Sunday, October 28, 2007

New Uncle

My brother Matthew, the scholarly one, and his wife, our beloved sister Maureen, have been blessed with a child today. Her name is Lily, which summs up the beauty of her parents, if not her own self. She was born at 0030 in the AM, which puts her in the running to be born on the same day as the sox win the series. Either way, I'm sure she will enjoy a life full of love and happiness.

I'll be making a pot of soup tomorrow, but today the Red Sox are playing, and if they are playing tomorrow, I'll be taking the family to the Kempenski Khan Palace Hotel for lunch and the seventh inning. So it goes. Mother-in-law, after performing numerous acts of heroism with the pmpkn, has gone back to Erdenet, leaving us with an extremely active eleven month old teething baby. Another week and we'll be having a birthday party, sweet. Within the next half hour, though, he'll be up and crawling towards me. Forget about typing with one hand, if he is in the other.

Here is an accurate and critical critique of Mongolia from a kiwi film maker or is it kiwikian?, from a New Zealand film maker with a serious case of bleeding heart, anyway. I was going to write about his observations. Anyone interested may has well see what he has to say first. Otherwise, the last couple of days has shown me why Mongolia has the reputation for being the coldest capital city on earth. Down right nippy.

The President of Mongolia has been in Washington DC, exchanging glances with W and creating headlines here and abroad. The amusing side of his visit was signing a pact on ship inspection between Mongolia and the US. The AP editors had a great time with that one. Most of the headlines were along the lines of "Didn't they look at a map?" Funny, yes. I was a little discouraged by headline over substance. Mongolia actually does have a small merchant marine fleet (many small countries have the same set up, it is an administrative dodge called "flag of convience" Odd that Mongolia would use it, given the distance to the sea, but I believe at the time the government was probably hard up for cash with people dying in the streets and all that) The ship inspection pact is a blanket permission by the Mongolian gov't to the US, allowing for inspections of ships flying their flag and thought to be hauling prohibted cargo. Ie. arms, terrorists living in shipping containers, the odd nuke etc..Mongolia is making a real effort to stand with the United States during the current unpleasantness, while Europe seems to be clutching at the nether regions with both hands. Not often the small countries stand in for the big brothers.

Newspaper editors are a sad bunch these days, by my count six major papers copied the same misleading headline. The articles tended to state the facts well, but lack of imagination and an anti-adminstration bias seems to rule the day for the Associated Press. Maybe, there is a plus side to throwing critical editors in the pokey.

Anyway, more after the game. This is an exciting time for my family back home, my sister-in-law, the most excellent Maureen, is due like yesterday and how cool would it be to have a baby just as the sox win the series. Both events are pretty damn special in their own right and we'll be slaughtering the fatted mutton regardless. Go Sox, Go Amy, Go Mo

