Monday, December 15, 2008

The blessed elixer

Ah, Maine. I'm back for a short visit and throughly enjoying myself despite the weather. More so than my brother, who is without power and in a shelter. Well, his father in laws house, but with eight adults and five kids it is probably getting a little close up there. We had a tremendous ice storm the night of my arrival (Thanks, big guy). Central Maine, where I am, was spared the worst of the nasties, but New Hampshire was wrecked. Feels great to be back even for a short visit. My other brother's daughter is just the cutest and I've been able to even hold her for short periods under adult supervision. She and the pumpkin are the closest of the cousins in age, so I've been evaluating her for compatiblity issues. Hard to say which one of them is cuter, but even a tie wouldn't be such a bad thing. Can't believe I've been gone for three and a half years. I am both lucky and thankful to see everyone in good shape. Nephew George who was just beginning to stand is now four and more active than a tornado. Probably, faster moving over the ground as well. My dad will be over shortly, we are going out for lobster stew and steamed hot dogs which will pretty much complete my list of foods I want to eat while I'm home. Beans, Ham Italians, mollasses donuts, and a river of Moxie have already vanished down the hatch. I have a lead on five dollar a pound lobster, so life may get even better. Now if the snow holds off until my plane on Wedsday. Pictures will have to wait, as I left the camera unloader in San Diego. Great pictures of the morning after the ice storm and tons of kids in motion.

Friday, November 28, 2008

All I want for Christmas is?

Well, I'm not going to get this just yet, but all is progressing nicely on the immigration front and perhaps the easter bunny will leave these two out in the yard. I told Erdene, "given the expense of shipping from Mongolia, a picture of her and the lad is all I want for my birthday, plus a litte help with Deece' WWII this week" Thankfully, she was able to comply with the picture, but I'm not too sure about the Udon Noodle guess. I'm thinking of buying myself a camera for the birthday and shipping it to her, but that would mean braving the hordes of Black Friday shoppers. I'll give it some more thought and perhaps venture out after lunch. The Pumpkin is too cute, not to take pictures of.

He does look a tad miffed in my picture though. I'll find out tonight when Erdene and I talk, but I'm guessing he wanted the camera for himself and that loving hold Erdene is exhibting is actually the grip of steel. Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving. I was able to cook pretty much whatever came to mind and didn't have to drive through three counties or walk over half of UB to find the ingrediants, so no complaints here. I caught a touch of concern in Erdene's voice when discussing the division of labor re Thanksgiving and she was reassured to learn that the female half of the family is not required to cook the actual turkey, especially not her first time out. She is going to have a tough time with the sheer volume of leftovers, a social no no in Mongolia, but an intergral part of the feasting here. As the loyal reader can well imagine, I'm enjoying the thought of her experiencing America. Can't wait to see her face when she is introduced to the somewhat ignoble, but incredibly tasty, Maine lobster. I can only hope that she stands her ground as valiantly as my brother's lads when cornered. Even I feel a little sad at enjoy the frantic wiggling as they go into the pot just prior to their sudden demise, but not enough not to eat them with butter and some metaphysical relish.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving in Mongolia

If I was in Mongolia, this is what we would be having. I'm thinking of naming it


Pumpkin loves it, too

And lets not forget the miracle of the self-replicating spam

Friday, November 21, 2008

Bad News from the In Box

I recieved a reply from an email I sent awhile back to Glen Doutrich from his daughter Tami. Glen is in CHC and not doing well. She asks for anyone with something good to say, to drop a line in his last post. I'll miss his jokes and his banging away at the dysfunction which is the CNMI government. I'll always be waiting for the next installment of his Flashback series and the chance to buy him a drink, if only to hear him laugh. Cheers, Glen

UPDATE. So, I heard this evening that Glen Doutrich passed away at three in the AM Saipan time. Bless you Glen; for your achievements during your life and the lessons you have passed on to those willing to listen. You won't be forgotten in my part of the world.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Good news from the In box

And it wasn't spam. Erdene was able to visit the internet cafe' in Erdenet and sent pictures of Alan Amara (I need to write that occasionaly or I'll put the wrong name in the immigration blank). This is the first I've seen of him since I left in September. For my birthday, I get pictures of both of them. Right, Honey? Can't say as he looks much different at two, but wonderful all the same.

In San Diego news. I made my first visit to Walmart since returning. I didn't really want to go, but had run out of stores which might stock marshmellow fluff in a plastic jar. Sending a glass jar filled with stickiness in the mail to Mongolia didn't strike me a being a sound move and if you are looking for plastic; Walmart is the place to go. No luck and I can't say as I enjoyed the experience all that much. I was out the door faster than a set of rims at a snoop dog concert. Thanks to Larry the Cable guy again for that line.

In the same vein, here's the speed demon running away with Uncle Ankhaa's cell phone.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

While I was waiting for the lad and Erdene to make their way to the west, I figured that it would be ok for me to write again. Waiting isn’t a whole lot of fun, but seems like I need to make the best of it or spend the next few months wallowing in despair. Allright, that’s it for the negatives.
Pumpkin turned two last week and is showing every sign of being the child from happy land (eh, mom. You thought I was going to drop an “h” bomb, I’ll bet). Nope, Erdene and I are able to talk every other day or so and he’s coming along just fine. Nine times out of ten, he picks up the phone first and I’m treated to whatever it is toddlers like to talk about. Not hard to tell that he’s happy from his voice. I suppose the constant reassurance from his own mouth is what has allowed me to relax and be happy without them. If you don’t believe me call 976. Chances are fairly good, he’ll answer. Don’t call before 9PM EST or 7AM Saipan time. Chances are good at those times that you’ll find a sleepy mom on the other end of the line. Strange little fellow. My birthday present of crayons and paper arrived the other day. Erdene told me, he was very happy to see his crayons and markers all assembled in their little tray. Instead of turning into a mini Picasso or Jackson Pollock, he took them all out, then carefully replaced them in the tray. A little unclear on the concept and he sure didn't get the tidy habit from any member of my family. They are out of the family ger and into a warm apartment in downtown Erdenet for the winter. Erdene tells me there is a basketball court in the front of their building and another playground at a nearby middle school, so the pumpkin is able to enjoy his basketball once again.
I’m hoping there will be other kids nearby for him to practice talking with, but its enough that they are warm and near the stores. I’m not at all surprised that he is out on the courts during the Mongolian winter, as he comes from hardy cold weather stock, despite being born on Saipan - the land of perpetual summer.
Not too much to report from San Diego. A brief chilly spell, gave way to the warm westerlies and I’m thinking about the beach. Be silly not to, as Torrey Pines State Park is less than two miles from my temporary dwelling at my sister’s house. Missed my merge on the 163 the other day and ended up heading for Escondido. I knew that was going to happen one of these days. On the bright side, the 808 and I-5 split passes without a thought most mornings. Erdene is going to freak when she rides down the highway here. Mongolia’s idea of a highway are yellow lines down the middle of the asphalt. She’ll love the relative lack of horn noises, though. Enough for now. I’m going to try and blog more often and for less verbage for a while. One side benefit of Erdene moving to town is internet acsess, so with any luck, I’ll have some pumpkin pictures to blog. Here’s one from my sisters collection. This is California at its best. I’ll update the picture with a caption, once I think about it for awhile.

