Thursday, January 18, 2007

Let's Get Major

So around World Series time there Major League baseball was being advertised on Star Sports. Their catchprase was 'Let's Get Major.' I told the Major (i.e. Mike) Major and his friends about this as a way to say "Hey let's fnd out where Mike is and hang out with him. Everybody likes this phrase. Anyway suffice to say we got the Major quite often. Sometimes we'd meet on the weekend; other times we'd meet on school nights. We'd usually meet on the 1st floor of the State Department store or the bookstore on the 3rd floor. Sometimes we'd meet in Alaska which is a nice Korean restaurant on the road that heads north from State Dept., past Oort Tsagaan going toward the Peace Corps office.

A few words about Mike. he's a great guy. He's great to talk to you. When you're feeling down, he has an very interesting perspective on things. We talked to each other about some difficult things but also lots of crazy whoo-hoos in the last few months.

On Saturday January 13th Mike had a pizza making party. Mike really likes to make pizza. We had some technical difficulties in the pizza making process but got all of that de-snafued. After eating dinner which consisted of pizza and wine, Mike and I had to take care of some errands in different parts of the city. Later around 9:30 or so we met up with Mike's friends with whom we had made pizza. We all decided to go to Tornado nightclub in Sansar District. Tornado is still a cool place but it doesn't get as crazy as it did in the past. I think the deciding factor for this was that the only Peace Corps people in the place (current or former) were Mike and I. Indeed we were the only foreigners in the place until a group of Russians showed up around 11. Overall it was a fun outing to celebrating Mike's big return to the US. He left on Monday the 15th. Soon he'll be hanging out with the very excellent people known as Ariel and Khandmaa.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Where I was for the New Year

One of my students from school had invited me to to his house for New Year. So I went to Nomin and braved the line to get some childrens' champaign, some orange juice and a little toy car for the boy. then I returned home and watched a movie. Around 7:40 pm I left for the store next to building #27 because he and his family lives behind building #27. He and his older sister speak English pretty well. I was able to speak with his mother and grandmother in Mongolia. I had a goodl dinner, drank various liquids, played Tarzan on his computer and took a practice TOEFL test with him and then returned to the living room at 11:50 or so. After the year turned, I took some pictures of the family and some with me in them. His mother has a car so she drove me home around 12:30.

Pre-Holiday Bash/ Today's another

Last night I hung out with this dude I met from Dubai. He is working in the 10th District like me. We went to a bar owned by his friends who are a Mongolian couple that lived in the SF Bay area for many years going to school and working. on the way to the bar we were approached by two women who offered to go to a hotel with us. They were really beautiful as most Mongolian women are but they seemed to have a certain goal in mind and I wasn't interested in them. Also I didn't know them and what diseases they might have so I told them we were going to a house party and that we were almost there and that it is a private party. Wished them a Happy New Year and they were out of there.

We made sure they didn't know which bar we entered before we entered the one we were heading for. It the one near the Ginza Bar which is near the Ulaanbaatar Circus. we went there had a little party and that went to the couple's clothing store. They import clothing from the US. It is near the long distance bus station. Overall it was a good night. Tonight I will go to one of my student's house for to celebrate the New Year. bi margaash bayar tuukhai bichene. Tomorrow I will write about the celebration.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Major returned

Mike Major had ventured out to the countryside to visit friends in Erdenet and Khuvsgol. He travelled by train to Darkhan to be with his son, wife, and her family. After that he took a microbus to Erdenet and met up with former
co-workers. He stayed in Erdenet for awhile and then travelled by furgon to Moron. He called me one night from Moron to get Serdamba's phone number and to find out Serdamba's location. I told him that Serdamba doesn't have a cell phone but that he is in Khatgal. Mike ended up finding Serdamba. Mike called yesterday during one of my classes and I said "Mike, can you call me after 6 PM?"

