Oh hi, how are you?!

A couple of Sundays ago, my friend Emma thought it would be nice to take our city dwelling friends (Sydney, Melbourne, London) into the wilds of Mongolia on a horse riding adventure.

These are the types of photos you should be seeing in this post…

(FYI: This stunning photo is of my friend Susie. I stole it from her very awesome blog. Well worth a read, especially now that she’s just put up her Eagle Festival pix.)

… but instead of photos like the above, you get this:

Now, there were several things that happened on this particular day that maybe we should have taken as signs to turn back. Like, the only available coffee was in a can and would make our “heart sweet”.

But soon after the shot of Mike and Kai looking under the bonnet (or hood, if you’re American), they proudly announced they were able to “override the problem”. Hmm… again, some of you may have taken this as a sign… but not us, oh no, we are stupid fearless foreigners.

So onward we went, which was great, as it allowed me to take this great photo:

This is where the car decided to die completely. Pretty much in the middle of Mongolia (read: nowhere).

Now, it’s not all bad news, as I am here to write the blog entry. And, we were travelling in two cars, with wine and snacks.

So we didn’t go horse riding, big deal! There were other highlights of the day, and I’ll do my best to capture them here:

  • The city slickers ran into the little shop in the middle of nowhere to see if they coud get a latte or cappucino.
  • After the boys fixed the first problem, Jess, the Melbournite, asked: “Does anyone consider it a risk that our brake lights don’t work?” To which the Queenslanders responded, “nah, she’ll be right, mate, in fact, we’re pretty sure that working brake lights just confuses the locals!”.
  • Emma and I could see Dasha, the sick-as-a-dog Sydney-sider, tearing out of the broken down car and up to us in the second car. When she got in, she told us another great solution had been put forward… it involved reversing the car really quickly and slamming on the brakes so the brake pads would realign. My guess is that’s why the car died completely.
  • In our convoy of two cars filled with stupid round-eyes, we took a wrong turn and ended up in a small Mongolian military town.
  • Mike screamed like a girl when we almost had a head on (but don’t worry Mum, because we didn’t crash).
  • Oh yeah, and on the way back into town, we got pulled over by the cops. The last time this happened to Mike, they suspended his Mongolian license. So he was a little stressed. Even more stressed when he couldn’t find his wallet which had his license and Alien Registration card in it. Good news, it was underneath a pile of beanies, and gloves, and scarves in the front seat. Even better news, he got to keep his license. What’s so funny about this, you ask? As the cop handed back his documents, and nodded for us to go, Mike graciously said “sain baina uu!”. This caused the cop to lower and shake his head, and mutter something which I swear was “idiot!”. You see, “sain baina uu” does not mean  “thank you”, or “good bye”, or “cheers mate, I really appreciate you going easy on me” but more like… “oh hi!  good to see you! how are you? are you keeping well?”.

So on that note, there really is only one thing left to say: sain baina uu!

Nomadic herders

How often can you say a group of nomadic Mongolian herders who had never been to the city were in your office? Yeah, that’s what I thought…

PS. I tell myself they were smiling on the inside… actually, no, I’m pretty sure they thought me and Emma (the only other non-nomadic herder in the picture) were idiots.

Country day

When our friend Batbold asked if we wanted to join him and some of his mates for a day out of UB, I was like, ‘oh hell yes!’…

Such a great day… I did, after all, have my first ever shot of straight-up whiskey… three in fact… and two right before we played a game of Mugby, outside, in -20 weather.

Here’s a little video that captures the adventure, including driving through a very different part of UB than my last video showed….

Around Town #2

I thought a video would help you get a better idea of what UB is like.

This starts just outside our apartment block, and finishes in front of the State Department Store.

What this video doesn’t show is the crazy traffic you often experience here. For whatever reason(s), it was an eerily quiet Sunday.

Oh, and FYI – I make no apologies for any motion sickness this video causes you. Welcome to my world. Bumpy roads combined with the heaters blaring in cars can often make for some very green passengers!


Polluted city

I mentioned in the below post that the pollution in UB is bad.

I wasn’t kidding.

The annual average particulate matter concentrations are 14 times higher than WHO’s recommended level.

Some reports consider it to be the second most polluted city in the world. In other words, it’s worse than Beijing.

It is seasonal pollution though. It is mainly related to the burning of coal, wood, tyres (yep, bad) but wait it gets words… dogs. A local told me this. I was horrified, as I can imagine you are. I guess what they were trying to get across is that when you need to keep warm, you will burn anything. There are also coal-fired power plants that spew smoke over the city, which is a valley surrounded by mountains that trap the pollution.

On a good day

On a bad day

Around town

I’m going to make the effort to put up more pix of what UB looks like.

For two reasons: 1) I get the sense you guys are genuinely interested in seeing these pix. People often ask me what it looks like, and I guess my response of: ‘Kind of like a deserted Soviet outpost, on account of it being a deserted Soviet outpost’ doesnt’ really help.

The second reason I will be posting more pix is because it’s an easy way to keep this blog updated now  I have found myself a job.

I blame this whole job business on Kai. He was in a meeting, they mentioned the need for someone to help with communications, he suggested they give me a call. So they did. And now my days of updating blogs and playing Bridge are over.

I try not to complain too much, because it really is an excellent opportunity. I am working for the internal change management communications team. There is no shortage of work to be done, and when you’re talking change management in a land like Mongolia… well, there’s no shortage of challenges either.

But it does mean my hilariously funny blog posts will be less frequent (feel free to blame Kai for this too). Ergo, I shall attempt to satiate your Shantasia appetitie with photos from around the traps. Deal? Ok, good.

Let’s start with these:

This is within our apartment compound, walking home from the grocery store (about a five minute walk away). Every time I see the mountains in the background, I can't help but think that old mate Chinggis Khan once roamed around there. That's pretty cool...

Taken from the window of the Irish Castle pub, which is right next to the supermarket we were walking home from in the above shot. We live about 4km from the city. It's a straight run into town on this road. In this photo you can see the pillow of smog that clouds the city. It's from a number of pollution sources, but namely the fires they burn in the Ger district to keep warm.

Taken from the 11th floor of my office building. You can see Sükhbaatar Square in the distance, which is right in front of Government Palace. The reason I took this photo was because of the protesters gathering in the square.

This was the group of protesters gathering. We had been given a security warning that they might attempt to enter our building to protest against one of the other companies that are located there. They didn't. The trade unions are basically protesting a heap of domestic issues including high cost of food and fuel. It's election year (elections are in June), and the protests will only get more heated and intense.