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Time for a pot of bad soup

With as many colds as the Mongolian climate produces, I’ve got a full time job making chicken soup. Batch number four today and still no signs of leftovers. Today’s entry is going to be a little different. Erdene and her mom are out at the Black Market shopping for Erdene’s winter coat. Warm, but fashionable are our guidelines. The PMPKN is in the capable hands of myself and his uncle Amara. Wait a minute, strike capable and make that ‘easily distractible‘. I wandered into the kitchen for stage two of my stock building i.e. garlic chopping and noticed a certain quietness to the pmpkn. Looked around to find him not in the living room where I left his little butt, not in the laundry with Amara, but in the bedroom and kneeling on the bed while playing with the swabs Erdene had used on his nose before departing. My writing is most likely going to interrupted more often than is usually the case. I still haven’t mastered holding the lad on my lap and typing. Such a simple task shouldn‘t be so difficult, but he is intrigued by the keyboard and is even beginning to master the touchpad. Well, he’s aware that moving his finger on the pad also moves the cursor around the screen, but the right click is still aways down the road. Anyway, on to Mongolia.
Weeks ago, another blogger asked if I would be interested in writing for the “blogger news” as they didn’t have a Mongolian contributor. I thought the idea to be fairly keen and set to work uncovering the dark underbelly of Mongolian life. Not speaking the language and unfamiliar with third world politics, my work was cut out for me. Quite distressingly, one of my first readings was a mention in the UB Post (the local English paper) relating the tale of an editor for the Mongol Post (an English language paper sponsored by the government) being sent to the pokey for defaming the Mongolian President and a member of parliament in a series of expose‘ articles. Apparently, free press isn’t rampant along the edges of the Mongolian steppes. The prospect of jail time, or expulsion from the country at best, sort of took the wind out of my sails. I sent the aforementioned blogger a puff piece on the Mongol Rally and that will most likely be as close, as I get to investigative reporting here.
Mongolia isn’t perfect by any means. My personal physician is much more critical than I, but even through my rose colored glasses, life can be so messed up here. Distressingly often, my views swing closer to his, than I would have thought possible. However, I haven’t had to lay hands or feet on a careless motorist for a few days and haven’t been hit up for money today from a street urchin, but it’s only six at night and I didn’t spend a lot of time out today, so I’m going to attempt to see if I can come up with a top three of the seriously messed up aspects of Mongolia.
From the top. Members of Parliament are not only free from muckraking journalists, but also from inspection of their persons, bank accounts, and other personal financial dealings. That isn’t good. Mongolia is a growing country with significant mineral resources. The money realized for selling the exploitation rights should be available for the citizens, but there isn’t much doubt in anyone’s minds where the bucks are going. The UB Post this week, published yesterday, included a story dealing with the central government bank being without funds. The UB Post is available online at for anyone with an interest. Even without the paper, it is easy to see the disparity in incomes by observing how many of the slicker SUVs head toward the government area each morning, against the much larger number of more derelict autos traveling to and from the working districts
Secondly, traffic is way fucked. Sorry mom, but I have to drop the “f” bomb here. UB just has too many cars for it’s inadequate road system and the majority of it’s citizens believe they are out in the countryside racing on horseback instead of driving a car through a sizable city, at what must be maddeningly slow speeds. The main roads are clogged for about two thirds of the day and the back and side streets are generally impassible for anything other than one-way traffic. Crossing the street on a good day involves taking your life into the hands of aggressive, quite likely to be drunk drivers, and that doesn’t even come close to the dangers of crossing the road at night. The only careless pedestrians here are in hospital or dead. The local paper reported that vehicle/pedestrian fatalities are at 54 for the first seven months of ‘07. I’m surprised it isn’t higher for a city of this size and habits. They (the lonely planet people, in my guide to Mongolia c. 2002) say alcoholism is not as much of a problem since beer overtook vodka as the drink of choice. If that is true, I wouldn’t have wanted to be here five years ago. Even