Trip and misc.

Just so you know, I’m heading off for a trip and will be back around the 1st of September. My work is kindly taking Dave and I on a trip to the Gobi and up around Kharkhorin (the old capital and a lovely dark beer), before we head home in mid October. Should be fun.

Work-wise, I’ve got a lot I’d like to do before I finish, so this should give me some time to get it straight in my head before going ahead. I’ve been thinking a lot more about what to do when I return and a few ideas are starting to come together, make sense and feel like a semblance of a plan. We’ll see.

In the meantime, I got an email from the lovely Shaya, a former AYAD from my early days here, who has an amazing opportunity for the right person. The Lotus Foundation do great work here in Mongolia and Didi would be a fantastic person to work for. Anyone interested should contact me by email or in the comments and I’ll pass on Shaya’s info to you.

Didi Kalika, the amazing woman who started and still runs Lotus Childrens
Centre, an orphanage for about 140 children in Mongolia, is desperately
looking for a volunteer to assist at Lotus during the winter period, from
October 2007 – March 2008, to help her in the administrative running of the
orphanage. Duties would include daily administration, as well as marketing
(both the vegetarian cafe and orphanage), and closer management of
donor/stakeholder requirements. There would be a lot of scope to introduce
some much needed business administrative systems, including donor management
programs to the organisation, and really comes down to “how long is a piece
of string?”.

If you know of someone who would be interested in this sort of assignment,
could you please let me know. Lotus would be able to assist with 3 basic
vegetarian meals a day and probably some modest accommodation,however, I
think it would be useful for the person to have some extra money up their
sleeve to help them with the occasional splurge/treats, (as one can
occassionaly desires in Mongolia !) Any suggestions you can offer would be
helpful and most appreciated, as time is running out.

It would be a really rewarding and challenging assignment, if not for the
fact that the person would be working with a very ground level NGO and an
amazing individual – Didi. I was considering going back myself to do it, but
I don’t think my body could cope with another Mongolian winter too well….

If you are interested or know of anyone who could be interested in an
assignment of this kind, please give them my email address or phone number
on 0408 838 463. I would be delighted to chat with them over it.

I’ve attached a very basic presentation on Lotus fyi. The website is also: for
anyone who is interested. Please contact me directly
on it and I will liaise with Didi.



Food issues

Yes, food has been causing some trouble recently.

The other night I managed to give myself food poisoning by eating some leftovers that apparently I didn’t refrigerate fast enough. I was really hungry and thought they’d be ok. My bad. Woke up at 4am for a quick vom and again several hours later. Spent the rest of the day on the couch watching bad TV or sleeping. An Ice T plane hijack movie kept me entertained for a while, the rest I can’t recall. Pretty much fully recovered now, so back to my usual massive appetite.

On Saturday, events conspired to stop me eating. Not altogether, just dinner, but it was still a meal missed. I popped out for a mission that was cancelled just before the bus took me away and headed back home. On the way, in the small laneway that leads to my apartment building, two drunk guys shouted out at me. “Hey! English!”

I turn.

“Fuck you!” one shouts, giving me the finger.  I look at him with a ‘Good on you’ expression, gesture dismissively and keep walking.

“Hey, wait”. They chase after me, trying to apologise, then grab me and try to talk to me. Between their drunken bullshit and my poor Mongolian, not much is communicated, but I play along. Soon, another drunk has joined us and is trying to drag me away from them. Not to save me from them, but to hassle me himself, albeit in a more friendly manner.

So, now I have 3 drunks annoying me and they try to drag other passers-by in to help translate.  It’s a bit of a scene, but not out of hand. During all of this, the biggest and most obnoxious of them keeps grabbing my arm if I try to go anywhere and occasionally patting my hair. Creepy.

By the time they realise I’m not going to drink with them and they let me go, we’re right outside my apartment building. I don’t want them to know where I live, so I go around the corner to Sunaree’s new place, after checking I wasn’t being followed.

