Sunday, March 29, 2009


Finally, I've been able to save a screen shot from my harpoon game. Don't laugh, this time vampire keeps me out of trouble.

Monday, March 23, 2009

In which I visit Saipan

But didn't have a camera along. However, I have some recycleable pics from the happy days.

The company was good enough to send me to Gaum on business and as I had Sunday off, I grabbed the two am Cape Air flight to Saipan. Obtensibly, I went to pick up some goodies Erdene and I had left with our friend Rick, but in all truth, I needed to ride the scooter and catch up with old friends. My day began as most do with breakast at Wild Bill's. Mali and Wasana were both there and treated me as if I had been gone for a few days rather than a year and a half. My entire day was like that, I think I'm the only one who knows I've been away. Wild Bill told me later, that was an island thing and I'm cool with that. Bob O'C, his wife Bayarama, son Bobbi, and daughter Kali (sp?, sorry, hope your ankle heals up quickly) came down from the hill and we caught up on the local and distant news. I had plenty of knee bouncing with little Bobbi, who shares a birthday with the pmpkn, although he is a year younger. Sweeet little boy, I nearly cried with my memories of the lad in the same place. Overall though, I felt much better for my time with his cuteness. Nong's dog snow, most definetely remembered me and acknowledged my gift of a sausage with his usual affection.
After breakfast, I hit Asia Scooter. Strangely enough, they didn't have a white scooter to rent to me, apparently they are all broken, but I did manage the slightly slower red scotter. Then, it was off to the north for a swim and to check on the familia Bateman. Sadly, they were not in residence, although the boonie dogs were. Either they remember me or someone is slipping, as they were licking my hand before I left. Bareheaded as no one was in residence and lacking a pen or calling card, I was forced to leave my Red Sox hat on the fence in lieu of a note. I'm sure someone was wondering why the hat. I was lucky to arrive during flame tree bloom and had the time to appreciate the beauty which is Saipan.

The day went to debauch from there. Looking for my buddy Rick who had moved; I ventured to Round Two and didn't leave for quite a while. No troubles though. Virgie was behind the bar(she, her husband Noli and son Kyle were neighbors of ours in Chinatown and great friends to Erdene and I). Bobby Cadillac and Noi's husband Dave were in residence, along with my buddy Rick's new partner in crime, Butch. Butch recognized me as the Mainer who went to Mongolia Apparently in the marine diesel district of Saipan, I am legend.
I did manage directions to Ricks new place. Typical for Saipan. Go up and over Capital Hill, after you pass two stores in a row on the left, look for a house for sale on the right, take your next left down the hill, after the second house, take the left fork marked with a piece orange tape eight up the side of a palm tree, contiue down to the second house which has from two to three trucks in the yard. I decided to wait at the bar until Rick made an appearance, as that would take less time then trekking up the hill, although, I'm pretty certain I could have found it. Those were pretty decent directions by Saipan standards. Rick did make it in and I took a short trip to Dan Dan, in search of Erdene's sister. Found her apartment, but no Selenge. However, Captain Tom made it in to shore and we were able to text her, before getting into the rum. On my way to pick up Siigi, I saw Beu the bartender from Hamiltons and a good friend, trudging along in the median on middle road in search of his bike, which I had noticed locked to the window grating at Bills. The day was looking pretty good at this point. We picked up Siigi and headed back to a beach bar. Stella's Five, if memory serves. Spent the entire afternoon on the beach, with Captains Tom and Morgan along with Rick, Camille, and new friend Butch. After dinner at Bill's (Juni's exquiste, green curry) and happy greetings with CharleeRat, Nong, and Wasana's guy, the estimable 'smoking Matty G', I was all done and nearly ready for my nine pm flight back to Gaum. Of course, we had to rendevous at Godfathers and bloggers Ron M and Harry the dive animal were among the last people I saw before departing to the airport with Gee, the last of the Thai taxi drivers. Note to the regular taxi drivers, why twenty-seven dollars? Well, that's my story. Sorry, to miss everyone else, but I figured you were all at church. I envy you all for having such a lovely place to live everyday. Thanks and good times to all I visited with and sorry to miss the rest.
Nearly forgot. Erdene passed along the latest pictures. She was having me on, as they didn't cut off all the lad's hair. He's looking good and having fun, though.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Here's to Mongolian women

Yes, it is that time of year again. Mongolian Woman's Day.