at ten in the morning, there are people passed out in the grass and steps and others splattering as much vomit on the sidewalk, as I used to see in the men’s room at Fenway Park during the seventh inning stretch. The misuse of alcohol isn’t limited to the foot sloggers. Just a couple of mornings ago, Erdene and I saw one guy, passed out at the wheel after totally misjudging his turn onto a side street, managing in the process to flatten both front tires on the curbing, before stopping on top of one of the many small metal fences which ensure people don’t park on what passes for grass around town. It is a little unnerving to have the missus say; “be careful” and really seriously mean it, before I leave on any journey which involves crossing a main road.
Number three, Mongolians aren’t big on finishing work. Not just interior painting and finish, but crumbling sidewalks, gaping holes in the streets and walkways, a citywide lack of lights in stairwells, just about everything. It is more common to see an open hole in the ground, than to see an intact manhole cover. These covers provide access to the city wide network of underground steam lines. As I mentioned previously, the steam heat system is a left over from the soviets and provides cheap warmth to the many block style apartment buildings. The access covers are popular with scrap metal thieves/dealers and the homeless who spend the nights curled up around the steam lines which crisscross the city. If open manholes weren’t bad enough, I almost fell in an eight foot deep hole just south of my apartment the other afternoon. Apparently, there is a leak in the sewage line where it exits our building. A truck shows up every so often to pump out the liquid, but fixing the break and filling in the hole seems to be beyond the resources of whoever performs the office of Public Works.
Mongolian civilian contractors are an interesting bunch. In general; they aren‘t used to western finishes and supplies. They are from the school which I like to call “a little gum, a little tape, look fine, last a long time“. My personal physician has had more dealings with them and after trying three losers, he’s found a pair who work to his somewhat demanding standards. I’ll admit they have strange habits. A plumber came in to cut out a steam radiator and in the ensuing melee, shorted out the power to the apartment. Getting the power back on apparently used up his work quota for some time, as he left his tools, and with the job unfinished didn’t return for over a week. The easiest lesson learned is not too provide too much upfront money as your contracter will immediately spend the money on vodka or beer which will seriously delay the completion of the job. UPDATE: I learned at lunch today, after a week of doing an excellent job on the kitchen, they botched the very last task. Installing a new window. Apparently they cobbled together something which looks like it was assembled from pieces found in the Gobi. In all fairness; the workers are used to making do and hardship. As I sit writing this, I can see two guys sitting on bosuns chairs chipping out seamwork in my building with some pretty scanty supporting lines, considering they are six stories up in the air. From my point of view across the street, it looks as though they have one wire coming vertically down from the roof to the triangle of rope, which combined with a wooden plank, makes up a traditional bosun’ chair The safety line is a rope, which is lead from a separate area of the overhead, to their belts (and we aren‘t talking about a safety harness belt, this would be the belt on their pants).
The homeless kids deserve a mention, but the expat population and the government have established successful programs for them, should they take advantage, so I’m not going to give them a number four. The city has it’s share of Fagin type people with a crew of beggar children and while I’m not into funding a reprobate’s vodka habit, I do carry a piece of fruit or something useful in my pocket. At least once a week, I or Erdene spend some money on more substantial food for them in the market. I’m not an easy touch, but do unbend once in awhile. They can be persistant and annoying, but in the end they are mosly kids holding the short end of the stick and that can happen anywhere.
All right, I feel better now. Unfortunately, there is more that is wrong, but I’m going to wait until I peel onions once more, before venting my spleen again on these sorts of observations . In the interest of fairness and objectivity, I need to at least touch on the more disturbing aspects of life, but for sanity’s sake, I’ll focus my thoughts more on the smiling faces of the children and their parents as they troop by and not on the upstairs neighbor who regularly blows chow onto the flat roof immediately underneath my smoking window out on the glassed in patio, which we call the deck.

