Saturday, November 10, 2007

Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar

Went to the Steppe Inne, the British embassy’s Friday night social hour, last night. I’ve been one other time this year. I think I went once last year.

Friday night is the worst time for flagging a taxi. Everyone’s going somewhere, and they line the sides of Peace Avenue, arms pointing into the street, a few meters from each other.

But last night wasn’t bad; I didn’t wait long. An old car pulled over, I got in the front seat, said hello to the old guy, and remembered that I had forgotten how to say “embassy.”

“To the British ‘posolstvo,’” I said, using the Russian word.

“Medekhgui,” he said. I don’t know.

“Zaa, zaa, just go straight.” I dug into my satchel and pulled out my pocket dictionary and looked up “embassy.”

“To the British elchin saidin yaam,” I said.

He laughed. “Medekhgui. Where’s the British embassy?”

“Zaa, zaa, just go straight.”

Playing on the radio was a rap-rock song in Mongolian, with an accordion squeezing out a rhythm in the background. After two verses, a voice broke over the tune and drawled in accented English:

“Khi everyone, you’re listening to Tatar’s new shit. This song is called ‘Message.’ Check it out.”

There were eight people at the Steppe Inne; ten including the two bartenders.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar

Went to the U.S. embassy today on an errand. At the gate, I told the Anglophone Mongolian guard whom I was there to see. “Do you have identification?” he asked, and added, “Are you an American citizen?”

“Yes,” I said quickly and without thinking, and surprised myself with the answer. I think I had forgotten that I hold U.S. citizenship. I have not identified myself that way for a long time.

Walking back to my apartment, in a glance, I saw a unkempt man eating something from a bowl with a spoon. As I walked past him, I looked again. He did not hold a bowl, but the hairless, discolored, weathered skull of a dog, and with a tiny metal teaspoon, he was spooning out and eating the remnants of the interior of the skull.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Mongolia, Khentii

Was Jon's birthday, and a number of us went out to the Kherlen River for the weekend.

On the way, saw something I hadn't seen before. A rolled, smashed car set up on a brick pedestal beside the highway, with a sign on each side of the pedestal reading: “KHURD = UKHEL”.


Friday, June 29, 2007

Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar

Jack Weatherford is in town. Had lunch today with him and some other people, including two young Mongolian women whom I had not met before.

Talking with one of the young women, she asked me:

“Why do you live in Mongolia?”

“This is a nice nation, nice people.”

“I think America is nice.”

“It’s okay.”

“Mongolia is bad, dirty,” she said.

I never know what to say to that.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar

Rained almost all day yesterday. Nara came by the office with the next translated section of The Steppe. Jon came by after his work ended. Later, Burmaa and Tsendee came by and laughed at me. I had gotten drunk on wine.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar

A dust storm blew all day yesterday and made the sky gray.

Went to Burmaa and Tsendee's ger shop. With five people, helped twist the toono of the ger.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar

Met Odbaatar at the History Museum today. Hadn't seen him for a while. He just got back from a trip to Germany not long ago.

We went to the cafe in the basement of the museum and drank beer. The cafe was full. It is usually full.

Odbaatar explained:
"Yes. It is because here the beer is cheap."

He continued:
"In Germany, the beer is very good."

He finished:
"There was cheap beer also in Germany, but I do not know why it was cheap, because it was very good."

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Mongolia, Bayankhongor

Went to Bayankhongor aimag to visit Martin and Jonathan and Mongon at the new gold mine. Rode down with Yousaf in his Land Cruiser. Saw a ninja settlement of hundreds of gers spread over the bleak Gobi hills, and the ninja miners scrabbling in the pits.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Mongolia, Khentii

Spent the weekend at Jon’s girlfriend Aagii’s folks’ place out on the Kherlen River on the border between Khentii and Tov aimags.

On the drive out, saw the new giant metal Chinggis statue for the first time. On the drive back, saw it for the second time.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar

Went to Chinggis Khaan University today and met with Lkhagvasuren. With some teachers, we went out to lunch at Aura.

I had been to Aura once before with Lkhagvasuren. This time, the restaurant was almost full, and we went up to the second floor.

The second floor is more of a bar, with booths and low tables and some kind of decor. There are dolphins in bas-relief on the walls and seagulls in bas-relief on the ceiling. A thangka like mine hangs behind the bar.

Lkhagvasuren saw “American fried chicken” on the menu and naturally ordered it for me.

I had picked up a sniffle walking from my apartment to the university in the gray Ulaanbaatar air. Lkhagvasuren ordered vodka all around and told me to drink it for my nose. “Sto gram,” he said, speaking Russian to me. One hundred grams. “Drink, Radnaa.”

“That’s Russian medicine,” I said.

“It is medicine,” he said. “We are all the same, Russian, Mongolian, American. We all have two eyes, two ears, one nose. Medicine works the same.”

He also ordered soup for my nose. “You must drink the vodka and then eat the soup immediately after.” The soup was delicious—garlic, pepper, cabbage, potatoes, and tender meat. Lkhagvasuren clapped me on the shoulder, “It is horsemeat, it is healthy.”

The “American fried chicken” was a breaded chicken fillet, and it also was delicious.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Mongolia, Zuun Mod

Rode along with Marc and a gang of people on a Sunday drive to a couple small towns near UB. Driving, we could see the snow coming over the mountains. Ended up in Zuun Mod, the first time I've been there. Zuun Mod is a nice little town -- a big park, trees, a square, a downtown. Got hit with a snowstorm. It got cold.