Asia » Mongolia » Ulaanbaatar March 15th 2011

The daily battle is almost over I am not sure which volunteer once said to me that every day in Mongolia is a battle. It is. Just to walk around UB is a battle. The temperature, the dust, the crowds - especially the drunks, the uneven and slippery footpaths, crossing the road on green pedestrian lights cars rarely heed, and the strange language all make for a difficult commute. And working? The lack of urgency, planning and organisation is hard to cope with each and every day. And as a result of these battles, I have never held so many negatively-themed conversations in my life. It will be a definite relief for me to return home and shed this overt cynicism. But final vignette to sum up......My final day in Mongolia was a highly ... read more
My farewell at Namaste
The rubbish
Manual labor #1

Asia » Mongolia » Gobi Desert March 11th 2011

After the dramas of the travel in the Russian van for the Ice Festival, I was relieved to step into a relatively new Hyundai 4WD van for the trip to the Gobi. It was clean, spacious and actually had some suspension! However, never count your apples! Just before starting the return journey to UB, Gans, our tour leader, asked the question, "What is a good Mongolian car?". The answer? "A new one!" Wise words. We did have a few difficulties on the way back. However, our driver was excellent at fixing anything which included making a spare part out of a syringe to keep us moving for a day and a half! On this trip were Gans (Steel Axe - literal translation of his Mongolian name, our leader), Agi (Golden Axe, our driver), Ramona (my German ... read more
Beautiful dog #1
Beautiful dog #2
Camels were tied up to anything!

Asia » Mongolia » Khovsgol March 4th 2011

Bad Karma Upon reflection, I should never have published my last blog that included reference to the negative events surrounding me in UB. I was only asking for trouble - and I got plenty of it! On Sunday, the day before leaving for the Ice festival, I withdrew a heap of cash from an ATM which ate my Australian VISA card (thankfully after I had the cash in my hand). After a minor hissy fit in front of the ATM, I was able to speak with Jo's interpreter and arranged for her to contact the bank on my behalf and request for the card to be held for me at the central branch upon my return from the festival. I also sorted out with my Australian bank to temporarily block my VISA card and have some ... read more
Break down landscape
Break down landscape
Break down landscape

Asia » Mongolia » Ulaanbaatar February 27th 2011

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 ... read more
My room in UB
UB skyline
Sukhbaatar Square rink

Asia » Mongolia » Darkhan February 9th 2011

Spring has sprung! I am probably speaking too early but there is nothing like seeing (and more importantly, feeling) temperatures in the negative teens (and single figures during the warmest part of the day) rather than negative twenties and thirties! Even the ice melted off my apartment windows! The lead up to Tsagaan Sar (Цагаан сар, literally 'White Month', Mongolian Lunar New Year) felt so much like Christmas at home. There was a major shopping frenzy, work slowed down, including work days being unofficially shortened, and the black market seemed to be brimming with more sheep carcasses than usual. Why? See my photos - all families cook up a whole sheep for the four day event. Tsagaan Sar is all about family, honoring the elderly, visiting, and celebrating the end of 81 days of winter! The ... read more
Suvdaa and family
Mutton anyone?
Ceremonial cake

Asia » Mongolia » Darkhan January 31st 2011

Well, January has been another interesting month in Mongolia. In mid-January, I caught the train from Darkhan to UB. It doesn't sound all that exciting but it was a different form of transportation to try out in Mong and I was curious as to why it took twice as long to get to the capital as the bus! Rita (a Swiss citizen and English teacher here in Mong) and I boarded the train in Darkhan around 9:00 am and arrived in UB at 4:30 pm! In between times, we saw and tried to photograph some lovely landscapes (note reflections, ice and dirt from windows in all featured photos - sorry, but there was nothing I could do), stopped at dozens of small villages to pick up and drop off passengers, befriended a lovely 12 yo Mongolian ... read more
Darkhan at dawn
My fave Mong man

Asia » Mongolia » Darkhan January 12th 2011

I had a memorable Christmas/New Year period - not likely to ever be repeated as I will now describe in more detail! Pre-Christmas in UB For the first time since August, I caught up with my Mongolian 'foster mum'. I stayed with Duya and her family as part of the VSO In country training 'home stay' program. Since then, we have been in touch my email only. We had a great lunch at a Chinese hotpot chain restaurant called 'The Bull'. I, of course, opted for the chilli soup option for my hot pot and was rewarded with the hottest meal I have experienced in Mong - it was sensational to have tasty, hot food. Staying at Farrah's apartment in UB (whilst she was having a break at home in the Philippines), I was lucky to ... read more
Preparations #2
Preparations #3
Christmas morning dawns in UB

Asia » Mongolia » Darkhan December 21st 2010

The panorama pic at the beginning of this entry is a close up of my bedroom window - now permanently frozen over. Very pretty but........indicates it is getting a touch cold here in Mongolia. It seems this month is stuck in the -20c through -30c range in Darkhan. Thankfully, the temperatures I experienced in Orkhon haven't reached Darkhan proper.....yet! As a result of the temperature drop, my working arrangements have changed temporarily so I am not walking the 45 minutes to and from office each day, instead I am working from home. The main reason for this is my laptop has started having little hissy fits about the wild temperature variation between my warm apartment and office and the outside world. Until the Health Department can sort out a PC for me, I am stuck with ... read more
Tree in Sukhbaatar Square
Ice sculptures

Asia » Mongolia » Darkhan December 12th 2010

11 and 12 December 2010 represent 28 hours worthy of their own entry! Whilst I will give a comprehensive run down of the weekend, the photographs tell the story much better than my words. Warren, the only Australian I know living in Darkhan, chose to spend his final weekend in Mongolia with me, 2 Swiss girls, Brigitte and Rita, and a German, Ramona, at a little ranch in the Darkhan soum (district) of Orkhon, about an hour's drive from home. As we met at the Darkhan post office at midday on Saturday, they was a low muttering of "why are we doing this?" on this very wintry weekend but we had made a commitment so off we went. The drive was fantastic as I got to see my first bactrian (2 humped) camels in Mongolia. There ... read more
The turn off to Orkhon
The road(?) to Orkhon
Downtown Orkhon

Asia » Mongolia » Darkhan December 1st 2010

In early November, I visited fellow VSO volunteer, Sandrina, in her placement home town of Khutul which is about 40 minutes drive from Darkhan on the road to Erdenet (the third largest city in Mongolia). Khutul is a really cute little town and I immediately understood why Sandrina is so happy with her placement there. She is working for Lotus (whose primary business is an orphanage just outside of UB) and has in the last 6 months managed to set up and open a cafe and community centre in town. I can vouch for excellent Saturday pizza specials and yummy oatmeal and raisin cookies! In addition to eating heaps, Sandrina took me for a wander about town (which did not take long because it is a small town). It is estimated more than half of the ... read more
Lotus Cafe Exterior
Lotus Cafe
Lotus Cafe

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