Just thought I would throw a couple of pictures in. You would have thought there would be another club "Chicago" here in UB.

Beware of multiplying cans of Spam

Beware of multiplying cans of Spam

As long time readers of this blog know, Simon Barret a friend of the Bateman’s from Calgary, Alberta, kindly took note of the lack of Spam in Ulan Baatar, Mongolia and sent us a can. Well, the can arrived and we held off from immediately devouring our lovely morsel of processed meat (mostly because, my dear wife found a particular form of mutton sausage of which she is particularly fond of, on the same day) At any rate, the can reproduced itself into four other cans while placed on top of our tv overnight. I’m from Maine, we tend to use the top of the television as an everpresent shrine. We have gone from one can to five, I’m thinking loaves and fishes here. The search begins tomorrow for a Catholic church for documentation as I’m sure this fits into the miracle category. There can’t be any doubt, as the most diligent search will turn up no spam in UB, other than what is in my apartment. I really hope the miracle Spam of Ulan Baatar is a sign which signifies the Red Sox will turn around their bad fortune in the finals of the American League Playoffs . Win or lose, we have more Spam, than we had yesterday morning.

Multiplying Spam

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Chicken soup 3

This will be the only picture for the moment as blogger is having problems uploading my photos. Geez, am I the only one? Angelo seems to be doing fine in Vietnam, but I'm having trouble in Mongolia (outer)

This past week in UB, I survived my trip to china, the pmpkn survived his first illness, and the missus is holding her own. One sad bit of news, the snow storm which was a minor annoyance in UB, killed seven, mostly school age kids in the out lying Aimags (provinces, for the Canucks. More or less, states for the Americans) Four older students were lost on their way home from school in a car wreck, also a teenage herder and his father caught gathering the flock too far from home, and one middle school age child lost his way. Reminds me that the countryside is most decidly not a benign environment.
The Mongol government is still pursuing the government ministers in charge when a firefighting helo crashed last spring in poor visibility. I’m not sure why the issue is still out there. The responsibility doesn’t seem to be with the upper echelons, rather than with whoever allowed the helo to fly. A difficult story, as the same storm which caused the helicopter to crash, also put the fire out. The continuing scoundrel hunt raises interesting questions, as I can’t see why the investigation and prosecution through pink slip should go any higher than the pilot or possibly his immediate superior. The pilot is the one who decides to fly, and given the lack of overwhelming public need, why go higher? The pilot is dead, so he is beyond culpability. The Mongolians, though, seem decided to sack anyone with any sort of oversight to that particular department. What seems to be, to a westerner, of a simple case of bad decisions on a personal level, is fraught with more complex issues to a Mongolian. I’m not even going to think about western legal liability issues on this one, for fear a Mongolian will read this and spoil the sense of personal responsibility which seems to guide daily conduct here.
China was interesting in contrast to UB. I only went to the first city across the border, but I was struck first by the wide clean well marked streets, then by the lack of car traffic. The city of Er Lane has plenty of bicycles and scooters, but a marked lack of automobile traffic for the capacity of the inner city’s road system. I did manage to witness a scooter/taxi accident which was fairly spectacular. Screeching brakes, the familiar sound of scooter fiberglass grinding itself to death on pavement, then the all too recognizable crunch and tinkle of plastic and fiberglass meeting. Glad it didn’t happen to me in Saipan where the road speeds are faster. As it was, the police arrived in double quick time, to find the scooter driver in decent health, with the only serious damage to the scooter’s gas tank and the taxi’s front spoiler (scooter scooper?). No haz mat team to clean up the gas spill, when I walked by the same intersection an hour later, there was a faint stain and a few bits of taxi/scooter marring the smooth pavement.
My train journey was enlightening. We arrived in southern Mongolia in the wee hours of the morning and I was impressed by the desolated appearance of the landscape. Southern Mongolia is most certainly affected by desertification, there were even small sand dunes lapping at the rails. On the practical side; the bathroom situation was way worse, than on my trip to Erdenet with the family. The bathrooms were locked for the entire two hours we were dealing with Mongolia and Chinese customs. Fortunately, I’m an early riser and managed to take care of any pressing business, before the doors were closed. Upon arrival, I sought out the nearest restaurant and all was fine. Well, not the nearest restaurant; the first one didn’t have a bathroom and the second establishment had pictures of dogs flanking their name on the sign. I ended up a hotel choosing a meal which, from it’s picture on the menu, looked like chicken in orange sauce with vegetables, but ended up being chicken feet sautéed in orange sauce. Not something, I would have chosen with a more detailed description, but not so bad, although chewy and surpisingly a bit fatty. The people I came into contact with were either curious or friendly and most often both.
My one reason for traveling to the middle kingdom, beyond extending my residency semi-legally, was to purchase a pressure cooker at a decent price and I did manage to accomplish that task satisfactorily. I was told, upon my arrival at home, that if I bargained, I could have gotten it a bit cheaper, but honestly, I was thankful to find the market area and the small shop which sold rail tickets for my return passage. Why it isn’t possible to purchase a round trip ticket to er lane/UB, I may never know, but I’ll accept, that at this date, it can’t be done. Too bad, as I wasted half my time searching out the ticket agency (and considerable angst) only to find it was located immediately adjacent to my second stop at the restaurant with the dogs on the sign.
The return trip was marred by huge delays, as the customs people were at dinner during our scheduled departure time, and we were further delayed by the Peking/UB express passing ahead of us. (note. To travelers, get the compartment with sleeping bed) If I do this again, I may just travel all the way to Peking and check out the city side of Chinese life. Daybreak on the journey north, found us passing through the usual jagged mountain ranges, interrupted by short narrow valleys, only both were snow covered this time. Very scenic in an austere and rugged fashion. I was glad to see the smog of UB on my return to the city, as I missed the pmpkn and Erdene much more than I wanted the vistas.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Pumpkin is a spam fan too