Friday, October 17, 2008

to be or not to be

A Red Sox fan. I had to make a big decision this evening. Should I call my mom in Maine from my temporary home in Southern CA and alert her to the fact the 'Sox managed to come from behind and tie the game, when I knew well and good she was probably fed up with the entire season by the fifth inning when they were on the verge of elimination, and most likely deep in post season slumber. Hah. Made the call, and we both enjoyed the trans-continental victory together.

A note: My mom and I enjoyed watching the sox come so close back in '75 and I still feel the bruises on my legs from her reaction to the Carleton Fisk drive to the fair side of the foul pole in right field. I was more than happy to share this game with her from a distance. Still, I wish I was with her this evening. Even if she does still insist on plying the popcorn with parmesean cheese. Love you mom and go sox.

Domestic political news. Nada..I don't want to talk about it. Mongolian news. It has snowed up in Erdenet twice now, but the Pupmpkin is loving the white stuff and Erdene has a line on an apartment downtown. An apartment will get her and the lad out of the ger and snow and into a warm place with a hot bath. Taxes are done on my side and the visa process can begin. Lord, I miss them so much, but me being here will move things along much faster. Me being there would really screw us up. Turns out; money earned overseas means nothing to the INS. Good side is; I only need to make twenty thousand dollars this fall to smooth things over. Bad news is; they average the earnings over three years and last year for my contribution to the US Gross National Product was a zero, but there are waivers. Oh well, we are moving forward and I have an excellent case for a waiver. I'm going to throw in some pictures just for the heck of it. I may start a thread on obtaining an immediant relative visa, but we'll see how it goes. I just hope it isn't a thread leaning towards; don't try this.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

It rained in Southern California

From Sunday’s Union-Tribune. ..“An unusually heavy rainstorm for October, raced through the metro area on early Sunday morning. Rainfall totaled 0.18 of an inch at Lindbergh Field“. Say what? Even in arid Ulan Baatar two-tenths of an inch wouldn’t receive a mention. My niece goes to as many Padre’s games as they can find tickets for, but needed to have the term “rain delay” explained. Tough place to live. I’m not even going to start on the size of the mangoes in the grocery. Or, even the grocery store itself. At least I don’t stand around like a stunned beast, bewildered by the choices, as often as I used to.

I'm also treated to fine meals by my sisters. The two lovely ladies in the above picture are my sisters who live here. The observant viewer might notice they look alike. Points to you. They are twins, one year and three months younger than myself and my very best friends. A past resident or observant visitor to San Diego might notice the hotel Del Coronado in the background. Site for the filming of "Some like it hot". Sarah Palin take a seat in the back of the room. My sisters are up on their foreign policy, have possesed passports since high school, and are hot. Anyway, brunch at the 'Del is a must do.

The weather is fantastic. Shh. Don’t tell Erdene, as she still has a Mongolian winter to weather. Ouch. I’m torn between loving my surroundings and feeling totally bummed that Erdene and lad aren’t here to share them with me. I am able to talk with them regularly and at a decent rate. Mongolia to the US is fifty cents a minute, US mainland to .mn is around six and a half cents. Pumpkin is usually the first one to grab the phone and I just love hearing his gabble. Having to redail after he hit’s the end call button is a small price to pay for a little connection to his cuteness.Great picture, eh? He looks a lot older than the age of eighteen months when this snap was taken.

Here's another just for the record

One view of the weather which contrasts greatly to Saipan is the cool ocean breeze in the evenings. I’m used to cooler weather on the hills in Saipan, but here the hills often bake in the sun and are regularly washed by the desert breezes from the east. The descent from the badlands to a cool ocean breeze is a blessing not usually noted on a typical coral island. There aren’t any comparisons to be drawn between Mongolia and coastal southern California. None. However, should I venture to Death Valley, I may find some. I see some flowers here which are familiar to Saipan. I really hope we can live here.
Erdene will just love the surroundings. Not that Maine isn’t all that, but maybe baby steps will help on the transition.

Speaking of transitions. California car

Boats in a Maine harbor.

If that isn't enough, the expressways are a bit of a shocker. I’m used to a few poorly paved roads and the odd mad dog. Yesterday, I dodged a poorly secured surfboard lying in my lane. Yep, I’m not in Kansas anymore.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Thankfully, a new Mongolian blog

I'm at blogging odds at the moment. San Diego hasn't piqued my blogger interest as of yet and Saipan seems several worlds away at the moment. I am glad the lights are on and Boni thinned out the ranks of prospective suitors to what seems to be a most excellant candidate. Erdene hasn't heard the news yet, but I'm sure she'll be as happy for the families as I am. Obviously, I won't be commenting on Mongolian issues and observations first hand. However, this young man from the UB Post seems to has the Mongol blog well in hand. He doesn't know the pumpkin, but seems to have a fair hand at descriptive prose. Plus, he's working at the independant Mongolian newspaper. I'll be reading his blog HERE.

Erdene and the lad are doing fine up in Erdenet. The neighbor's cat is exceptionaly toddler friendly. The weather is still bearable and Erdene tells me the lad is making the most of his time outside with his new friend and the flower garden. No pictures at the moment, but it is on list. I'm thrilled to call home and hear his voice as he answers his mom's phone. I don't know what he's saying beyond "Hi" and some familar baby noises, but it is enough to know he is up to his usual phone tricks. All is well in my trials with the IRS and DHS, al.. I'm happy knowing that whether it is spring or winter when they arrive, the sand here in So. Cal. will be warm and with any luck the flowers will be blooming for Erdene. One mainland surprise for me are the similarities between the flowers here and in Saipan. Erdene's only regret was living the beauty of Saipan for the bleakness of the city, so I'm sure to be happy with her reaction to the flora. Not sure how she'll enjoy the ten lanes of I-5, but hopefully she'll sleep through the ride from the airport and we can take the back streets to the beach. Getting a little ahead of myself. Back to the taxes.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Not the final chapter, but the prequel. I’m in sunny San Diego today, while the lad and my dear long suffering wife tough it out in Erdenet, outer Mongolia. Not exactly how I wanted my eastern sojurn to end, but so it goes. Let's hope this is a short chapter.

I'm here to finalize my sadly delinquent tax returns and from there to finish Erdene's visa application to this; the land of the big giant most humongous grocery store. I'm still bemused by the variety and scale of even the most humble Von's. By my count, I was on my third visit before I was able to ditch the "deer in the headlights" stare and actually by something. I am not amused by the price increases since my last visit stateside three years ago. Spam is at over three dollars a can. I can't figure that one out. Roughly the same price as in Mongolia. I would have thought shipping would have made it much more pricey to the east. Yikes. Jeff T. had it right with his observations on this commercial society. I haven't been to a department or electronics store yet and am dreading what I might see. Just driving down I-5 was enough to asure me that the strip mall society is alive and well. In Solano beach Marshall's is having a sale or so my sisters tell me. Good thing, as I washed a red crayon with my last two pairs of shorts this past week. Pumpkin and Erdene are well. We talk on the phone every few days and she prints out a serial email once a week, but I could use a hug nonetheless. Not sure if we will end up in S California, but she did say before I left that she wishes we stayed in Saipan and sunny San Diego isn't a bad second choice. By necessatity, as New England seems to have entered the depression sooner than the rest of the country. We'll be moving them from the family ger to an apartment at the end of the month and I can stop worrying about the countryside hazards (dogs, woodstoves, and blizzards) for the moment though all is well. The lad seems to recognize my voice over the phone, but I so miss his happy little smile as he toddles towards me. Let this be a lesson to all you tax procrastinators out there.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

New chapter coming soon

Erdene, the lad, and I are in Erdenet for the week. The weather has been just lovely up here and we are reveling in the peace and quiet. Not to mention, the spectacular views and atmosphere. The Pumpkin has enjoyed a freedom of action denied him in UB. He is only one doorway and three steps from the great outdoors. Outdoors consists of one dog, a cat, and a herd of friendly goats. He's having a blast and I so love letting him fall down on the soft grass, versus the hard falls onto broken rock and glass of UB. More later, we are a bit removed from town and accompanying internet access.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Sweet, the Doctor and I were enjoying a warm afternoon at the local, when the Sumo bus drove by. It was fairly easy to see they were Sumo's as they were all sitting along the downhill side. The road was flat, but the bus had a fifteen degree list to their side of the bus. Plus, the top knots and reserved expressions completely gave them away. My impression was; these dudes are friggin huge. They took up the entire window frame, that would have taken two or three hippee tourist types to occupy.

