Weather in UB

Monday, March 31, 2008

If yer gonna steal from me, do it right!

Today I had an experience that made me so mad that I’m using my blog as an outlet to vent. I went to a bookstore to see what they had and I ended up buying a Mongolian magazine to send to a friend in the states. I was on my way to buy some food at the market so I had my backpack with me. I put the magazine in my otherwise empty backpack and went outside. Because there was virtually nothing in the backpack, I put it on my back. If there had been something valuable in it, I would have been wearing it on my front. I got stuck in between traffic and this 18 (Maybe 19) year old young man, tried to unzip my bag. Being aware, I felt it, broke through traffic, he followed and I turned around. Then I yelled and berated him in Mongolian (he was shocked). Luckily, he didn’t get anything as the only thing there was to get was a Cosmopolitan-esque Mongolian magazine. It just really pissed me off. This is the first time (this year) someone has tried to steal from me (that I know of). For me, it calls everything into question. I reminded myself not to let one failed mugging attempt effect me so drastically…The rest of my shopping experience went off without a hitch. I just hate to think of myself as a target just because I'm foreign, a woman, or wearing a backpack. Ugh!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

North Korean Circus

video video
The North Korean circus was in town last week. A group of friends and I figured this was probably as close as we would ever get to North Korea, so we went to the Mongol Circus and checked it out.
Apparently Asashoruyu (Dagvadorj, the Mongolian Yokozuna sumo wrestler) bought and remodeled the wrestling palace. In his remodeling plan, he failed to think of people over 5 feet tall. None of us could fit in these seats. You think a sumo wrestler would have considered that.James demonstrating how difficult it was for him to fit.
The North Korean Circus was also a diplomatic venue as the President of Mongolia was sitting a few rows in front of us. Also in attendance was the "Ulaan Lama". He was in the row in front of us and is one of the most famous and respected Lamas in Mongolia. He is the guy who decides what dates Tsagaan Sar will be celebrated on based on astrology and other calculations.
The performance itself was great! It wasn't Cirque de Soleil, but it had it's moments of suspense and grandeur.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Where does your dog play?

Pepa posing with the animal loving grandpa
A few flowers and a good scrub could really help.
Santi and Pepa playing by the zodiac signs
The dogs drinking fecal in the mote (not so healthy!)
Disgusting Pepa
I'm dog sitting for Pepa again. This time it's been really fun. My friend Brian is trying to socialize his Mongolian street dog, Santi and because Pepa is such a sweet heart, she has accepted Santi as a friend. It's also been great because I found a way into the Children's Park that has recently been fenced off. Apparently the president of Mongolian owns the Children's Park now and there is some discussion as to whether or not he intends to keep the park or develop the property. Considering that it's pretty much the last open "green" space in UB, I would vote for keeping it.
Right now it's kind of sad looking, but a little clean up and landscaping could go a long way! The Children's Park has a big castle with a mote around it in the center. The mote is currently home to what smells like raw sewage. On one of our park adventures, Pepa decided to lead Santi into the mote and get disgustingly dirty.
There is also a pack of dogs that "guards" the park. They usually hassle us on the way in and out. I just motion like I am going to throw a rock at them and they back off. The walk to the park is actually the most dangerous because we walk through a ger district where there are about 15 dogs that see Pepa as fresh meat.
The Santi/Pepa partnership is gonna be great when we start running with Hash House Harriers in a few weeks!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Bringing Central Asia Together with Plov


Uccblk Kylb- Ulaanbataar, Mongolia
I convinced Christan to try the Uccblk restaurant tonight. To be honest, it didn't take much convincing as we were both eager to try some mutton with spices, which is pretty much what Uzbek and Kyrgyz food is as opposed to Mongolian food which is mutton without spices.
First we were both a little surprised by the strange spelling of Uzbek (Uccblk). We went inside and were greeted by a friendly Mongolian staff.
I was really excited to finally try some of the Central Asian food my family and friends have raved about for so long. I pretty much told Christian what we had to order. Once we got the menu we were treated to another surprise. Apparently the Uccblk Club is a Kyrgyz-centric restaurant (see pictures). When the waiter came he told us "we have kyrgyz lagman, kyrgyz plov, and kyrgyz beshbormak." I foolishly said "well, beshbormak is Kazakh food too, right?" To which he replied, "No, our chef is Kyrgyz." Long story short, we had a kyrgyz chef at the Uccblk restaurant make us lagman and plov in Ulaanbataar, Mongolia. I guess it's not THAT strange, but you generally don't find other Central Asians in Mongolia.
Having never had lagman before, and only hearing Jake go on and on about how amazing the stuff was while searching the Buhkaran Jewish section of NYC during Passover only to find the lagman restaurant closed, really built up my expectations. Maybe the lagman tastes better in Bishkek, Kashgar, Tashkent, or New York. We deemed this lagman "Central Asian Spaghetti". It was muttony noodles. The Mongols have a similar dish called tsuivan. The plov, however, was very tasty. Christian remarked that it tasted like the plov his host mother in Buryatia. In my mind, that gave it extra bonus points.
Next time I'm going to try the upscale "Tashkent" restaurant. That's the other "Uzbek" restaurant in town. Then I can compare the plov! On the way out of Uccblk Club I peeked in the kitchen to try and steal a glimpse of the Kyrgyz chef, but to be honest, everyone in the kitchen looked Mongolian and was speaking Mongolian. Perhaps she is from the elusive Mongolian speaking minority supposedly living around Lake Issyk Kul....
Enjoy the photos!

"Jewish Salad"- Absolutely nothing about this salad looked Jewish to me.
Plov- MMmmmMMmmm
A bit about Kyrgyzstan, in Russian , at the Uccblk Club, in Mongolia
Pictures of Issyk Kul and the beautiful city of Bishkek
"Kyrgyz" food
Central Asian Spaghetti-AKA Lagman

Monday, March 10, 2008

You know it's spring when...

Technically, spring has arrived. When Tsaagan Sar ends, this marks the beginning of spring. I must admit, the first hints of spring are around:
I can go outside wearing just a pair of jeans (no long underwear).
I finally retired my fur hat for the season.
I went for a jog OUTSIDE around Sukhbataar Square in the morning (it was still a windy 10F).
All the ice skating rinks in UB are more like icy pools.
I don't smell quite so much like a chimney when I come in from outside.
I can see more than a mile in the morning.
I've been reassured that the ger districts actually DO exist (couldn't see them through the smoke since October).
The smell of urine thawing (especially around building corners) has begun to permeate through the air.
I've seen people riding bicycles.
There is talk of people checking in the hospital to "rest" (common spring practice).
People seem to have forgotten how awful and cold winter is.
I was even able to take a hike with some pals on Saturday just outside UB. The mountains were a little snowy and I was a little breathless, but it was a beautiful day and it reminded me of how pretty this place can be.
The long, ugly UB winter definitely has an effect on the psyche. I might be jinxing myself, but I hope it stays nice, calm, and with highs in the upper 40s, for a few weeks. It will give me strength before the dust storms!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Geocaching

Somewhere in the middle of the taiga in Hovsgol province, my sister jokingly said "Wow, this would be a good place to hide some stuff for geocaching." Naturally, I had no idea what geocaching was. My sister explained that people with GPS hide stuff, put the coordinates on the web and people hunt for the cache. I did some research and found out that people have actually hidden stuff around Lake Hovsgol (November 2006/February 2007) that has not been found. If only we would have had a GPS!!! Who knows what treasures we may have uncovered?
http://www.geocaching.com/
Honestly, I think it's fascinating that people spend time doing this. Is there anyone who reads my blog who has actually done this? I would love for you to comment.