Open this for me? Dad?

The last (and only) can of spam in Mongolia

In contrast to the lad, my personal physcian was to busy texting his other clients, to take much interest in the new arrival.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Spam tours UB

The Spam arrived this lunchtime. Just in time for lunch actually. However, I'm going to carry it around town for a few days to allow it to acclimate, before sending it along to the kitchen.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

And he knows how to use them

Days of trying for photographic evidence finally paid off. This new development is going to open up a huge new world in feeding options.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Pumpkin has teeth

Things are good now, but..

Is this the apocalypse?

I forget who used my title as a description of the 2004 season. Steven King maybe. I leave UB for a short trip to China and come back to find a guy wearing a Yankee's cap, who slightly resembled Johnny Damon, picking up garbage alongside the train line, The Red Sox victorious in three, and the Yankee's out of it?? What happened? What's next? Besides, Joe T's head on a spike outside of Yankee stadium.
I was more than happy to come home to see the pmpkn using his two new upper teeth on a bread rolll, but the sox in and the Yankee's out?? I'm confused. I should go to bed and recheck the news tomorrow. Can't seem to upload any cool pictures of my train ride, either. I'm off to the market for some zweibacks for the lad. Maybe some of this will make sense later.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

We miss Saipan

Long days, warm sun. Long days, pale sun.