Erdene and sister, Selenge, on the afternoon of our first day in Mongolia and Selenge below, looking her best on Saipan.
Had to add that, I'm continually reminded to not blog less than attractive pictures. In the first picture Selenge (Siigi) had spent much of the previous evening and into the wee hours waiting for our arrival at the aiport, and then showed up the next day at daybreak in case we needed anything. Not the least of her efforts on our behalf, by any means, but she does deserve a more realistic picture.
Sister Selenge, Solte (to the right and below), and their mom have gone more than the extra mile in their love and care for Pumpkin and Erdene. Not so different than my sisters here in America, but in Mongolia, to my experience, such caring is a family tradition carried across the entire nation. I can't say anything against this holiday, Mongolian women work hard under trying circumstances and still manage to maintain grace and dignity.

By the grace of the postal gods, my latest parcel arrived just on the eve of the big day. Fortunately, as, as with most holidays and special events, I'd forgotten.
Erdene was quite graceful with her gentle reminder along with her thanks for the package arriving on such a special day. I had to suck it up and profess ignorance again, but her Mom and sister, Solte, are quite touched by my skill at having a gift box arrive on the very eve of the day. In turn, I am touched by the devotion and care her entire family have lavished on the lad I'm so indebted for my mother and sisters-in laws help with our stay in Mongolia. So here is to them and the other fine women of the "Blue Sky Country"

The two pictures above, represent Mongolia to me. The elderly lady, medal bedecked, and dressed to the nines with her family at her side, off to a concert at the Wrestling Palace in Ulan Baatar. Hard to imagine, what she went through to reach this point in her life, but I'm happy and humbled to see her treated with gentle kindness by her family and country.
Most especially, my love and greatest respect to the Mongolian woman who will always be front and center in my life. Pumpkin called me daddy for the first time this evening. I know how much practice and coaching on her part his words cost, What greater gift can anyone receive?

I'm rather happy; Erdene will celebrate three holidays each year, beyond the usual; Mongolian Womens Day, International Women's Day, and the other Mother's day. As for my part, I'm going to need a better scheduling calendar or bring her to realize every day is a special day for her.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A long post written by someone else

But, I couldn't make the link work reliably and B. wrote a fine piece. No pictures of Pmpkn's scalp, but maybe next week. Erdene spent two hours sending these pictures to me. Welcome to an emerging economy. Whoops, my bias is showing. I usually refer to France and Spain as being members of the third world.
As it is though, this look at Erdene's mom and dad's festive plate gives one an idea. For the record, the deep fried bread monument stands a couple of feet high. The interesting items which fill the quick fried loaf basket are mostly dried milk products (that is the best description, I can come up with other than they are all tasty espcially the curly items) Try to imagine; quick dried yogurt and you might have clue towards the "milk products". Anyway, here is the article.
A Closer Look at Mongolia's National Holiday
Written by B.Narandelger
Thursday, February 05, 2009.
In an anxiously awaited three weeks time, Mongolians will celebrate their most esteemed national holiday, Tsagaan Sar (The white month). The first month of each spring has been one of the most important Mongolian celebrations for centuries. It is the time when winter passes, and spring is reborn. Chinggis Khaan played a most significant role in the creation of Tsagaan Sar. In 1207, on the first day of the Year of the Red Rabbit, The Great Khaan prayed to the blue sky and the vast steppe in all of his new clothes, and then paid respects to the elderly by visiting his mother. In 1216, during the year of the Red Rat, the Khaan issued a decree that would award people with gold and clothing materials from state reserves on the day of Tsagaan Sar. He also passed a law to award a special title to anyone older then 120 years, and to release prisoners on the day of Tsagaan Sar (except for those convicted of a cruelty case).

Long after the times of Chinggis Khaan, in 1911, the political and religions leader of Mongolia, Bogd Khaan, approved a new state flag featuring Soyombo (the National symbol) on a yellow background. He ordered that government houses, military establishments, and monasteries keep this flag raised outside of their compounds from the last day of winter to the 15th day of the Tsagaan Sar. The flag was to be kept inside the compounds other times of the year.

Even today, the holiday continues to be a significant tradition in Mongolian society with an intricate set of customs involved.
The Tsagaan Sar Eve (the last day of winter) is called “Bituun,” meaning “full darkness”. It is a single night, when there is no moon visible in the sky. On this day, people eat to the point of extreme fullness. It is believed that if you are at all hungry on this eve, you will often be hungry for the year to come. Tsagaan Sar is a festival of white foods (foods with white color, including dairy products and rice).

All “bituun” ceremonies begin after the dark night takes over. During the day, people clean their bodies and minds from bad things and are expected to have a fresh start. During the holiday, individuals pay respect to elders and relatives, and renew friendships.