The Pmpkn and I are venturing to the Grand Khan Kempinski hotel in the AM for a glimpse. They might be staying further from town, but I'm willing to give it a shot. The lad doesn't have a choice, but then again he rarely expresses any opinion on where our morning walks leave. Sweet. I'm really hoping they will be in residence, but it is more likely they will be at the Hotel Mongolia a dozen klicks from town. No problem, though. If they aren't at the Kempinski, we'll journey further afield the next day.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

To be an Olympian


Is still profitable. Check out what Mongolia's first gold medal winner is taking home. A cell phone with a very special number. All nines, which is preferable for some reason or another. A three room apartment, Two SUV's, enough cash that he will need a couple of wheelbarrows and last, but not least, eleven pounds of gold, plus the medal itself and the joy of the entire population. Gotta love it. Sumo's are in town, but haven't seen one yet. Shouldn't be hard to miss.

Sunday, another great day for Mongolians. Their boxers managed a gold and silver today. To say everyone is in a good mood would be an understatement. Horns are blaring, people are still cheering an hour after the final match. Erdene was a little non-plussed by the total number of medals, until I pointed out that the Americans would have to win 200 and the chinese many hundreds more (bonus points for anyone who cares to do the math), in order for their totals to equal Mongolia's haul on a per capita basis. Having been briefed by KAP I am glad to say the medals are in the MANLY EVENTS We are hoping for a parade tomorrow and there are sure to be fireworks tonight. Here's hoping the gladness spills over into the legislative sector as they really need to sit down and reform the government. Oh well, for tonight they deserve the celebration.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

So, my wife gave birth to an axe murderer

And Mongolia rejoices over gold medal

I never could post on just on topic. First the lad. The most telling sign of his personal development is his reach. The very back of the cutting board set to the very rear of the kitchen table is not safe any longer. Erdene and I were enjoying a quiet mornings perusal of the daily news, blissfully unawar e of his kitchen play, until he sauntered in from the kitchen and presented his mother with the big cleaver. Thankfully, he simply handed it to her, while we sat like deer caught in the headlights. More often than not, he prefers to work on his pitching arm. Perhaps, he has figured out that knives are a little scarey, but I think we will have a cupboard for knives after this point. In case anyone is wondering, Mongolia apartments do not generally come with drawers which can be childproofed. On the bright side, the electrical plugs are mounted a little above waist high, so we don‘t have electrocution hazards for another month and a half at his current rate of growth. I had an inkling that parenthood could be a little traumatic at times, but the big cleaver?

On the plus side, he has learned to respect the curb as a definite boundary, not to be crossed without someones hand, which tempers my most frequent nightmare. And he has come to consider the stove top to be an enemy and limits his play to removing the temperature controls. Confession time, when I was two or three, I managed to set my parent's kitchen alight by way of some injudicious fiddling with the knobs. As a reminder,my mom still has the fire scorched spice rack which along with a set of curtains were the only physical victims of the blaze. My dad still jokes that my first word was fire, fire. And we’re doing better than the poor mom up in Maine. She was doing kitchen chores while her toddler slept in his playroom on the third floors. She was a bit non-plussed when she heard a bump on the baby monitor and then saw her son toddling about in the yard. Apparently, the little tyke escaped the playpen and managed to exit the window through the screen and free fell twenty odd feet for a safeish landing in the grass. He definitely gets a perfect ten on the dismount.

Ah yes, the Olympics. The familia were watching on Thursday evening, along with the rest of Mongolia when Mongolia's Tuvshinbayar Naidan won the men's 100-kilogram class judo gold. It was a somewhat strange evening. I was hearing a faint echo of the roar from the crowd, which had me looking out over the balcony to see if there was an outdoor showing at the neighboring wrestling palace. Nothing there, I was hearing the massed shouts from the bars on the opposite side of the street fronting the palace. What a night. Fireworks, car horns (more than usual, as there is a direct connection from a Mongolians nervous system, straight to the horn button) , the actual fireworks started around ten, as thousands filled the main square. I wanted to attend of course, but my sweet voice of reason suggested I watch from home, as I wouldn’t have made it across the street without a half dozen friendly invitations to wrestle. As, I’ve already broken two ribs on the cobbles of the wresting palace and wish no more, I listened to the missus and stayed put.

Pretty good performance summoning up fireworks on such short notice, as this particular athlete wasn’t predicted to finish in the money. And he is in the money, as the first gold medalist from Mongolia. Two cars, money from just about everyone. Plus, the complete adoration by the populace. As my Canadian aquitance remarked yesterday, if this fellow isn’t a total oaf, he’ll be seated in Parliament as soon as he announces his desire to sit for a seat.

A week ago this past Saturday, the North American contigent in UB summoned a focus group which touched on Mongolia’s chances for a gold and were in absolute agreement that winning would be in the best interests of the country. Everyone is still a bit in the dumps from the rioting, the minority parties refuse to convene the legislature, and this should be the spark which gets things moving forward again. Certainly, Friday morning was deathly quiet once the last of the revelers tottered off home with the coming of day break. The homecoming parade should be huge, with any luck it will run in front of our building and we won’t need to brave the hordes in Sugaarter Square.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Nah, not here. I'm a bit amazed and occasionally appalled by the comment sections in online papers. I am totally pissed when I see an article in a national paper, which while making no sense at all, denies me the ability to speak from the ass without delay. Here is an article to the point.

No shit, sherlock. Anyone who can keep a bottle of virulent poison around their person can certainly keep same from polluting a mailbox, let alone holdings stray hairs from the box in question. Damn... Are the reporters so stupid or the investigators. Certainly the editor was asleep at the switch when this one went to press.

Why can’t I blog regularly?

There is an old saying in the computer world; “garbage in, equals garbage out. Fair enough. I’m a news hound though and I spend way too much of my available time taking in info. Not there aren’t some fabulous stories out there, but not really. Saipan news, State of Maine news, Mongolian news, world news, news of the weird, .. And of course there is Pumpkin news, combined with news from bloggers whose children I adore. Mellisas’s lovely daughter, Boni’s growing group (growing up, not expanding population), Deece’s little darlings, the baby tree hugger, my own family’s ever expanding brood. I’m overwhelmed. Sorry.

UB is quite fine this time of year. The lad and I have the morning outing and we usually manage a family evening in the courtyard playground, plus the odd afternoon trip to the market for dinner. He’s making friends. Pumpkin or buddy is a bit bigger then the local kids his age which leads to some lame explanations as to why he doesn’t talk, but he holds his own on the playground and is making good marks when it comes to playing well with others. Joy, Oh joy. I don’t mind an only child, but I don’t want a selfish,insular, only child. I’ll take what I get, of course, but I’m very happy with what we have. Amara is curious and intuitive, plus he enjoys imitating adult behavior. Give him a bag of rice chips and a bottle of water and he heads for the nearest stoop for his snack. I’m not a big one on sitting at the table, but I do like to eat sitting down and he manages that without suggestion or command.