Another batch of Chicken Soup

Cool vest. Eh, brother?
More observations on Mongolia, while I boil down the chicken. Mom Mashbat, Erdene, and the pmpkn are off to the doctor and the soup and I have the house to ourselves. I’m actually feeling a little strange. I hadn’t noticed, but it seems as though it has been months since I’ve been home alone. Way too quiet. If this becomes a trend, we may have to buy a radio. No trends on the horizon; although mom is due to go home to father Mashbat soon, to fill the void sister Siggi should be back from her month in the countryside shortly, plus brother Amara hasn’t been placed in a college dorm as of yet and sleeps on the living room floor most nights. Oh well, if I wanted time to myself, I wouldn’t have married and most certainly not had a child.
Obviously, I haven’t left for China yet. Seems that their National day was this week and the border has been closed to Mongolians, which shouldn’t have mattered to me except the plan was for me to journey with a friend of brother Amara‘s who is a Chinese importer. I missed the UB/Peking direct train last Sunday and didn’t want the experience, after the border reopening, of making a mad rush for the cross border bus with a horde of Mongolians after four days of no entry. Yes, there still are Mongolian hordes, they don’t carry swords and spears anymore, but they aren’t big on lines and whenever a bus door, or an elevator, or an office door opens, a mad scramble ensues. A friendly people most of the time, but on the street or in queing situations, not on their best behavior. “Damn rude” is how my friend, the teacher, expresses the usual sidewalk bustle. Update: I got him to expand on his thoughts and he would say “rudest people, I have yet encountered on the whole planet“. My views may be tempered by my size. I noticed sober drivers will give way to me while I’m on foot. I’m thinking that in their minds, the damage to their car would be extensive, should they actually hit me. My associate and personal physician, is more Mongolian in stature and as a result he doesn’t get the gross intimindation, which I command with the local drivers..
Looking back at the first paragraph, when referring to the time when mom goes home and sister returns, I was a bit vague. Well, that is Mongolian. Watches are more of a fashion accessory than a useful tool. I’m not sure at this point of the cultural rational behind the standard Mongols inability to be at any particular place at a given time. Even given a generous window, they will still be five minutes late. This habit in particular, must drive the Germans absolutely nuts, just as the Japanese visitors grow old waiting for a signal that it is safe to cross the street. I refuse to be anal retentive about anything, excepting the pursuit of pure happiness - the train not leaving on time or the contractor showing up at nine at night - flows off my back cleanly. My views are decidedly not in the majority of opinions expressed by the foreign residents of Mongolia who have spoken to me. Call me, “easy going“, but I’m happy.
Mongolia is still not completely in the twenty-first century. Perhaps, they may be clinging on for dear life to the thirteenth century, however, on the surface their ties to past traditions are endearing, just as long as I fill the time before a late meeting with something useful. Such as watching traffic or the crowds going by. Not that life in UB is anything close to boring. Traffic is in a word “entertaining“ and the crowds usually encompass everything from fashionably dressed women to incredibly old weathered people in their traditional dress, walking with such awesome dignity one has to wonder what went before in their lives to allow such a display in the face of what has to be sheer misery of old bones and pavement, which when it isn‘t hard, is crumbly and loose underfoot. Not much of a sentence structurally, but for their entire lives the older Mongolians have been through times which Americans haven’t experienced minus the relatively short years of the depression. What really impresses me, is how they are still quick with a smile. Mongolians do appreciate and enjoy the toys of the modern age, but I see a yearning for a return to the countryside and the simple pleasures of a sound horse and cozy ger under the broad blue skies.
I’m off to the market. The shopping list today is a short one. Diapers, water, cheese, hard to find New Zealand Apple juice, and some spinach for my personal physician, the teacher. In one of the oddities of Mongolian life, I have to order my shopping by cost. There is small money and big money. In the street market areas; big money is virtually un-changeable. So, I need to buy the big ticket items first, as today all I have are the large denomination Twenty-thousand Toreg notes. Erdene got the small money for her taxi ride and small purchases at the doctors office and subsequent pharmacy. The change should allow me to pick up the little stuff without causing havoc, rending of hair, knashing of teeth, etc. in the market stalls. Most definitely, the subject for another post, as small vs. big money is a major adjustment and indicative of some aspects of Mongolian society or at least economic policy. I treat it as a minor annoyance and adjusting the money supply is just a little trick to keep oneself focused on the fact that Mongolia is a land in itself and so very far away from what has gone on before. Just so long, as I’m not intent on sorting my bills while crossing the street and end up as a hood ornament on someone’s huge SUV.
My time alone at home was cut short. One of mom’s friends stopped by. Fortunately, hospitability here is a cup of tea and some biscuits, while I made busy peeling and chopping. Small talk isn’t necessary to welcome a visitor in the home. Good thing as my Mongolian isn’t up to anything other than taxi directions and simple courtesy. Unfortunately, she couldn’t stay for the finished Chicken Soup, which by all accounts was an excellent batch.
Shopping in Mongolia will be my next “chicken soup” post. Personally, I love shopping here, whether it be for clothes, tools, or groceries. For some, as yet unfathomable, reason ordering a drink can be an exasperating experience, but browsing the myriad stalls on the side streets is a down right pleasure. At the moment, green vegetables are in short supply at this end of town. Possibly due to the border closing, but I’m on the investigation and there will be answers.
Oh yeah, my new place is an easy ten minute walk from the Naaran Tul, “the black market”. Oh joyous afternoons; cruising the horse tack and traditional dress stalls or just looking for nothing in particular. Erdene tells me a complete ger would cost around ten thousand dollars US. I’m going to make it my ambition to round up the needed hardware which can‘t be procured stateside, so we can construct one at home in Maine. It will be a hit with the nephews and nieces and I suspect I will want to spend the odd evening out there with the pmpkn as well.

