Living in Mongolia – Initiation
cahn banha yy! (that’s right check it, I can speak Mongolian)
I am nearing my one month anniversary of my arrival in Ulaanbaatar (or UB as it is known in the cool circles) and there are not enough English, or Mongolian words to describe the initiation our little group has undergone.
But the whole point of hijacking Signed By Sez for 11 months is to bring you weekly updates in an attempt to find adequate wording. My Mongolian musings as you will.
Like all adventures it has all whoosed by in a blur. An albeit freezing, snow flurry of a blur.
There has been laughter, smiles, frustration underneath it all appreciation for the pinch-yourselves life that we will be parked in for the next year.
Ok, the 30 hour plane right was not the best day-and-a-bit of my life. I don’t care how many hot towels or tiny impractical bags of peanuts you ply me with, Singapore Airlines can’t you make it go any faster? Surely Branson is almost there with that space plane thing that crosses the Atlantic in five hours?
But walking out of the airport (a term used very loosely, it was in fact not dissimilar to a large tin shed) to an amazing welcome – banner and all – it was enough to pull a smile out of even the tiredest of faces. With Boggie, our Mongolian baby sitter leading the charge of bedraggled Aussies who should be thankful their odour was masked by the cold, we followed her out in the world of Mongolia.
What followed was a crazy 3 weeks that has flashed by quicker than you can say “Don’t speak bad of Genghis Khan”.
At the risk of putting you to sleep with what I would deem are interesting and hilariously witty anecdotes here is the Sparknotes version of our introduction to Mongolia.
1. It’s cold. We have been told we arrived at the best time to start living in Mongolia. The whole country is just waking out a frigid winter and the streets are filling with people surprised to see other people after staring at four walls for three months. The days will get gradually warmer until we reach “summer” (you know why those “” are there….) and then will be acclimatising slowly everyday as the world circles again and we open our mitten clad hands to receive “winter”. Otherwise affectionately known as Antartica.
2. It’s a city. So many of my Aussie well wishes were accompanied with cries of “take a picture of your hut and your yak” and “will you still have Facebook there because they don’t have internet right?” but to the embarassment of those who shall not be named, Ulaanbaatar is firmly in the 21st century and is bounding forward like a hare on Prozac. Takeaway lattes? Check. Complete list of international cuisines? Check. Free wifi in every square metre of the city. Double check. I mean c’mon Abbott even you have a few things to learn from these crafty Mongolians.
3. It’s full of unique flavour. And I don’t just mean the food. In every corner, alongside the evidence of a rapidly expanding city is the reassurance that Mongolians are hell bent on keeping their identity. Most of these moments are smile inducing, some are met with raised eyebrows but all are endearing and unique to the land of the nomads. For a complete list of the intricacies of my fellow Mongols, stay tuned for more posts.
Underneath all of the shiny developing exterior is a vast land inhabited by a comparatively tiny population, but one that makes a big statement.
Mongolia is quick to defend its history, language and strong national pride but I say good on them. If you don’t defend your honour, ain’t no one else lining up to do it.
Part of the adventure is getting cozying up to the uncomfortable, so here’s my public pact to a year of saying yes. Do I want another shot of Mongolian vodka? Yes. Do I want to ride a crazy pony with no safety standardized equipment? Sure. Do I want to travel 12 hours out into the Gobi desert to see a temple? Where do I sign.
After all, you only get one life.
So here’s to another 10 months in Ulaanbaatar.
I hope to make a difference in my work, be immersed in Mongolian culture, form life long friends and find that special piece of Mongolia to take home with me.
Qantas allows camels on planes now right?
Much love and till later
PS I welcome all questions about life living in Mongolia for a year. In anticipation, no I haven’t met the Dalai Lama and yes I will bring home some fluffy fur hats.