All right, I’m going to write less, more often. I owe a review of “Dateline Mongolia”, the Mongolian outlook at the Olympics and my dear wife’s ambition to compete in the pistol category next time around, my thoughts on the life and writing of A. Solzhenitysn, plus I need to update my bookmarks. Sorry no pictures, I managed to lose my Camera. Which rather sucks, as the lad has greatly expanded his repatoire of cute expressions, as his teeth come in.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Highlights; film at eleven

Jogging around the blogsphere, I noticed Boni has a cool new widget. Blogroll support, with the first few sentences of the last post and the time elapsed. Oops, has it really been two weeks since I posted on my shameful cooking. Oh well. Back at it today and I’m going to give pancakes with bacon another try. I’m still coming down from my high of last night’s exquisite Beef Stroganoff and feel ready to tackle my horrible burner and lame assed frying pan. Life has been quiet here in UB, since Naadam. Everyone who can, has fled to the countryside and even mid-day traffic is light.
Apparently, Blogger had a major spasm this past week and many were frozen out of their blogs. Read about it here on BBN, if you are INTERESTED. Glenn on Saipan appears to be down and out. Of course, Saipan being Saipan there could be several reasons for his absence. Fried motherboard, incessant power failures at Glenn D. com, or just simple fury at the system which is Saipan’s dysfunctional government. Or he could be taking a golf vacation. I’m hoping it’s golf.

Big Sox news. They traded Manny. A hot topic of conversation all over New England I’m sure. I even had a radomn encounter with a fellow sox fan at dinner the other night and Manny was the word. I’m going to miss him. He just seemed so lackadaisical. Baggy pants, flowing dreads, and his somewhat un-athletic frame. Definetely not Yankees material, although neither was Johhny D, prior to the queer eye for the straight guy makeover. I’m over fretting whether or not the trade was a good deal, apparently the clubhouse and the front office were both done with him. I will miss the look on pitcher’s faces when they were forced to choose between getting down with Manny, knowing the Big Popi was next in line. I am glad he went to the National league as I didn’t want to see that look on the Sox pitching staff. Later, Manny. Hope you enjoy Hollywood and thanks for the thrills and laughs. If you should party with the Los Lobos boys, tell them the Doctor says hello.

In Pumpkin news. Not much. His teeth continue to come in and have made his face fill out nicely. He has the greatest little smile these days and uses it whenever possible. I’m really starting to enjoy his company on our jaunts around the neighborhood. He has that insatiable little boy curiosity which combined with the smile and those huge eyes, makes every encounter an enjoyable one. He had his first major scrape recently. Even some blood where a small piece of glass sliced his little knee. Erdene had the duty that morning and reported that both mother and son recovered quickly. Erdene and I had our own little drama last week. We both forgot our second wedding anniversary. As luck would have it though, we enjoyed a quiet dinner out in the Pumpkin proofed basement of the Silk Road followed by an companionable walk home in the soft summer twilight . We both agreed that if we had been celebrating our anniversary it couldn’t have been a nicer evening. Gotta love it when life works out well enough,that special occasions can be an everyday event. If anyone was wondering, the eclipse was a loser here in UB. We were too far off the track for the show to produce anything except slightly damaged retinas. Bad news in town is the price of a half a pound of ground coffee is around eight dollars. Back to intstant for me. That’s it for today. We are putting the lad on a schedule and its wakee wakee time.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Ever notice how cooking bloggers are quick to extol on the virtues of their latest creation, but how seldom the disasters make the front page? Yes, I screwed up. I prepared what was most likely the worst breakfast ever. Pancakes with Bacon, how hard can that be. Well, the bacon was a salt cured variety and I failed to par boil or soak it. Strike one. I'm still having difficulties with my new frying pan and the hot spot on my front burner. I did manage one unburned pancake out of five, but as the ratio is usually Erdene three and Mark one, that record didn't quite cut the mustard. Strike two. Finally, Erdene noticed something that looked like dust come out of our last half bottle of maple syrup. Not dust, a layer of mold. Strike three and the side was retired. We're having eggs with canned corn beef hash this morning.

In UB news, the Naddam festival was this past weekend. A celebration of "Manly Sports". The athletic portion of the festival centers around wrestling, archery, and horse racing with young boys as the jockeys over a fairly grueling 12 mile track across the countryside. Naddam is huge in Mongolia. Nearly every developed area sports their own Naddam and UB is shut down for three days as everyone is out at the stadium or the racing area. I mean, shut down. We shopped on Wedsday and Thursday, for anything and everything we could conceivably need over the weekend, as the only places open are the little package stores. The effects of Naddam lasted through much of the week as bread was not baked over the weekend, although it looks as though the breweries kept up on beer production.

We didn't attend the stadium events this year, although we did spend an afternoon touring the grounds with a visitor from Saipan. The usual; colorful dress, meat on a stick, toys, and rides for the lad. He seemed to enjoy himself and managed the kiddie rides with his usual enthusiasm. I don't know what my mom would say about his sampling the deep fried meat dumplings, but no ill effects. He wasn't run over by any horses and ignored the odd pile of horse droppings during his wanderings. Erdene took a shot at trying her hand at archery after the competion finished and held up her side. I have pictures, but I'm forbidden to post as the camera angle makes her butt look big.

The post election discord continues in a more restrained parliamentary fashion with no repeats of the recent unpleasantness. The head of the main opposition party is calling for a boycott of the opening session of the Great Hural and they will probably stay out for a bit which will further delay the passage of the mining law. Better than another riot, but not what the country needs as winter approaches.

Oh yeah, I nearly forgot. Pumpkin made his first venture to the Black Market. Previously, we had kept him home as it is just too crowded for a little fella, but on our latest trip with Mashbatt senior, we took him along. Glad to say he did well. He was only knocked over once and managed to amuse a fairly sizable crowd, while dancing along with a woman performing a traditional Mongolian dance in an open area. We were pretty lucky on our timing. The dancer and her assistant were just setting up and the lad and I found ourselves in the front row. As soon as the music started, I read far enough forward to realize what could happen and set the lad down. He took a couple of steps forward out of the crowd and danced away in a loose mimicry of the dancer. Erdene was shopping a few feet away and couldn't see us (yes, it is that crowed there), but I managed to get her attention, so she could enjoy the show. It was hard to see through the dancer's makeup, but I could just make out the vestige of a smile so I didn't worry too much about her performance being spoiled. The audience definetely enjoyed the two of them. I just love the dancing years and he did keep his clothes on this time, thankfully.

Monday, July 7, 2008

I'm feeling a little better

Thanks to Deece, hostess of the What Is It? contest for rewakening my interest in this classic. Best of all, I can find the ingrediants here in UB. Except Velveeta, but I'm a cheddar fan. Hmmmm. Thanks

I need a laugh

Got this in from my old home town paper. Last worthwhile news from that region was the young lady who made her prom dress out of Wrigley's chewing gum wrappers. Looks like someone went one better. Fifteen years ago, I can bet that I would have known the culprit who committed this demented deed. Heck, chances are good, they would have been either a close friend or a relation.

