4 September 2007

Week 2 Retrospection

Posted by JonHaley under: Mongolia .

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Internet’s been a little flaky at the VSO office where I do most stuff, but that’s hardly an excuse due to the preponderance of cheap internet cafes in the area. Aw well. Everything still all good, a little more chill this week than it was the first week. I haven’t gotten sick, or fallen into an open man hole yet (believe me that’s an accomplishment), or have had much of any problems other than being a little anxious to get crackin’ on my job.

Saturday (Aug 25) went up into the hills outside UB with two other vols for a nice birthday hike above the smog. We saw the old Soviet-Mongolian WW2 monument: giant exercise in soviet realism/idealism (glowing halos, distant steady gazes, huge thick dudes shaking hands, lots of red and gold, didn’t seem to include anything Mongolian whatsoever). After that we hiked further into the hills and got a good look down on the city.

Monday went back into the emerging grind du jour: Get up around 7:30, bread+sugar+lite banter; jockey for position for bathroom; rush off to catch bus to Bridge College Int. Language School for some rapid-fire Mongolian lessons; navigate huge piles of dirt, large holes in road, chunks of concrete and other nifty road obstacles; teachers at school are reasonable, and lessons aren’t too bad so far (getting the basics down); 10:30 coffee break always welcomed, conversation tends towards the vacuous and inane: mainly subtle differences between different types of British people.

Another hour and a half and we’re off to Jura Cafe for lunch. Amazing traffic each day, how we make it and how the whole road/traffic system works at all, despite the erratic driving and every man for himself mentality, is truly a wonder to behold. (There must be some intense chaos theory/”Conservation of Cars” law prevailing here under the surface that somehow ensures things don’t completely grind to a halt.)

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Lunch at the cafe is almost exclusively ground mystery meat, egg, and rice or potato; however, due to the mindboggling array of different meat, egg, starch combos (egg covered with meat, meat wrapped in egg, egg meat stratification, boiled egg encased in meat encased in potato, etc, etc) we’ve eaten there for two weeks and some how have manged never to see the same thing twice. Denigrated vegetables in the form of a few tablespoons of salad or coleslaw and the ubiquitous milk tea also feature without deviation. I being the you-can-never-have-enough-free-food type, clean up for the amazingly picky eaters in the group, probably to the chagrin of my digestive system, though so far no food poisoning problems.

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After lunch we walk back to the VSO program office for some afternoon workshops. Walk features death defying sprints across multiple lanes of traffic (not yielding to pedestrians is apparently an important underlying property of the aforementioned “Conservation of Cars” law), leaps around precipitous gorges through the sidewalk, and teeters around the numerous open manhole covers and other “traps for the inattentive”.

Back at the PO we dozily take in some different workshops designed to prepare us for working in Mongolia, which are interesting, but usually not super relevant to me. Topics include: the disability situation in Mongolian, health, social issues, education and other areas where the VSO tentacles have found there way. Some days we have field trips to such baffling places as the UN dispensary (apparently a racial discriminating place we’re I can get shots), or have guest speakers such as some top dogs in the police system who have kindly come to personally tell us to keep our wallets hidden.

The evening is a mix of computer time, Mongolian homework, expat socializing, and pubbing. Other notable highlights from the week include:

  • My 1st ever “pub-quiz” at the local English pub “Dave’s Place”. Apparently a UK institution that has failed to make the leap across the pond. Who knew mixing drinking with trivia would make any sense, but it was alright. The Anglophilia and expatria exude into the night air.
  • Friday night we head out to Allison’s, the VSO Mongolia Program Manger, apartment for a night of redoubtable Indian/Mexican food, bouncing blond babies, an even blonder dog, Welshims, and a long walk home.
  • Saturday (Aug 31), some of us check out the Narantul or Khar Zakh “The Black Market” (black surprising is not an adjective describing the legal status of the market). The thing encompasses several acres and is a mix of flea market, farmer’s market, hardware store, electronics boutique and hair salon. On feature are an orgy of Chinese knockoffs, kitsch, camp, paraphernalia, regalia, stovepipes, ger building material, several million pairs of shoes, and largely any other good or commodity known or suspected of ever being transacted between people at any point in human history.
  • Later that night the crew heads out to a karaoke dive bar for a rather lame time. I can’t sing worth a shit and annoy myself thoroughly. Look out for a video of my “Take me Home Country Roads” cropping up on the internet somewhere.

That’s it for this week…er last week…this week I might write about language school, UB city, or a suggestion from the audience (which hopefully isn’t just my mother hitting the refresh button 50 times a day!).

Jon

2 Comments so far...

Alan Says:

13 September 2007 at 5:11 am.

Jon,

Yo. Pictures look good. I think you are lucky you have such easy internet access, I fear I will not be as lucky! Uploading pictures sounds painful…

I like the picture of you with your Ché shirt… Adios, amigo.

-Alan

Daniel Says:

26 November 2007 at 5:15 pm.

I couldn’t understand some parts of this article Week 2 Retrospection, but I guess I just need to check some more resources regarding this, because it sounds interesting.

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