15 minutes later I try to head home for dinner, before meeting people out for a drink. When I round the corner to my building, it looks like they’re hanging around outside the store at the other end of the street, so they’d see me if I tried to go home. I quickly about-face, give up on dinner and go straight to meet everyone, where the vodka flows. I show remarkable restraint on my empty stomach and have no ill effects the next day.

It certainly wasn’t a traumatic incident, it was just kind of irritating.


Last week, the mobile phone company here, Mobicom, sent out messages to warn about flash floods here in UB. My friend sent me a similar warning, which apparently the government sent out. The weather was fine, then a little overcast for a few days and I thought nothing of it.

Yesterday, it seemed a little cloudy, so I brought my rain jacket to work. I was otherwise in shorts, a shirt and runners. It looked gloomy as I was leaving and had been raining earlier, so I put on my jacket and headed out. Half way home, waiting to cross the road, a car drove through a huge puddle, soaking my shorts and legs. Not long after, the rain started. Heavy at first, then bucketing. It was unbelievable. I hadn’t seen rain like that in years, let alone been caught in it. The last time was in Lae, Papua New Guinea, where they get up to 4m of rainfall a year (if I remember correctly). Compare that to Mongolia, where yearly rainfall is around 375mm to 500mm per year.

Moving on… As I mentioned, I got caught in the middle of the downpour and ran for cover. I wasn’t too worried about getting wet, because the jacket was protecting me, but I was worried about my bag, which yesterday contained my laptop, my camera and my external hard drive. As I sheltered in a doorway, I quickly removed my jacket, put my bag on backwards and put my jacket back on over it, giving me a lovely pregnant look. My shorts already soaked and my shoes starting to go, I had little to lose, so off I splashed.

I arrived home drenched, my shoes squelching, but my bag and torso safe. It was actually quite fun to have that kind of experience again, out in the rain, not caring about getting wet. It was like being a kid again.

The Mod

On Saturday, I went hiking with Sunaree, Jay, Zach and Amy, over the mountains to Zuunmod. Zach and Amy are a Peace Corps couple who live in Zuunmod and Jay is an ex Peace Corps who’s now back helping to set up a law firm here. All great people.

Anyway, we left nice and early, anticipating a long hike. It started well, heading down to Zaisun and climbing over Bogd Khan Uul. At the clearing at the top of Bogd Khan, we almost headed the wrong way, but asked 2 guys picknicking in their underwear (we don’t judge), who led us in the right direction.

It was sometime after that when we lost our way. It’s not like there was any danger of us not getting there; we knew where we were headed, we just didn’t end up going the most direct route. When we realised we’d gone too far, we scooted under a (very rare) fence and tried to get back on track.

First, we got told off by a guy who wanted us to register somewhere, who thought we might have something to do with forest fires (some of the range burned last weekend). Then, closer to our destination, another guy came up and told us the way to get out. He was polite and friendly, but obviously knew that we weren’t supposed to be there. All this time, we didn’t know why the place was fenced off. It turns out that we were in a special reserve for elk/red deer, of which we saw none.

So, once we got out of there, we were on the actual (vehicular) road to Zuunmod; not exactly where we wanted to be, but good enough. We arrived tired and sore and headed straight to the only Korean restaurant in town to recharge, then off to Zach and Amy’s ger for the night.

The bus back in the morning took under an hour and unlike most microbus’ here, full, but not overcrowded. The 45 min drive felt like nothing compared to the 8 hours we spent hiking there, but all the fun and stories come from the hike and what does the drive have, other than speed?

No pics yet, because I didn’t take my camera, but I get one or 2 from Sunaree. The pic below is from a (very poor) HDR test and is one of the corridors at Mongol National TV. Read up on it at the wiki link above if you’ve never heard of it. It’s the kind of concept I find interesting, although you really need the right subject, which a fluorescent-lit Soviet-era corridor sadly is not.