AUGUSTA -- Firefighters had to rush to the bathroom in the wee hours Sunday morning. But they were not tending to personal business.

A flaming port-a-potty someone allegedly lit on fire on Front Street warranted a fire department response.

"They don't usually spontaneously combust," Augusta Battalion Chief Al Nelson said of the portable thrones.
Firefighters first received word of the flaming outhouse at 1:47 a.m. The blaze -- but maybe not the odor -- was under control within approximately 10 minutes, according to police records.
Except for the likely scarred nostrils, it appears no one was injured as a result of the fire.
Nelson said an investigation is pending, but is unlikely to turn up a culprit.

All is well this Monday morning here in UB. Fortunately, I stayed away from the demon rum, although, some of my cohorts are no doubt feeling the effects of Rum, Sodomy, and the lash. Not really, but I always enjoyed that quote. Turns out I know, quite well, one of the people who died during the rioting. Not a six degrees of seperation, which I enjoy feeling good about. The young man in question was not the sort of guy, I would have expected to have been mixed up in all this. I'm still a bit stunned and saddened by it all. If I had to name five young Mongolians who would have made a difference in his life, he would be very near the top. Rest in Peace, Dorge.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Here we go

The President of Mongolia lifted the state of emergency at midnight Saturday. Lovely morning here in UB, warm with brilliant blue skies.
Thanks to the US embassy here in Mongolia for hosting a most enjoyable Fourth of July picnic. Erdene stuffed herself, I managed a beer, Pumpkin exposed himself. All in all, a great time. The event wasn't at the embassy venue itself, but in a residential complex. Security issues, I would imagine. However, I don't think the embassy compound has a wading pool, so I'm not concerned. At ten meters in diamater, this was the mud puddle to end all mud puddles for the lad. We had to pull him out a few times, when the shivering became too intense. I think the Doctor's lady friend managed a few pictures, so I'll update later if possible. She missed his shuffle step marching to the Marine Hymn which is too bad and his exposure, which was really too bad. Why is it that whenever the diaper comes off, everything else must as well? It was too funny, especially given that he was only a few meters from the Ambassador and his entourage. Two hotdogs, coke, and cake: Five thousand, Togrig. Watching your baby expose his junk to a hundred people and the band: Priceless.
Rumor has it, one of my dear wife's friends will loan us her camera this afternoon. Sobriety permitting, I'll have some pictures later today, along with an update from the street. This is big week approaching. Besides the Doctor and myself there are two other Saipainans visiting UB this week. Must be something in the water.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Letter home

Hi Tom, I realize now my older letter didn’t really set out very well what happened this week. Early results from Sunday’s elections were announced Monday with the MRRP party (old commies) taking a majority from the democrat party and around six splinter parties. Obviously, a case of vote diluting from the minority blocs, but also from some redistricting issues and poorish polling place administration. The minorities organized a protest rally in the square in front of the UB hotel (just down from Sukhbaatar square and adjacent to the MRRP party headquarters. There was also some action at the election commission office in a nearby area. The speakers got the demonstrators all riled up. Estimates put the crowd between four and eight thousand people. I don’t know why, but the police didn’t seem to have a response ready and things got way out of hand. One of the first places to go was the duty free (read, liquor) store and you can imagine what happened after that. There was a spirited battle between the defenders of the MRRP office and a bunch of rock throwers. As you know, rocks are not in short supply here. At this point some fires were set and responding police and emergency vehicles were repulsed by the rock throwers. The crowd was very mixed. Middle aged women, well dressed young men, and of course the usual unemployed hoodlums. As the riot went on, major looting occurred along with some serious burning before the authorities were able to gain control. The whole mess was confined to a small area bounded by the main square to the west, Daves pub to the north (their fencing held up and the brown ale is safe), a block the other side of Peace ave was the southern boundary, and the UB hotel to the east. Looking west from our place we could only see the faintest sign of smoke, but the various tv stations had awesome live and taped coverage, so not being a total idiot, I watched from the living room with the family. Erdene’s dad and younger brother were over and they were quite shocked by the mayhem. I quess, I’m a bit jaded our riots didn’t seem any worse than the mayhem after a NCAA finals tourney.

So that was the day. The President was on the tv in the evening and appealed for calm, while also declaring a state of emergency. A more vigorous response by the police in the early morning hours of Weds day, the security clampdown, depleting and closing of the booze stores, and some solid rain all day Wedsday, pretty much cooled things down. Now we wait to see the next chapter. Everything has been quiet since weds day morning and the army has gone back into barracks for the most part. Today, Saturday, Parliament is supposed to meet and decide whether to suspend the state of emergency or continue it. We’ll see, but I don’t think the police will be caught out a second time. I’m thinking there will be a limited suspension of the emergency. No booze, but unlimited access to the downtown, various independent tv stations will broadcast again, and we’ll see what happens.

Otherwise, all is well. The missus, lad, and I toured the area yesterday and except for the burned out buildings and a few AK toting guards all is normal. Had an enjoyable lunch at Millies and Pumpkin was his usual charming self. We even violated the curfew last night after a late dinner, by hanging out in the open area in front of the wrestling palace and playing a little ball with the lad. He is a basketball nut at this point and is quite impossible out of doors if there is a ball within sight or hearing difference. His regulation basketball is strengthening his arms, so anything smaller and lighter is sure to fly across the room. We’re worried about the longevity of the tv at this point are are segregating the heavier objects. Hope all is well with you and the good ship B. Erdene says hi and she’s still enjoying her fluff. The Doctor and I are making the best of things, although the looting of the duty free store which kept us going during the alcohol poisoning and january prohibtion, was a cold water enema.. I have a source and he discovered room service will deliver. Otherwise, we are hoping for a rational decision based on the pure economics of the number of thirsty tourists in town and lost revenue. We’ll see. At worst, the rains have brought green grass to the city and surrounding hills, UB has never looked better. Happy fourth. We're off to the embassy do for some Americana and hot dogs. All the best, Mark

Friday, July 4, 2008

Rain is good

My walkabout Thursday, confirmed the reports of troops having been replaced by the normal police. The APC parked on the corner near the UB hotel is gone, although I did see a truck load of paramilitary/soldiers types up the street by the Chinese Embassy. Security for the Chinese or a quick response team, no clue. Except for a loan Ak toting type on the steps of the already looted Institute for Culture, no visible troops. There were a couple of policemen checking out their newly issued sidearms in the park fronting the parliament building, which was a bit scary. . A policeman with a side arm is an infrequent sight on the streets of UB. That idea takes a little getting used to, especially when the first people I saw armed here were the security guards at the local version of Home Depot. I’m a little happier with the soldiers having the guns, as they have more training

Traffic is still a bit restricted from the main cross town street, but returning to normal levels. Dang it. Peace street, actually being peaceful, was a pleasant change from the normal four and eight cylinder horse races. The two burned out buildings were a bit disconcerting, but at least it was quiet. The buses having had the run of the road for the last few days are going to be hard to live with now that they have had a taste of the open road.

Now that the rain and security clampdown have returned city life to normal, we are wondering what the end of the emergency will bring. By my calculations, the Great Hural should meet today or Saturday, depending on how soon the members can return from their home districts, and they will then decide whether or not to lift the embargo. The government election commission has come out with a statement affirming the fairness of the elections. No surprise there. The leader of the Democratic party has managed to stay out of jail and toned the rhetoric down, but is still calling for a recount. Good article HERE by Micheal Kohn on the various factors which led to the riots and a comprehensive overview with a somewhat dark look at the future HERE by the UPI. We’ll see, but I’m betting the Doctor and I will be drinking beer at a hotel Saturday afternoon and not at our neighborhood local. Whether or not, we’ll be dodging gangs of rock throwing unemployed rioters, remains to be seen, but I doubt it.

