friday invalidated production licenses of 11 alcohol producers including: Akhmadiin Khuch Cooperative, Mon Service, Gazriin Sudas, Tasiin OD, En Trade, Nomin, Lenda, Mongolyn Alt, Durvun Khangai, Setgeshgui Tergel, and Gun Galuut companies. In addition, production of 44 alcohol-bottling companies has been suspended for an indefinite period.
The Government has said that a number of laws on vodka production will be tightened in an effort to reduce illegal alcohol production and marketing. Several laws will be amended including those on commercial advertising, telecommunications, public radio and television, the application process for a special license of operation, and laws against drunkenness.
The Deputy Premier M.Enkhbold, appealed to the public not to celebrate the upcoming holiday, Tsagaan Sar lunar new year, with vodka. The city Mayor’s office, together with the metropolitan police department, raided all vodka businesses in the city and closed down 3,949 shops temporarily, where 39,400 liters of vodka were seized, sealed down 1.2 million bottles of vodka, and shut down the operation of 11 distillers.
“The local authority is buying specifically labeled vodkas from local individuals and destroying them,” said G.Gerelmaa, an officer of the district government. She denied recent media reports that said the drinking water and sanitation system of the district was polluted due to people disposing of toxic vodka.
Inhalation, ingestion or skin absorption of methanol is extremely dangerous to humans and ingestion is fatal. It is hazardous to the kidney, liver and heart. Exposure may cause serious eye damage including blindness. A number of workers from the Asian Wolf vodka distilling company were hospitalized, as they were bottling the tainted alcohol. “The Director General of the company, S.Monkhbat, is also in the hospital from drinking the poisoned vodka he produced,” said Gerelmaa. Also, two police officers came back to Ulaanbaatar hospitalized after they worked in Baganuur, loading trucks with poisonous vodkas. “Seven men are under investigation in connection with the importation of 600 liters of methanol, industrial strength alcohol,” said M.Ganbold, Chief of the General Police Department. After the strict ban was enforced, the police said crime rate dropped dramatically. The Metropolitan Police Department said it has lifted bans in small number of shops in Ulaanbaatar, but the full ban in Baganuur District continues.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Poison Vodka

Currently there is a prohibition on alcohol in Ulaanbaatar. I heard that 20 people died from poison vodka. The government decided that since they didn't know where it was coming from, they would suspend the sale of ALL alcohol (the article below says just vodka) until it gets cleared up. It's been a major topic of conversation. I had 2 taxi drivers tell me how nice this city is without drunks around. I must say, this is definitely a different city booze-free. It works out ok for me as I am sick and taking antibiotics,so I can't drink anyway...not that I would want to on Monday morning!
from the Australia News Agency:
ELEVEN new year revellers in Mongolia died and dozens more fell seriously ill after drinking vodka that contained industrial alcohol.
The incident has led to a temporary ban on selling vodka - the nation's favourite alcoholic drink - in the capital Ulan Bator, where the tainted liquor was purchased, Mayor Tudev Bilegt said.
The 11 people died shortly after drinking the vodka on New Year's Eve, while at least 35 others were taken to hospital suffering from poisoning, the National Emergency Management Agency said.
Two of the patients were in a critical condition, according to officials at the Central Military Hospital, where the most seriously poisoned were taken.
Authorities did not give details as to who the victims were, but television reports said many of them were at the same New Year's Eve party.
The killer vodka is believed to have come from one company, which produces eight different brands, according to the government's inspection agency. The agency warned all Mongolians to avoid buying those labels.
The inspection agency said the company mixed an industrial alcohol into the vodka, and that as many as 3000 litres of the killer product could have been made.
Mr Bilegt said the ban on all vodka would remain in place until an investigation was concluded into how and why the poisoned alcohol was made and got onto the streets.
Local press reports said one man had already been arrested for selling the industrial alcohol to the vodka company, although authorities had not confirmed this.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

I had a very Russian New Mongolistan!

At the stroke of midnight-celebrating!
Filipino cover band, at Strings, in Ulaanbaatar, MONGOLIA!
My friends and I decided to go to Strings, a club in UB for New Years Eve. We had contortionists, clowns, and a Filipino cover band for entertainment. I should say, it was a mostly Filipino cover band, as the bass player was from Colombia. The most interesting part for me (aside from the dancing and drinking I did) was the amount of Russians and/or Russian speakers at the club. Every person who talked to me started in Russian, and then stared at me blankly when I responded in Mongolian telling them I didn't speak Russian. I guess we were all making assumptions. As it turns out, most of the people I was befriending were in fact Russian Buryats. Buryats are a Mongolian tribe that are mainly concentrated in, or around Ulan Ude in Russia. A few of the encounters were awkward as Buryats are ethnically Mongolian, so I was speaking to them and get really weird looks back. There were some Mongolian Buryats there to bridge the gap, but it was funny to be talking to someone, assuming you have some shared language, only to find out that you don't. All in all it was a fun New Years party. My new Moldovan-American friend actually won a bottle of champagne in the raffle (see video below).
So I have 2 videos for you. The first is the Filipino band appeasing the majority Russian crowd by playing this Russian pop song that I hear everyday. They even invited a Russian lady on stage to sing with them. Sorry I don't know who sings this song, maybe my Russian friends can fill in the blank here...

The next video is "Edgardo Elegante" accepting his award!

Happy 2008 Everyone!