Friday, April 25, 2008

If Jeff won't, I will



Aw, bloggin about the lad is fun. Blogger, on the other hand seems to be sucking wind, so pmpkns pics at a later date. I've been busy busy lately and my free time is devoted to him and the missus. I would be home now, but they are both napping, so I slipped out. Ostensibly, for negotiations with the GM of the Grand Khan Kempenski Hotel on the subject of importing Corned Beef Brisket for home use, but any excuse will do. Actually, Erdene is jonesing big time for corned beef and I'm going to try and make it happen. I splurged and picked up an eight dollar coffee maker, so she should get something. My dear wife never asks for much of anything and I think I can manage this one. Most of the time, I just can't justify spending time away from home when my two sweetnesses are waiting for me. I have yet to return home, without the little one going into a state of excesty (hope I spelled that right, my spell check isn't working and blogger seems to be tits up as well) over my arrival in his AO. He is cute at the worst of times, but his smiling little face and snuggly body are the joy of all joys.

I totally failed as a provider this week. Bought a potty chair for the lad, turns out there is a button in the bowl which plays music, so the pumpkin spends more time with his foot or finger in the appliance than the intended appendage. I did a little better with the food processor. Now that is a handy gadget when the little one only has nine teeth. Erdene enjoyed whipped potatoes with carrot and raisin salad on the side. Pumpkin is into all the buttons. and everything else he can get his hands on. His reach is expanding everyday and he has become a climber. Major drama yesterday. He apparently drank from the little jar of warm water, which Erdene uses to clean his under carriage. Yech. No ill effects as of today, perhaps he only spilled it all down his front. And what is the attraction to the street? As soon as I set him down outside, he makes tracks for the road and it's inherent dangers. Damn kid, I'll be happy if he lives to the age of five. The Bateman cautioned me on this, but I had high hopes for COMMON SENSE.

Anyway, life is great these days. No joy in my life so far comes close, to what I take away from my time with the lad and his mother. And, I think I will end this post with that statement.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Good friends



Should be treasured. The gentleman above is one of them. Tom or Captain Tom is a frequent visitor to Saipan. He's the master and commander of the M/V Bonneyman, as well as being an exceptionaly well read and companiable gent. He watched over Erdene while my ship went to Japan for a month and has been a steady supplier of mainland staples to Mongolia (outer). We are expecting him to visit next month, after which he will be back in Saipan. If either of my Saipan readers should recognize him in the street or on the beach, make sure to make his aquaitance as he is a fun fellow to be around.

If you should meet this young man on the street, run home immediantly. Dale and I have been friends for quite some time and have enjoyed some interesting experiences. Most of which have been somewhat dangerous, but fun. If you are with Dale and not laughing, then something is either wrong with you or a bar room brawl is in the offing. I wouldn't worry about being required to throw any punches though. Although, if his opponents number more than five, you might lend a hand.Dale, this SONG or maybe this one is for you.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

IN TRAINING



UPDATE, BLOGGER IS HAVING A BAD DAY, I'LL CORRECT MY SPELLING AND ADD SOME PICTURES AFTER THEY FIGURE IT OUT. After viewing the Bateman's comment on Brad's exterra post, the pumpkin and I are going into training for the EZTERRA triathlon. I'm pretty excited about the prospect. I'm just excited these days. Pumpkin and I were out the door at 0915 this AM. for public consumption, it was my announced intention to go for bottled water (sorry, about the carbon footprint mom, but we did walk to the store) Actually, I was distracted by the local urchins in the playground and we ended up playing ball. I left with the lad with the excuse of venturing to the store Shortly thereafter, I found myself as the Pied Piper of Hamlin. BTW the Pied Piper by the English author Nevil Shute is one of my all time favorite books. Hard to find, but (shameless plug here) my dad has a few copies for sale. Check the Alan's Lost leaves link in the right hand column. Anyway, the six urchins ended up in the local grocery with the lad and I. I figured a few bottles of juice and some cookies would liven up the party and I was right. It's safe to say, I'm pretty popular on the playground today.

Where was I? Oh yes. We have reached a family decision on our vacation. At some point this summer; Erdene, the Lad, and myself will be traveling to Saipan, if I can afford it my mom also. She is a staunch Catholic, a committed green, and a total flower freak. She may end up staying forever. E and the Pmpkn will be staying for a month at our old digs on Kannat Tabla, but I will have to return to work after a few days.