In Pumpkin news, he’s a bit miffed at all the rain and mom has had a tough time indoors with him lately, while I toil on the streets. “Come home, right now” is a bit tough to respond to promptly with no cabs and puddles to dodge. He on the other hand loves puddles. I watched him run and dance through the same puddle no less than fifteen times yesterday morning. That was all well and good, until he decided that playing while sitting in the puddle was more fun. I’ve figured out his socialization technique, he is just shy for the first couple of meetings, but lightens up when he has already met a couple of times with the same child. Thanks to the little girl who lives under the stairs in the next building for that piece of hard won knowledge. She is a sweet and patient child who will be finding a basket of goodies shortly. We are hoping the weather forecast is correct and we will be dry, but cloudy today. I have some time and Erdene hasn’t seen the party headquarters site for herself yet, plus they are both going stir crazy and lunch out at the Casablanca sounds like a plan, unless she goes for pizza at the Silk Road or Strudel at Sacher’s Café. No street mutton though, damn rioters drove them away. There is a reason for lifting the state of emergency, “Bring back the street mutton”

Seriously though, the smaller café’s and bars up at this end of town have taken a serious hit over the last few days. The tourism season looked to be hitting full speed, only to come to crashing halt. Can’t make much money, if your doors and beer coolers are locked. We’ll have to see if local economics plays into the lift or don’t lift equation. I doubt it somehow, if there is a legitimate reason for protest here, the government seems to have blinders on when it comes to the plight of the honest working people. Shutting down the smaller cafe's for internal security reasons is one example an article in this weeks UB post reporting on the plight of a smaller furniture maker unable to secure a loan from a gov't department set up for the purpose of small business loans is another. Oh well, so it goes.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

No news is good news

Both of my loyal readers will have already noted the lack of decent pictures for the last few weeks. In a case of blatant stupidity I managed to have our camera stolen. UN-attended bag, if anyone is keeping score. My first loss to theft after nearly a year, so not such a bad record, but we miss it dearly. Old Lenin here is actually pertinent to the story. His statue stands in courtyard where the rioting took place tuesday evening. I'm a bit at a loss, that it is still standing. Rumor has it, the more militant types tried to break into a building with a tractor, I though old Vladimir Ilych would have come down this time. Someone explain this to me, please.

Very Quiet on the streets last night, but curfew or not they weren’t empty. The text of the state of emergency message points to only ID being needed to be out at night, but I think I would still need a reason. Yahoo news headlines make it sound as though the city is under martial law with troops on every corner. Not. The BBC’s coverage has been tops since yesterday afternoon and not surprisingly they have my favorite author of things Mongolian on the scene. His by-line made it to their page HERE. Micheal Kohn is the author of “DateLine Mongolia”, written during his tenure as editor of the Mongol Messenger. I owe him for filling in a lot of blanks in my knowledge of local politics, religion and its relation to social and political life, and what is was like here shortly after the transition to democratic rule.

I had a few thoughts from the aftermath of the riot for todays blog, but unfortunately Mr Kohn stole my thunder in his article today. No biggee, at least know I have a reasonable idea that my ideas were on a sound track. I will leave it to him to relate the various theories and explanations of the alleged fraud, as I am not in the know on that. I’m more of a vodka and bullets sort of guy.

One item I will mention is the forbearance by the authorities in the mid stages of the riot. At the time, I was waiting for the police to form a line and charge with nightsticks, but didn’t have a full grasp as to the great numbers of demonstrators. A Boston PD style cavalry charge might have cleared the area, but Mongolian horses are just too short for that sort of action. The Doctor was of the opinion they should have dropped a few with bullets to the head in the early going, but that just isn’t in the Mongolian Psyche. They will always have more deaths from natural causes, accidents, drunken brawls than in the west, but that has more to do with the developing status of the country. Poor forecasting, a somewhat caviler attitude to driving (that is the understatement of the year, but my views on Mongolian driving are known). The difference between accidents and the willful taking of life is huge to Mongolians. It isn’t just my wife and family, I saw it in the wholesale sacking of the ministries responsible for the fire fighting helicopter crash last summer. And that was a case of poor control from above which led to bad decisions by the pilot resulting in the loss of nearly the entire team and flight crew. The idea of police firing on protesters is not in the picture. Think political suicide by the ruling party.

We’ll see how the five deaths pan out. The reports now are leaning to shooting occurring as late night partiers attempted to storm a police station. That occurred after the degree and would fit in with the announced terms, so should be acceptable to the population. My dear wife was greatly saddened to hear of the deaths, but she is a sensitive soul and isn’t used to the daily body counts from the US papers. A little secret, I’ll keep to myself for the moment. Maine is more or less free from that sort of thing anyway.

As for today. Rainy and quiet this morning. I’m expecting more of the same, as I walk around today. Unfortunately, I have things to do and one by product of the main street closure, is a serious lack of cabs. It is a warm rain, however, and might taper off. I was on the back alleys and the main streets yesterday and saw only day to day life and some somber looks by the people gazing at the torched buildings. Certainly, no animosity. Of course, the rioters were either sleeping it off or in the pokey. The government has bought themselves some time to sort out the allegations and hopefully they will come up with plausible explanations by the weekend when the vodka stores are due to reopen. For my part, I’ll trade a few days of cold beer for a chance to have a cup of coffee with Mr Kohn, should our paths cross.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


Dawn in UB. The sounds of random gunfire are gone from our neighborhood and the smoke has cleared enough for the windows to be opened once more.

Just kidding Mom, if it wasn’t for the six o’clock news we wouldn’t have noticed. Only the Mongolians can stage a decent riot which leaves residents a mile away from the disturbances oblivious to the situation. All the same, I’m happier not knowing. The lad and I had a fun afternoon out in the playground. From the news reports though, I have to say; Mongolia puts on a decent riot. I’m not sure if the ruling party headquarters was the first to go or the duty free store in the same building. I am a bit surprised by the lackluster police response in the early going. From my walk in town this morning, the proximity of the Mongolian CIA to the “disturbance” scene was glaringly obvious. We are talking across the street. In defense of the local PD, Mongolians aren’t historically prone to violence on this level. The break from Communism was accomplished through a mid winter sit in on Sugater square. The Doctor is of the opinion they learned random thugness from MTV. Another gift to the world courtesy of the USA. My timeline of the event was a protest gathering which turned violent, but was self sustaining due to the huge numbers of people in the immediate area, rock throwers or not. The police just couldn’t make headway, even the responding emergency vehicles were stoned.