So I found myself travelling at 7PM to the Buddhist Stupa cafe. The Buddhist Stupa/ Cafe is near where the old Millie's was back in 2000. the taxi driver I rode with was an ok guy. sometimes I'm a little leary getting taxis in UB after dark. It can sometimes be a fairly iffy propisition. But this guy was cool. When I entered, Mike was meditating. I ate the buuz I bought from Zochin Buuz 999 and had a black coffee. Mike had a tea. They close up at 8. After that we crossed the street and went to Nayra cafe where one of my students works. She is a former student from Tarialan. They close at 9 so we stayed there and talked about various topics for an hour. We still wanted to do something as it was early so we walked towards State Department Store. there's a cool bar/ restaurant called Alaska. So we went in there. Mike called a friend named Ganbold. He's a body building trainer and aerobics instuctor at a gym. He's a good guy because he doesn't drink to excess and he has a good character. it was time for me to go around 10:30 pm as sometimes the building jijuur (watchperson) locks the entrance to the building in which I live. That can be annoying. After that I returned to my apartment after stopping off at an internet cafe and reading an email from my Dad.

Overall it was a good night out and about. Mike says that he's leaving Mongolia on December 17th.

Friday, November 17, 2006

My self-induced amnesia

This post is a retrospective. The setting is the soum I lived in as a Peace Corps volunteer. It was in Tarialan soum, Khuvsgol Aimag. It was during my second winter at that site that my school director, Batchuluun, decided not to give me my winter firewood. Not so important aside from the fact that I lived in a ger. I needed said firewood to warm my home and cook my meals. Batchuluun might be translated as Strong Rock or stone. He was sore at me because the previous year he had asked me if Peace Corps could donate $4000 to the school. I knew that Peace Corps doesn't just hand out money in the form of a blank check. They usually want some sort of tangible asset to be attached such as computers or some sort of project helping peoples Health such as AIDS education. I made a show of filling out the appropriate forms to get a blank check of the above mentioned amount but Peace Corps did not agree. So upon being notified of being denied he fired me. I told him in Mongolian "You can't do that; only Peace Corps Mongolia can fire me. You need a better reason." So during the fall and early winter my hasha family and I were able to make wood supply from the previous year last a little while longer. My hasha family needed firewood too. After all the only person living in my ger was me. My hasha family consisted of Elhagvaocher, Urnaa, Damdinsuren, and Saikhnaa who at that time was 1 year old. I had told him several times that I need my firewood and that it is the contract he has with Peace Corps. Serdamba and Elhagvaocher told him that I need my firewood too. He said contracts don't matter. So it was late December and I was to the point where I would get up some mornings; get dressed in my warm clothing and walk around the soum to acquire random pieces of wood. For example, if I saw a board partially detached from someone's hasha, I'd rip it off. One time I took the whole western entry to the school grounds. I just made off with the whole door. It measured about 2 meters in lenghth and were made of boards that were more or less 7 feet tall. So it was some good firewood. Batchuluun was too cheap to get a new door made so they just fixed up the old one. It would maybe stay up for 1 week and then they'd have to fix it again. This in turn made it easier for drunks to enter the school grounds and fall asleep on the school doorstep in a drunkan stupor. So I noticed after school one day that it was broken again. So I got up at 3 a.m. walked to school with an a pry bar and some rope and brought it home. that door provided firewood for sometime. After that the school received a new shipment of computers. One day Batchuluu asked me if I could translate something because he doesn't understand technical English. I don't know what the distinction was; he doesn't even know basic English. I looked at the instruction manual he was showing me. The title on the page read: How to change the toner cartridge. I didn't even need to read it. I was able to follow the arrows and was familar enough with toner cartridges to know what to do. Instead I told him that I have forgotten technical English. He became angry and asked Serdamba and the other English teacher Irekhbuyan. They both told him they also don't know techie English. So he asked me again. I told him as soon as I have my firewood, it'll probably come back. Just a gut feeling. The next morning a huge truck showed up with about 15 logs. So I paid for it and got a receipt so that I could get reimbursed from Peace Corps. That afternoon a class from school showed up and cut and sawed about 1/3 of the wood. The day after that I went to school changed the toner cartridge on the printer and "translated" the instruction manual.

I found a cure for my self-induced amnesia.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Winter preparations made

So I went to the blackmarket the other day as my school had one break off from school. I went there to get a pair of esgii gutal (cow fur-lined boots) and a winter jacket. I got the boots for 6,000 TG and the winter jacket for 30,000. The boots are superb for winter hiking, sledding in the mountains, or for long jeep rides in the countryside. The jacket is double layered and has a hood. I went shopping and had breaksfast in under an hour. The whole while I was there I never had any thieves move on me. I guess they either left me alone or they were still sleeping.

