Chinggy’s birthday

Today is a national holiday in Mongolia. It’s to celebrate Chinggis Khan’s 850th birthday. Of course, no one actually knows when he was born (or where he is buried, but that’s another story), so the 14th November seems as good a date as any to start with. This is the first year his birthday has been a national holiday. From next year, the date will be floating, and calculated on the lunar calendar year.

None of us, Mongolian colleagues included, really know what to do or expect from this holiday. Will there be fireworks? Will there be a giant, inflatable Chinggis Khan as part of some spectacular parade? Not sure.

So I thought, at the very least, big Chinggy (as I like to call him) deserves a Shantasia post.

Now, I’m not the first to dedicate something to this Mongolian hero. His name can be seen on beer, vodka, fertiliser and shoe polish (actually, not sure about the last two, but I am sure there are many more products than just beer and vodka with his name on them).

 

There are also monuments galore, including one outside of Parliament House and the biggest equestrian statue in the world.

 

 

And of course his name greets you and farewells you at the airport.

 

There’s a lively debate in the country as to whether his name is being used too much, or more to the point, frivolously. Just as everything in Charters Towers is Gold City, everything in Mongolia is Chinggis Khan.

I guess I don’t really have an opinion either way. But maybe I’m sympathetic to the cause because during the Soviet rule, they were not allowed to even whisper this man’s name without retribution, let alone praise the man publicly. Let’s never take for granted our freedom of thought and speech.

Although, there is that one history class where we learnt about his barbaric military tactics. I suppose you can’t really ignore that, or the fact the the mere mention of his name to the Poles makes them twitch very nervously.

But I guess another way to look at him is he was fearless, and he was a strong leader. It takes a pretty impressive person to unite the nomadic tribes from across North-East Asia, have them put their cultural differences aside, and join a mega army fighting for one cause.  I think what I like best about Chinggy, is that he promoted religious tolerance.

He was an astute businessman, and opened up trade between China and Europe. He introduced a groundbreaking communication method, with a system similar to what we know as the Pony Express. And he was also responsible for developing the Mongolian language.

Not bad for a man who today we would consider uneducated (he was illiterate) and he’d probably never get a job.

Of course, I still wouldn’t have wanted to get on his bad side.

He may not have been as peaceful as Ghandi, or as righteous as Mandella, or as great a cricketer as Don Bradman, but I can understand why he’s considered Mongolia’s founding father (and the founding father of half the world’s population thanks to his insatiable sexual appetite) and a national hero.

Happy birthday Chinggy – you don’t look a day over 850!

UB soundtrack

For this post to make sense, this is what you need to know: Our mode of transport UB is via a carpool service the company provides. Most of the cars are not cars – they’re Ford Transit vans or minibuses, and you share a ride with other people in the company. This is how we get to work, to the grocery shops, to the airport and picked up after dinner or a night at the pub.

When the time comes to leave Mongolia, I won’t necessarily miss this way of getting around. Nothing beats making the decision to go to the shops, and then just getting in your car and going.

But I will miss some of the drivers and their Western music selection. Here’s some of the highlights from their playlists:

 

Seasons in the Sun: Terry Jacks

Apart from this being one of the most depressing, saddest songs ever… it was playing the other morning on the way to work, just as winter was really setting in.

 

Mandy: Barry Manilow

This song, hands down, has the best line of any song, ever written. See if you can guess what line I’m talking about.

 

Rivers of Babylon: Boney M

Personally Rasputin is my favourite Boney M song, but this is a favourite amongst our drivers. Generally after a night at the pub, you can be guaranteed this is playing when they pick you up. Must be their Friday night feel good song.

 

Oh Carol: Smokie

I’ve only ever heard this once on the transport play list, I wish they would play it again. It was a Sunday afternoon in summer. The driver picked me up in the trusty old white transit van, I sat up front with him, windows rolled down, this came on, up went the volume and the two of us sang our hearts out! (it was one of those rare times I wasn’t sharing the van with other expats – shame, they all missed a great show.)

 

I Will Always Love You: Whitney Houston

The day after Whitney died, this was playing in the transit van. The driver sang along with it, and he truly had one of the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard.

 

Someone Like You: Adele

Adele fever really hit big in Mongolia. Some of the drivers LOVE her. For a few months over summer, you could always count on Adele playing in the tranpsort vehicles. She doesn’t seem as popular now, but she will forever more remind me of Mongolia.