The demonstrators (well, rioters) lost major style points in my view when they failed to maintain coherence after the teargas finally came out. They totally blew it when they ransacked a nearby art museum/gallery and the Institute of Culture. Breaking up the instruments of struggling musicians and stealing their belongs moved the disturbance from the realm of political protest to drunken hooliganism. I believe the nearness of a large duty free store to the party headquarters had a great deal to due with the late night vandalism. There are more than a few people captured on crystal clear camera footage, Jack Daniels bottle in hand. Hard to dispute that little item. Rumor has it those unfortunate sods, as well as the leaders of the minor parties for inflammatory speeches prior to the outbreak of violence are being tracked down and they will most likely be in the slam by morning. My father in law is of the opinion there was major fraud and (disclaimer, he supports the opposistion), but he was quite incensed by the burning of a nice looking mini-van as well as torching of valuable property. The demonstrators/rioters looked quite the fools as they cheered the damage. Note to opposition; You still lost, get over it, and quess where the rebuilding money will come from. The damage to the two buildings I personally viewed today was fairly extensive (well, half of one building was gutted to the point where the walls had fallen away and the nearby party headquarters was fire scorched to the top). The mood on the streets was quiet and not unfriendly, but a bit tense. The APC parked on the corner probably had a bit to do with that, but I think the opposition has shot its bolt. Certainly, the next assault will have to come from the heart as they won't be seeing much Vodka for a few days.

The biggest surprise for me was the restraint shown by the police. I was expecting to see the armored personal carriers roll into the crowd at any moment, but a spirited defense of the ruling party’s headquarters by a small band of police was about it for most of the afternoon’s show. The crowd was pretty damn big and well fueled. A counter attack by around eighty riot police was thrown back in short order, despite some valiant efforts. At this point, I feel for the police involved more than the protesters. Protesters isn’t such a good word, they probably began as such, but quickly deteriorated into an angry mob. The missus saw one interview today, which featured a man selling a bag of stones for a couple of bucks. Immediate flashback to the stoning scene in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” Not that good stones aren’t available anywhere in UB, you could safely say the streets are paved with loose rock and brick. The official government response was limited to a curfew, ban on booze, and an end to broadcast media with the exception of the government station. Mongols are a bit like sailors and miners in that they tend to gossip, drink excessively, stay up as late as possible, and then fight if the opportunity presents itself, so these measures aren’t all that bad. We’ll see how this all goes down as the state of emergency runs it’s course. Meanwhile, we are beerless and it’s hot. Still, better than beerless and cold, as during the booze ban this winter. You can read a couple of news stories HERE and HERE, but so far nothing new or earth shaking. I’ll include an emailed text of the state of emergency below, just in case anyone wonders.

In connection with an emergency situation occurred in Ulaanbaatar, President of Mongolia N. Enkhbayar issued on July 2 at 00.00 a.m. a decree in frames of his competence.
Under his decree, a state of emergency is declared in the capital for four days. The decree says, due to actions with use of violation of a group of people on the territory of Sukhbaatar district of Ulaanbaatar, mass disturbances are occurred. Forces of the law enforcement organs were attacked, material values were destroyed, and fires were set up in several objects. In order to eliminate consequences of the emergency situations and ensure the security of the population, the President of Mongolia declares a state of emergency from 00.00 a.m. on the territory of the city for four-day term.
The President orders to take the following measures:
1. To strengthen the security of objects of state significance.
2. Using forces permitted by the law, to break up any kinds of demonstrations and mass activities arranged with infringing the law.
3. To restrict the traffic movement in the central part of the capital and check motor vehicles.
4. Using forces, to disperse and arrest persons and groups of people who break the public order and arrange actions with use of forces and examine whether they have arms and technical devices.
5. To impose a curfew from 22.00 p.m. to 08.00 a.m. in the central part of the capital; to check persons breaking it; to arrest individuals having no ID cards with forces of the police or military patrol in the period until the expiring the quarantine or for 72 hours no long until the person will identified.
6. To ban the use of devices intensifying sounds, in case of necessity to seize them and to stop activities of all televisions and radios except the national public television and radio until the expiration of the state of emergency term.
7. To prohibit the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages.
8. To put control over individuals having firearms and cold steel, over entities and plants using explosives, virulent chemicals, and radioactive substances, and over military arms and techniques used in training.
9. To charge Minister of Justice and Internal Affairs Ts. Monkh-Orgil to organize actions for implementing the decree.
President of Mongolia N.

Friday, June 27, 2008

one more thing

There is a fun (read; challenging) US history/politics/economics quiz from the stratcom pages. I did miserably at 75%, but better than the college students who failed for the most part. I'm going to make the doctor take it at the first opportunity, so I an feel better about myself. By the way, please give me a small break on the odd missing wrong letter, the lad has discoved the keyboard makes a great drum. QUIZ HERE OR paste this one.

Kisses and plastic dish dictators

Pumpkin has an endearing new habit. Kissing. It started with Erdene and then to me, but it’s spreading like wilfire to all of his aquaitances and beyond. We were at the foreign citizen registry, as we are most days (I’m working on a long term visa. More about that horror show later) Anyway, Erdene was in line while I was attempting to amuse or at least catch up to the pumpkin. We ended up in the hallway at one point and I sat the lad on a couch seat next to a little girl about his age. Well, Pumpkin thought that was just great and the two of them exchanged looks with a little finger touching, when my son decided to cut to the chase, leaned over, and planted one right on her rather surprised lips. We’re trying to cut back on his unwanted advances beyond the bounds of the apartment, but he keeps trying. His last adventure occurred while the two of us where taking a shortcut (vacant lot, parking area, alley way) home from an excursion to the store. Another little girl (read, innocent victim) and her parents where walking towards us and the lad decided to introduce himself. That was all fine, then he went for the kiss and the poor little girl fled. Pumpkin gave chase, but she was just a little too quick for him. I hope, I’m not raising a celebrity stalker.

The election is in full swing nowadays. Twenty foot high banners everywhere, I know most of the candidates by their faces these days. The strangest sight to date, was a monstrous flat screen tied to the roof of one of the ubiquitous mini or crazy rat vans, bumbing along a back street. The Doctor and I are getting a bit weary of the constant barrage of loudspeaker driven adverts, not to mention the increased horn sounding due to the parades etc.. blocking traffic. My dear wife is a bit peeved as she went through no small amount to grief to register for this election in anticipation of the usual free giveaways from the candidates, but none have materalized. Flyers and knocks at the door while the lad is napping has been her only reward. The politicians are holding out a promise of cash money to the people as an incentive. At least the two coalition partners are, the numerous third party candidates are crying foul as they don’t have their fingers on the purse strings. It’s all a bit of smoke and mirrors anyway. The government has yet to see a return on the mineral resources. In part due to their intranstrangent stance on controlling the profits, which is holding back serious progress on the actual extraction.

Spring rains showed up this week. For a whole week, which produced more rain than I’ve seen here to date. Had to wonder if I was in a dusty version of saipan after day three. We did manage an outing one dry evening for Mutton on a stick. Actually, more like a small sword, but what a treat. Pumpkins new teeth allowed him to suck on one large chunk, which he enjoyed mightily. He gnawed a bit, but the piece was too large and chewy for us to worry about choking. Anytime, you can share a family meal without the danger of choking is fine with us. Summer is truly here when the street mutton vendors show and the restraunts move operations out of doors. Happy days. Sweet mutton and one fat chunk served with luscious grilled onions, peppers, and tomato. Generally, comes with a side of rice for about three bucks. I love a city with the smell of grilled meat on every corner.