On the first day of the New Year, people wake up before sunrise with their families, wear new clothes, and open the “Orkh” (ger’s top window cover) to make a fire. Although the Mongolian landscape is still covered with snow, the scent of spring is believed to be in the air. Men walk in certain directions as prescribed by the Buddhist horoscope. This ceremony is called “Muruu gargakh,” which means “Starting your footprints”. It is believed that starting your life in the right direction will bring luck for the year to come.
With the sunrise, a greeting ceremony will begin with the family inside. The oldest person stays in “Hoimor” (ger’s northern-most side). The younger family members first greet him or her and then greet each other. Individuals greet their elders by extending out their arms with the palms facing upward, then holding the elder’s arms from underneath. Everybody greets each other except the husband and the wife.

People often hold “Khadag” in their arms which are long and narrow pieces of yellow, white, or blue silk with different spiritual meanings. When the greeting ceremony has concluded, everyone sits behind the table and exchanges “Khoorog” (a snuff bottle usually made of semi-precious stones, filled with finely pulverized tobacco. Exchanging “Khoorog” is expressing friendly intentions to others and is the way strangers become acquainted with one another.

The typical greeting words are “Daaga dalantai and Byaruu bul chintai, Sureg mal targan orov uu?” This can be translated to: “Does your two-year old horse have enough fat for the winter (signifying good health), “Does your two-year old yak have enough muscle (signifying power), and “Did all the animals pass the winter safely?” Other customary dialogue includes, “Sar shinedee saihan orov uu?” and Nas suuder hed hurev?” Both are used to ask the elderly about his/ her good health and age, which is something to be proud of.

All people must eat many “Booz” (Steamed Mongolian dumplings) and drink “Airbag” (fermented mare’s milk). When the ceremony finishes, the hosts give presents to each person. The present symbolizes a wish for health, wealth and power. Individuals then move to the next family that has an elderly person living in the ger.

Tsagaan Sar festivities continue for one month, but the first, second and third days are the most important. They consists of “Ih idee” (big plate) and “Baga idee” (small plate). “Ul boov” (Mongolian traditional biscuits) are layered on the big plate. The number of layers must always be odd. Traditionally, grandparents have seven layers and young couple’s only three layers. “Uuts”, Sheep’s back and tail must be on the table. A larger and fatter tail is considered to be more delicious. Airag is the most important drink during Tsagaan Sar, however, “Shimiin arhi” (Milk vodka) and clear vodka also accompany the food as well.

The Tsagaan Sar National Wrestling Championship is held in the Wrestling Palace. It is an important event rivaling the wrestling title of Naadam. The largest Buddhist monastery, Gandan, holds a Tsagaan Sar prayer, which is annually visited by the president and prime minister.

At its core, Tsagaan Sar is an observance of the new year, a tribute to elders and loves ones, and a celebration of winter’s ending and the safety of one’s animals.

There you go. Mongolian life. The key to holiday is to me; "not to go to bed hungry" As a long term resident of the east coast and therefore the Pilgrims, the one item to take to bed is "eat"

Erdene and the lad are well. Tsvaan gar also is a harbinger of spring. Here's hoping PmPkn can go outside with less covering.
He did bust off a piece of tooth last week, which caused some frantic calls and emailing across the miles, but I managed to calm down after receiving reassuring news from Ginny's dad the dentist with a potato gun. Whew.. Rule is with children under five, no blood in the dentin, leave it alone. Families are great. Thanks to Gene and if anyone sets eyes on running shoes in Mens size 10 with LED lights in the soles, please write.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Book Review - 'The Bloody White Baron,' by James Palmer - Review -

Book Review - 'The Bloody White Baron,' by James Palmer - Review -

This is going on my list; right after the "Journeyer" (sp)? by Eddings. David Eddings, I believe. Great fictionalized account of Marco Polo's journey to the east and his stay with the Mongols. Here are Captain Tom and the lad at the entrance to the Bogd Kahn museum. I missed that visit. However, the doctor and I visited the Bogd Kanhn tourist area just to the east of UB. Horse rib dumplings, just like Erdene's dad makes.

I just love the Ger on wheels. A house towed by oxen blows even the best Winnebago away.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

warm again

The Pacific northwest rocks. Turned a corner and saw this rising above the skyline. Not that I'm not glad to be back in Southern CA, but where else do the mountains sit on top of the clouds. More later, great food, friendly people, even fine art. Pumpkin did have most of his hair cut for Tsvaan Gar and the pictures are soon to be here.