Don't expect to see the pmpkn again until spring

Yeah, the weather has turned here. He's tolerating the layers pretty well, but he does like to look around, when the layers are in alignment.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Something not seen in Saipan

So, UB is the coldest capital city in the World. My personal physcian rang this morning, seems his problem getting ice for his drinks while he's out, is a moot point. Him: "I woke up in Siberia this morning" Me: I didn't think we drank that much last night, but then again I did get out of the cab first. Him: Look out the window. Me: oh..Is the the apocalypse then?

According to my mom back in Maine, UB is geographically on the a similar latitude to Siberia and technically could be considered part of the region. Pmpkn took the new landscape colors in stride and thought it was a gas when a flake landed on his tongue. Ah! the lovely white stuff, how I've missed you.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Red Sox win the American East

Another week in UB. My picture of the week happily coincides with the Sox finishing at the top of the American League Eastern Division. Amazing how fast public sentiment, as seen in hat styles and logos, moves from the popular team to the successful team, out in the east (Eastern Asia, that is). I was composing an entry to the pmpkn about the ups and mostly downs of being a red sox fan, but I’m putting that one on hold until after the playoffs. Not that I believe his birthday will come on the last day of the American baseball finals, but no sense sending any bad ju ju out there.
We moved the family ger from one side of town to another in the space of two days. (actually our belongings, but the whole concept of moving your home; lock, stock, and barrel makes the ger a very cool word. Take out food is “home to ger”, for example). Not a bad move, we went from having to be out by Monday, started looking on Friday, signed the deal that afternoon and were moved in by three on the following day. My mother-in-law is one hell of a packer. I went out to check email and came back to find the entire kitchen parted out and stacked in the hallway. Had a few problems with the previous landlady today, but nothing a view of the can of whoop ass wouldn’t cure. I do hate it when people upset my wife for no good reason, as she is pretty unflappable at the worst of times. Plus, she puts up with me and there is no sense in pissing her off, unless I’m the cause. And I work pretty hard at not being a cause of trouble for her.
I’m off to China for a day. I’m looking forward to the ride across Mongolia, but not China so much. I think it would be pretty cool if the eventual overthrow of the Chinese government came from Mongolia. Some people deserve to be ruled and the Mongols are definitely rulers. I’m sort of amused when I think of what could have been had the Mongols been able to keep their conquests together and moving forward, versus the inter-tribal warfare and subsequent disintergration of the empire as history has recorded. Once I return from the land of the godless heathen, I’ll record my views of the people to the east.
What else? We are now in the eastern side of the city. Good area; close to the pmpkn’s doctor, the black market, and -as with most parts of UB- we have an extensive retail market a short distance away. Not as complete as the market near our old digs close to the railway station, but enough stuff to keep us close to home during the winter months. I’ve resigned my self (our selves) to spending the winter here and there is a school nearby which might hire me to teach English. To grade school students, fortunately. We’ll be on the same page to begin with and I can only hope they don’t jump ahead of me too quickly.


This is one tough kid. I am usually hesitant to take close ups of strangers, but I couldn’t resist the look of grim determination on this eight-year olds face. After taking his picture, I was compelled to help him down the road and across six lanes of traffic with the sack. The sack of rice flour was heavier than it looked and he and mom were grateful for the assistance. I figure the bag was at least two thirds of the boy’s total weight, which made the experience all the more compelling. I had to choose between lugging the sack to their ger or going back for the missus, so I assuaged my conscience for not carrying the bag all the way, by giving them money for a cab or whatever. Erdene saw the whole thing. She said; she was smiling as she watched the lad and I cross the road, and thinks the picture was worth the slight delay to our shopping journey.