15 November 2007

Some Recent Happenings

Posted by JonHaley under: Mongolia .

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Halloween – After a slow start Halloween turn out alright, 2 weeks ago. Cumulating in two pretty good house parties (one with VSOs and one with PeaceCorps/Americans), a few costumes and even some practical jocularity! Spreading the message of Halloween to the Mongolian population was something I feel pretty good about in general, they didn’t really understand all of it, but it is one of the few shreds of North American (Canadian?) culture that I have to share so I thought I should make an effort.

Sticking Out – I’m actually glad for the bit colder weather (the weather thing in the sidebar isn’t so accurate, btw). I may now employ more full-face and head coverings, there by in increasing my ethic ambiguity (or at least my portentous inconspicuousness). Though I’ve heard Mongolians can pick out a foreigner from across the street simply by the length of his gait and posture. Not entirely sure about this, but I’ve, nonetheless, been working on my walk and trying to emulate the Mongolian guys I see on the street.

Anonymity was something I revelled in during my past life, and it’s definitely something I miss from time to time these days. Not going to lie though, being an obvious foreigner and sticking sorely out in every crowd has some (few and far between) perks such as ease in getting a taxi & more tolerance for being strange and taking pictures of seemingly prosaic everyday things such as people crossing the street or funny English signage. I still even manage to get a half smile from people when I say bayatai (goodbye) when I mean bayarla (thank you), or otherwise butcher the language.

Sweet Del – Went for a fitting for a traditional Mongolian del or deel on Sunday. This is a sort of a long heavy coat tied around the waist with a belt and made of some beautiful colored and patterned fabrics. This is what all the old-timers in the city are rockin’ for day to day wear and most everybody in the countryside. I sort of wussed out with mine and went for a waist length version with some fairly tame colors instead of the traditional flowing ankle length units. I don’t think I’d wear the traditional one that much back in Canada so I decided to compromise and go practical and a little modern.

After the measurements we headed down to the olde Khar Zakh (Black Market) to pick up the materials. I choose I nice patterned black silk for the exterior, gold fabric for the trim, and a thick blue-gray for the interior. All in all, the materials and the tailoring set me back about $35, so not too shabby for a hand made jacket. I’ll post some fashion poses with it on when it’s complete!

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Lenin’s Museum – Finally, I checked out the Political and Cultural Museum (or at least the building formerly known as). If there is another place like this outside of Russia or even within Russia I’d be very surprised, in fact, they are currently dismantling this one so I was lucky enough to at least see some of it before it was gone.

Basically, you walk through the door and are face to face with a two-storey high bust of Lenin with a giant red mosaic behind it (‘Workers of the World Unite!’) and light streaming in through stain glass windows. The building was a formerly a museum completely dedicated to Lenin and contains a bunch of amazing old Soviet art, paintings, and some other bizarre stuff. They are supposedly turning it into a part museum, part shopping center (Lenin is likely rolling around in his glass box!), and the place was full of debris and construction materials. On the second floor they’ve turned one of the main rooms into a pool hall and young kids are hanging out shooting pool under pictures of Lenin and socialist slogans. The basement is a maze of low-ceiling corridors, small shops, a bar, a driving school, a theater, and publishing house.

Not sure what the future holds for this building or the art inside, but I guess it’s hard to justify having such a museum these days. It is definitely an unique relic and a testament to Lenin’s fading legacy in the New Mongolia.

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2 Comments so far...

Mark Says:

23 November 2007 at 1:40 pm.

Go Jona go! What is the”message of Halloween” you’ve been spreadin deh Jon?
I’m not a big fan of Lenin but he’s bettern shopping mals by far. Sounds like Mongo’s goin down the ugly capitalist road (private health insurance companies!!!??) at least in the city. Better get out to see the real commies in the country (at least in the part that ain’t been bought out by Ivanhoe Mines) Workers unite! Glad t’hear yer gettin better clad. I may want on o’ them deels when I sees the pics. Do dem do sheepskins?

Angela Says:

25 November 2007 at 4:37 am.

Hey Jon,
nice to see your site back up! I can totally relate to your section on “sticking out”. It’s EXTREMELY exhausting here. I got a ching chan chong today.

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