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 cafĂ©’ 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.