Lots of white people on the streets now as well. I’m wondering where they were hiding all winter. Some are tourists and some people I recognize from last year. It’s interesting, to watch the hapless negotiate traffic from our neighborhood pub. Great place two wide glass doors give the Doctor and I easy acsess to the street scenes. This weeks entertainment was a guy throwing a rock through an open bus window at what was presumably a soon to be ex girlfriend. He was immediately pummeled by passers by. Saved the doctor the trouble, as he is always up for a brawl. He enlivened our lives a couple of weeks ago by mixing it up with a few hoods at the bar/resteraunt known as the big Irish. The place is formally named, "the Grand Khan Irish Pub" Too many Khan places in town and there is a little Irish, thus the name. These fellows have been hassling Mongolian girls who are seen with an American, Captain Tom and I had a run in with them, but they didn't use any words I recognized and I put them down as drunk, rude, and obnoxious kids, but found out later they were calling the Captains friend a prostitute. Well, they made the mistake of using an uncomplimentary word which the doctor is familar with and paid the price. Two of them were well marked about the face, when their sunglasses exploded and those of us in the know, go up and laugh at them often while offering to insert various pieces or furniture in various orifices. We are hoping they take their show on the road. The third one hasn't been seen, since the doctor's lady friend implored him to stop kicking him in the head, before there was trouble, so he has either seen the error of his ways or is still in hospital.

Last Thursday was a bit odd in another way. I journeyed downtown for coffee with the doctor, as I had business in the area and while traveling noticed an extraordinary number of police on the streets for that time of day. Mongolia is rather unique in that things don’t generally get going until ten or so in the morning. Before nine, one can’t even find coffee except in the hotels. Before seven, there is nothing. Later in the afternoon, the two of us were taking in the sun at the local when we were struck by an odd quietness on the streets. Police were lined up every twenty yards or so and controlling the intersections, which they tend to do when a upper level member of the government or a foreign delagation is passing through. I hadn’t heard of anything along those lines and was expecting a political parade. Nothing really happened though, a few cars passed, the police went home, and the streets quickly returned to the normal state of loud chaos. Turns out a Chinese politician was visiting and I quess they wanted to be prepared. Thus, the title. I figured, tin pot dictator could translate to the chinese plastic version. Doesn't quite have the same ring though. Any ideas? The cop outside our window was giving me the hairy eyeball which rather concerned me at the time, I realize now he was expecting me to pop out a free Tibet banner or some other political nonsense. We were accosted by some backpackers later on who were as puzzled as the two of us. Actually, they were asking directions for the “Museum to Honor Intellectuals” We were able to ask around, but alas although nearby, they found it closed. On their return, they really stumped the chumps by asking; “where can we find a cheeseburger, close by?” Mutton, dumplings, good Korean fare was no problem, but Cheeseburgers. Not. Our laugh for the day at anyrate. Pumpkin’s up and demanding something. I’ll have to check if it is diaper or mush, but probably both. I still owe a piece on the most excellent book “Dateline Mongolia” by Michal Kohn, another day and I’ll try to get a tooth count from the lad. He has molars now and each new eruption causes a few days of grumpy boy, but for the most part he’s doing just fine.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

What I want for Father’s day.

The best part of being a dad is not needing any presents. I hold the most precious gift in my arms every day. That revelation came to me quite suddenly this past Saturday as I was trying to answer Erdene’s question of a possible gift. Last June, Pumpkin was just a cute little lump with his smiles and cuddles. Today, he is walking and nearly speaking. In what language we don’t know yet, but it is enough that he is happy and thriving. I forgive him my sticking mouse buttons and “e” key without reservations. I suppose my own dad forgave my frequent transgressions in the same manner. He’ll be up soon and our day will begin in the usual fashion. A small cry, the sound of little feet wandering down the hall, then the sight of his tousled hair and his heart wrenching grin. With a little squeal of delight, he will present himself at my knee and motion for a lift up to the lap. The years will change all of us, but the memories of these happy days will be the present which gives forever.

In UB news, not much. The campaingn for seats in the Great Hural or parliament proceed all around us. Political campaigns here are spirited and personal. People come to the door with flyers, trucks with loudspeakers and billboard sized banners fill the streets and cover the buildings. The Parliament left without finishing the mining law, but its basic components are none at this point and has the world covets Mongolia’s resources now more than ever the exodus of mining companies hasn’t occurred. Spring is rapidly giving way to summer and the markets are once again full of fruits and vegetables. I did find a whole chicken last week, but none since. I knew I should have bought two. Walking the streets, we are witnessing an substantial influx of foreigners. I’ve even talked to a few. One fellow, a Canadian vet visiting for an infectious disease conference enlightened me on some specifics of bird flu and we passed an enjoyable half hour discussing Mongolian herding practices and the better aspects of Mongolian life. Only briefly did we touch on the constant parade of Mongolian lovelies passing our open air café’ table. Another happily married man in UB, what are the odds of that. Truly though for all its faults, UB is a city of pleasant people. If I had one piece of advice for a visitor to ensure a fun visit, I would say just smile. Well and maybe watch out crossing the street, but that caution is self evident.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Another Mother's day?

Today, is more celebrated for the children, than for the mom's. But if you go by the title "National Mother's and Children's day", mom gets a free ride today also. This is number four for the year, if we count celebrating the stateside Mother's day. The city gave the kids a break and banned Vodka sales along with requiring drivers to use their headlights. Maybe they will even brake for the little ones, but I'm keeping my head on a swivel. Erdene let this one sneak up on me, as she still has a rose from the last one and was willing to settle for a formal acknowlegment of the holiday along with a little session of hug and kiss, while the lad was performing his daily rearrangement of the living room. My notice was so short, I barely had time to secure treats for my favorite neighborhood urchins.

Pumpkin seemed to enjoy his day. Our landlord brought some treats for mother and child when she came to collect the rent and for a gab and sausage session with the missus. I have to admit, I enjoy a civilized personal session of rent paying. She's a nice lady with a family of her own and they are all more than willing to drop by if something is amiss. New England hospitality and Mongolian seem to mesh very well.
Pumpkin had his very own pancake which he supplemented with the usual thievery from our plates. Of course, when you are a year and a half, everyday is children's day. In food news, I finally found a whole chicken in one of markets yesterday. A bit on the scrawny side and I broke a shelf in the freezer while squeezing it in along side two kilos of good breakfast sausage, but we can count on oyster or cranberry/bread stuffed chicken, once we are finished with today's Corned beef brisket. Now if I could just allow for leftovers to supplement the canned corned beef hash.

The holiday was a bit saddened by the acknowledgement of a National day of mourning Saturday. The inconvenient snowsqualls in UB of last Monday and Wedsday were a little more powerful away from town and took the lives of forty-six herders from the eastern provinces. Fourteen of those were children minding the family flocks and eight people are still missing. It is one thing to acknowledge missing infrastructure in the form of reliable electricity and sidewalks bisected by ditches, but the weather service isn't an infrastructure we think of often. Mentally placing myself and missus in an isolated ger, miles from the nearest town, and thinking of the lad out in a raging blizzard with the sheep requires a leap of imagination which doesn't appeal to me. The lads at the Casablanca were in favor of introducing Buffalo here. I doubt the grazing would be sufficient for a good sized cow, but at least there would be a warm cavity to crawl into, when the storms of spring come in.

Our friend Captain Tom, is on his way to the good ship Bonneyman. They are away from the island at the moment, but should return shortly. Pmpkn took to him in a quick fashion. We enjoyed seeing the lad bond with someone other than a family member and enjoyed his company. I was thankful he didn't pull on the mustache as much as I had feared. I was particularly thrilled when pumpkin and I were waiting in the playground for him and pumpkin more than rapidly covered the distance between usfor a hug when he saw him coming. I'm always afraid an only child will be slow to accept others, but he seems to be doing just fine. Fair winds and following seas, Tom.

That's it for today in Mongolia and I'm off to home. I wouldn't have left, but it is nap time for Mom and Baby and we have no internet at the house this weekend.