So much I want to do. Dive with Harry, if he'll take me. Sail and dive with Bruce. Drive a scooter on the back back road from Kannat Gardens to the mountain. Never could speel Tapachoua. Eat at many, many of my old favorites. Go for a scooter ride on Tinian with Kevan. Go for a long slow romantic scooter ride with Erdene on Saipan. Snorkel everywhere possible, if I'm not diving. Conceive a lovely baby girl with the missus at the botanical garden, if possible. If the Hammocks on the overlook are full, then any place convenient will do. Yeah, that is the big reason for visiting Saipan. Put that one on an MVA brochure.

Have a few drinks with Glen D, when I'm not hanging at many many of my old favorite watering holes. I might even go up to Hamiltons if they are still open and open a dialogue with the "last rung on the rocker" S. Torres. Buy as many of the bloggers breakfast at Cafe at the Park, 360, and/or Coffe Care, as want to come. Introduce Erdene and the Pumpkin to Tamara, Deece, Missy, and Boni. Well, I might like to introduce myself first, but I have the feeling we all know each other fairly well at this point.

What else? Play with the lad on the beach and watch him experience his first ocean wave. That is a big one, I may not get past that, actually. However, I'm bringing a traditional Mongolian cooking pot and we'll have Lamb and vegetables steamed with hot rocks at Porky's one evening. I would like to play a round of golf if I can find a partner who's as much of a duffer as myself. Last but not least. Watch the sunset along the Beach Road pathway with the familia. Pinch me, I'm dreaming. Nah, this is going to happen. I just have to be in Mongolia for the Naadam festival in late July, the eclipse of the sun in early August, and for the Sumo Basho, also in early August.

Friday, April 11, 2008

IT’S STARTING





Just off the top of my head, I can identify four extremely large building projects in UB. Construction is a part of life here, small buildings are springing up on every block. Two within sight of our apartment alone. The larger projects range from a new Hilton to a glass and steel sky rise known as the Blue Sail. Work on all buildings stops during the winter, but should have resumed by now. The Hilton, for example, is scheduled to open in July with mainly interior work remaining, once the glass is in. I’ve been fairly busy the last couple of weeks and haven’t walked around as much as usual, but I’m not seeing any visible signs of progress at all.

I’m thinking the impending mining law has the developers running for cover. Sort of hard to believe, as the larger buildings have many tens of millions in construction costs already. The reality is; if the mining companies and allied trades don’t occupy the space, who will? UB isn’t exactly a hub for telecommunications or outsourcing and it won’t be. That could, of course, change once the government decides on a reasonable approach to foreign investment and plows the proceeds into education and infrastructure.





On the home front: Pumpkin continues his winsome ways. The seventh tooth popped up while I was away last week and his chirps and howls are beginning to show some semblance to actual words. This past weekend was a high point in my life. Nothing like a warm morning in the playground with an active, curious, and friendly boy. Erdene was away with sister Solta and it was just me and him for the morning. I was even allowed to dress him and choose the traditional Mongolian Dreel. Handy clothing; warm yet loose and unconfining. I would wear it myself, if I could get away with it. I’m always worried that he will lose his openess, but no signs of that this weekend. He's a bit shy with kids his own age, but loves the older ones. I'm just happy to be with him and look over and see a big smile on his face. Sunday, we hit our old neighborhood on the south side of town for a little walk and breakfast out. Another fine warmish spring day. The afternoon saw; myself, Solta, and brother Amara at the Black Market. This is Solta’s first visit to UB and she was a tad nervous about the crowds, but stuck to her guns and managed to enjoy herself as long as Amara or I were within arms length. I browsed, picked up a 'sox hat for Solta, and bought a fine little brass Bhudda for my dad (I lost the one he brought back from Korea in my early days and thought I should make amends. Still owe my mom some Wedgewood, but I'm on it) She may have to settle for a child sized ger for the side yard, but I'm sure she'll go for that.

