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Published: February 27th 2011
My room in UB
One half of the room....
This week, Melbourne came in second (again) to Vancouver as the world's most liveable city. UB did not rate a mention and I have to say it will never make my list of favorite cities of the world. The reasons - the air quality, dust, traffic, drunks and uneven footpaths for starters.
Unfortunately, my final weeks here in UB have been further tainted by a series of unfortunate events. Personally, I was pick-pocketed on my way home from VSO on Valentine's day (!). Having learned many lessons over the years, or so I thought, all of my 'valuable' items were safe and deep within my backpack. My little black book, however, was not. So, a young man has in his possession, my moleskin notebook with only 3-4 blank pages, containing 6 months of my Mongolian memories plus lists of rules for Mongolian and other card games (ie mushik, durak and 'shithead') and knucklebone games etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
The next day, one of my fellow volunteers was assaulted by a drunken woman in broad daylight on the main street of UB. Thankfully, before being dispossessed of her belongings, Jo was able to call for help from a young Mongolian man
My room in UB
The other half....I have transferred a few of my pics and posters to make my room "mine".
and walked away very shaken but otherwise unharmed.
Add to this the theft of 3 mobile phones from friends of mine in the last 3 weeks and you are on the way to understanding why UB is not a favorite.
However, socially, it has been a plentiful period. There have been an abundance of leaving parties and birthdays (not sure about the connection between volunteering and being born in February - but the link is definitely strong in Mongolia!), I have attended expat drinks at the Bayangol hotel twice, had a drink or two at the Steppe Inne (bar at the Bristish Embassy), seen 'Tangled' at a local cinema, and 'Coppelia' and 'Swan Lake' ballets.
After more than 6 months in Mongolia, I have finally visited the Mongolian National Museum in UB and the Black Market. Completely different experiences but interesting from a cultural and people-watching perspective. The museum had a whole floor of costumes from each of the 20+ regional groups including all of their decorative silver ornaments such as necklaces and knives, some copies of ancient cave paintings and deer stones (decorated standing stones) and some interesting artefacts from the time of Chinggis Khaan! Apart
Parliament buildings, the 'sail' building and Sukhbaatar Square in the foreground and snow-covered mountains in the background.
from me, there were a bunch of university students in the museum quickly scribbling down facts and figures for an assignment. The Black Market was like an oversized Queen Victoria Market (Melbourne) without the order and cleanliness. It was soooo busy and there were sections of stalls for all conceivable items - ger walls, ger furniture, horse riding gear, deel material, shoes, clothing, household goods and antiques. One unpleasant find was an assorted collection of fresh eagle legs, a large and unidentifiable bone and a hedgehog in the antique section!
I have been kept reasonably busy during the days, working on VSO documentation and facilitating and coordinating sessions for the in-country training program for the 8 new volunteers. It is fair to say my systematic and detailed approach to training and 'event management' are not mirrored by the Mongolian staff so, over the past 2 weeks, there have been a few hiccups in the schedule but nothing earth shattering. The new volunteers are bright and enthusiastic and I sincerely hope they can all retain that demeanour for the entire length of their stays in Mongolia.
I was lucky to be able to accompany the new volunteers (and a
Sukhbaatar Square rink
Ice skating rink - does need a little grooming but everyone looks to be having fun
few veterans) on a visit to the Lotus Orphanage. All of us had stayed at Lotus guesthouses when we had first arrived in Mongolia and the adorable children we visited were who the guesthouses were making the money to fund. As with all children, they were very shy to begin with but after a few games of 'snap' and some coloring in, the noise level and activity rose dramatically. Sadly, a disproportionate number of the children suffer from physical and/or mental disabilities and are not necessarily genuine orphans, rather children abandoned by their parents. After several hours of play, we left exhausted and felt all the better for having provided some much needed care and affection to these beautiful children.
Tomorrow, I head off to Lake Khuvsgul with 5 other VSO volunteers and another ex-pat couple for the Ice Festival. A week later, I will be in the Gobi desert attending the 1000 Camel festival. So there will be a few more Mongolian entries to come before I return home in mid-March. I am simply hoping to survive the long journeys in uncomfortable transport, experience some unusual ice and desert activities and to post some more interesting pictures than
Sukhbaatar Square rink
Crowd looking on, the ballet/opera theatre is the pink building in the background
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