Yesterday I went out with a young woman who works at Nomin. we went to the Dublin which is north of the new circus across the street. They got pretty noisy around 9 so we went around the corner to the Gyudon Japanese restaurant. That is a good restaurant because you can get Japanese and tasty yet healthy Japanese food. We had desert and tea. This place was quieter. A better atmosphere for talking. This place used to not sell beer. But I guess within the last 2 weeks or so they've started selling beer. So around 9:50 pm or so a bunch of obnoxious drunks came in so we left. But it was cool because we had a nice walk down past the 4 Roads Crosswalk. From there we got a taxi going back to the 10th District.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Creative ways to get across

Two creative ways to cross the street in Ulaanbaatar I call the camel walk and the dragon walk respectively. I created these two walks to navigate the often crazy streets of UB. The camel walk is useful to employ at night or when walking on uneven or frozen over streets. It is especially useful for detecting whether or not the manhole cover is not sturdy or if the manhole is a mere hole. This problem is quite common in UB. The camel walk enables you to determine how sturdy the manhole is. If anyone has seen how a camel walks, you know how to do the camel walk. You just raise your leg a good foot off the ground and put it down slowly and methodically. It looks a little goofy but it beats falling in any manholes. That happened to a good friend of mine and he got a rather nasty gash on his chin as a result. I demonstrated the camel walk to some secret laughers (Mongolian women) and they found it to be quite funny.

The dragon walk is a useful method one can employ to cross one of the crazy streets in UB. What it amounts to is making yourself visible to Mongolian drivers. The majority of them will not stop for people wanting to cross the street. At the same time one should be able to leap out of the way and/ or jog out of the way. Sometimes it is best to just wait for the light. Unfortunately some streets lacks lights. Some crosswalks lack crosswalks. Some lack both so the dragon can get you across. I am usually able to get drivers to stop, slow down, or at least alter their course. It is always a good thing to be mindful of where you're walking. Being aware of your surroundings can help you get across the street and you may not even need the dragon. For example, if you see a sudden lull in the traffic and know that you need to cross the street, you should quickly walk across. 20-40 cars may be coming all of whom will probably not slow down for you. I don't know what the Mongolian law is on this matter or if there is a statute but culturally Mongolian drivers have the right of way.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Early Morning in June

Looking back it was on June 13th that Serdamba and I met Tim and Sam. I wanted to meet them because I was helping a young woman I know earn enough money to go to school in UB. Plus I knew Serdamba needs the money for his school as well. Tim and Sam are an English couple on honeymoon. I had met them on the lonely planet thorntree. They found my posts to be informative, and asked me if I knew any Mongolian herders and if I could them prepare their journey in Mongolia. I told them that I do know herders and that I can help them in any way possible. They're travelling around the world practicing skills they learned in England. The Mongolian portion of their honeymoon was undertaken to perfect their horseriding skills and to learn how Mongolians do it.

So Serdamba and I knew that they were coming and had promised we would be there to greet them as they get off the train. They were the last people to get off. I had written on a portable calender I got from MIAT (Tim and Sam) in large letters so that they can distinguish Serdamba and I from all the other people meeting people and such at the train station. In the end we met them and took them to the UB Guesthouse. They were tired from their journey, but later that night we met up with them and went to a pub.

The school invaded Terelj

Roland, most of the Russian teachers, some of the 6th grade classes and I went on a day trip of Terelj last Saturday. We started our journey at 9:45 a.m. I managed to snag the front seat of the bus for Roland and I. It provided a cool view of the journey to Terelj. We stopped off at a place owned by some Kazakhs that had an eagle there and two camels. Most of the children and all the Russian teachers rode the camels. I didn't get on as I had ridden one in Moron (the Aimag Center of Khuvsgol last summer. We went to Terelj after that; I did a bit of scampering about on the rocks. Then we went back to the Tuul river and had a picnic. We broke down into two groups: the students and the adults. The homeroom teachers stayed with their classes to make sure the kids don't hurt themselves. The majority of the teachers went off further into the scrub where we had our picnic. There was food and drink. It was the first meeting of the school year.