What a city of contrasts. As I was sitting in the window of my local writing portions of this post; I witnessed a horse cart loaded with second hand bricks along with a small dog trotting alongside, passing by, with normal city traffic and semi-built high rises in the background. How cool is that? The juxtaposition of time, transports, and cultures makes UB incredibly unique. If either of my readers are from the State of Maine, please forward this blog address to my high school advisor; Mr. Larry Deblois, as he furnished me with the first inklings of what a wide world it is outside the environs of central Maine and was fairly tolerant of my grammatical mistakes.

These days, I am seeing fewer of the countryside people with their flowing dreels and bright sashes, but spring is here and they are back in the gers further from the city. That’s ok. There is a wrestling tourney next door this weekend and we’ll see them back for that. I am so happy these days. Nothing like watching the lad play with other kids, knowing that his future is secure in our hands. Erdene is cooking these days too. She would like to take up knitting and sewing, but holding off until we can settle the lad down a little. He's a climber and still has a fond attraction for his mom's chest. That attitude doesn't mix well with needles.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Page two: Is Mongolia going to play ball?





Local expat news has been dominated by the new mining laws, expected to pass through the Great Hural (legislature) in the next few weeks. Up until recently the laws were very favorable to mining and exploration work has been going gangbusters with some world class coal and copper deposits unearthed. In some aspects, Mongolia is an easy place to do business in. Mainly, it’s cheap to obtain permits etc…as well as a comfortable place for ordinary people to live. Well, I should clarify that I am speaking from the mining side. So let’s say UB is more comfortable than Nambia, Tanzania, Armenia, or the Russian Republic. There is a windfall profits tax in place on gold production, of which there is a respectable amount, but otherwise the government has been fairly laissez-faire towards mining. That position makes sense, as Mongolia is remote and requires some significant capital expenditures to even explore, let alone dig out, process, and remove large quantities or ore. For example the large copper deposits in Erdenet required building a lake to wash the ore down and the new copper finds from Southern Mongolia in the Gobi will require their own railway line.
The crux of the new tax law seems to be that the Mongolian government wants a 51% interest in mines which operate on a profitable scale. Presumably, they also require 51% of the profits, that figure can be offset through infrasture development credits, but it cuts down on the profitability. Most of the smaller companies are making exit plans, but the larger ones have already sunk tons of money into the exploration side and are going to have to stick it out. There is an article HERE on the Gobi copper

I am not puzzled at all by the Mongolian reaction, although I agree with those who argue the Mongolians have stepped on the old crank with the golf shoes with this law. Changing the rules of the game in mid play isn’t the best way to encourage development. Further, it will be a long long time before Mongolia develops enough to dig on their own and I have the expectation that the populace is going to want some changes to their standard of living in rather short order. Depending on the Russians and Chinese isn’t the best position either. The Chinese will rob them blind and leave the typical mess in their wake. The Russians had the country for years and with the exception of a uranium plant in eastern Mongolia and Erdenet couldn’t even find the riches that are here today. I can’t say I have confidence in either party.
The Mongolians are on record at as saying that their mineral resources are a Mongolian Treasure and should be exploited as such. However, at the government level they are ignoring economic reality, as well as fair marketing practices, by going so far. There are many reasons why they might want more money and high level corruption is always played up. There is a decent synopsis here of the western take to all this HERE as well as an interesting rant by a US fair market group HERE. The drillers are taking this in stride, if you have worked in Africa, then nothing the Mongols can cook up will surprise you. They are a bit like sailors, as they are used to picking up and moving the base of operations, but we are all a little sad for the Mongolians. One of the smaller operators who is leaving said it best; “the copper and goal will still be in the ground, yes. But in the ground, deposits have no value, no hospitals, education, or anything which can improve the lot of the Mongolian people”. For all of the warts, we love Mongolia and its people, but temper that love with the expectation that things will improve here. At the moment, the minority party is holding out on a special session of the legislature designed to pass the new law in short order and I think W is a little too busy to take the Mongolian president out to the old woodshed for a lesson in economic politcs. In the absence of serious advice or an outbreak of common sense, it looks as though the law will pass in April and the fallout should be very bad news for the common Mongolian people.

I will entertain comments on the down side of large scale mining, but I’ll start out by saying; Mongolia’s only resource is taking the money from the ground and putting it into the people. They have already experienced outbreaks of contamination through sloppy gold mining and have an idea on the limits which need to be imposed on the larger developments.