Thursday, May 31, 2007

Lotus Craft Days

Gek organised for the Council of Mongolia to hold three days of art and craft workshops with the kids at Lotus using local artists to run the sessions. A bit chaotic but a lot of fun for the kids.

Isn't this brilliant? Made out of plastercine and looking very real.

And modern art. Not a ger or horse in sight. Well done to them!!!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Cuteness


The girls playing with the puppy were being admonished by Baigal and clearly did not agree with what they were being told!!!!! Defiance. In spite of the sometimes harsh conditions, Mongolian children in the main have a rich and free environment in which to grow up. Less need to protect with a more diverse physical environment to explore, the kids are very confident and out going. They are always in clamorous gangs, girls with boys. They invariably grin at me and shout “Hello”. My mission is to capture on camera a young girl charging her horse bareback across the valley. A scene I witnessed today. How much fun must that be!!!!!

Look who is coming.


I was standing on the steps of the Grand Perfect’s training workshop, warming myself in the sun, when, what is this coming round the corner of the building…….a black mini!!!!! Cannot be.

But t’was so. Nyam and Shoovdor immediately bee lined the beauty. And who was the proud new own Batkhuyagt, our colleague from the Min of Ed. He bought the car a few weeks ago from some crazies who had driven it overland from the UK. Why?????

First Pilot Course – Concreting


The first pilot construction course developed by the ADB/VSO project in collaboration with Grand Perfect and Jiguur Grand Construction was launched on the 22nd May. On the left is Mr. Gankhuu, State Secretary for Construction and on the right Mr Bat-Erdene, the Director of Education, both involved in the management of the project.

And here are some of the first group of trainees. The approach has been to have training facilities in the East, Centre and West of UB to reduce the journey times for the trainees. UB is long and thin. Travelling from one end to the other can take 2 hours. Travelling across the city takes 30 mins. at the most!!!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Wolf


Wolves in this part of the world are big. This pelt is 6 feet from tip to toe. Big. Very sad, I know. A bit of an uneven contest: men with rifles, probably with telescope sights, against a lone wolf with fangs. Where is the macho in such a one sided contest? Beats me. Particularly as I have read that there is no recorded killing of a human by a wolf. Perhaps he was killing sheep? He is hanging in the corner of a ger camp restaurant.

Mongolian Women

My daughter Polly always does an “oh….. dad…..” on me for extolling the virtues of Mongolian womanhood. Well, I am not the only one to have noticed. What follows is a direct quote from John Mann’s excellent book “Kublai Khan – The Mongol King Who Remade China” (Bantam Books) and are Mann’s opening lines to the book.


Quote -
“ONE THING YOU NOTICE IN MONGOLIA: THE WOMEN COMMAND ATTENTION. In the countryside, crones with walnut faces skewer you with direct, self-confident eyes; tough, red-cheeked girls ride like master-horsemen. In the Ulaanbaatar , the capital, you cannot walk from the main square to the department store (there is only one) without passing a beauty radiating elegance, and proud of it. They have a bearing, an assurance, that is more New York than Beijing
– end quote.
I completely agree,…..spot on. In fact, you would pass several such women on one pass down Peace Avenue

And, even better, the women I am privileged to work with on our project are sharp of mind to boot!!!!.

Peaceful Peace

Sunday the 29th April was declared a vehicle free day for Peace Avenue. All sorts of activities, normally suicidal to have attempted on Peace Avenue, ensued. The only photo I have of the happening was taken at 7:00pm as people meandered along the Avenue homeward bound, heavy with shopping. (We were on our way back from Harhorin that Sunday, so missed the whole thing.)

The road to Darkhan


A huge tonnage of timber passes through Mongolia on the way from Siberia to China. These long train loads of logs are helping to sustain China’s extraordinary economic growth. Here you see four engines at the head of the next delivery coming down the last incline into the Ulaanbaatar valley. The engines are arranged in two sets, coupled back to back.


By way of contrast, a lone cow and truck lost in an unchanging landscape.

Gek and Dave together with Ruth.


Pre-departure for Beijing. Picture by Richard. I do not post many pictures of Gek and me together, so here is a couple. We are about to leave for the airport. Air China flights from Beijing often arrive over UB’s airport and then decide to go back to Beijing because it is considered too dangerous to land. I saw why the other day. Viewing the airport from across the UB valley, you can see that the runway is at the side of the valley and runs on a slope up the valley’s edge towards the mountains. These factors make for a tricky landing in the best of conditions, particularly as the runway doesn’t look that long. I think we will go by train next time!!!!!!

At the great wall. Gek really struggled, having such short legs, bless her. The steps are pretty uneven and some were as high as her knee!!! An amazing photo, given that there were hundreds, if not thousands of people there with us!!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Ayanchin Four Seasons Lodge.

A comfortable place. Looks just like my dolls house at home.




Well, ok not that close but close enough! Newly opened, the hotel has tidy rooms and facilities: sauna, billiards, table football etc. Double room at $75 per night.

Or you could stay in a ger at $50 per night sleeping 4. Bit small as gers go but comfortable.

The views are the thing though. Ok, I know enough already about the scenery. But it is extraordinarily unreal. It snowed by the way. Mid May. Damned cold too in the wind.

Mongolia Hotel – Gatchuurt

About 40 mins drive from the centre of UB. Has to be one of the best hotels in the land.

The view from reception set the tone. Quality.


Accommodation is in very sharp looking gers. Not your average ger camp this.


The steps lead up to the dinning room. Were have I seen this design before? Let me think.


The gardens are quite extensive and walled. At this time of year I think you would have the run of the place. Like your own forbidden city for a few days.

Camel in Terelj


A Bactrian Camel. We went on a scouting trip to Terelj looking for a place to hold the June VSO conference. An arduous day, but someone had to do it!!! This chap had clearly freed himself and was making a bid for the open road.The camel’s walk is strange to see, especially for the first time. Unlike other four legged animals that move diagonally opposed legs together, Camels move both legs on the same side, at the same time. This chap was on a mission and for all the world looked as if he was goose stepping, walking without bending his/her knees.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Harhorin

The hotel where we stayed in Harhorin was getting ready for the summer tourist, putting up gers etc. Unfortunately they were not ready to be occupied. Shame really.

It was such a lovely spot and with the modern facilities of the hotel next door............. next time.


Hazels school was close by.


Well, the next day was a sand storm. This is as good a view of Erdene Zuu Monastery as we got, with somebodies loo in front of it. But by the miracle of the internet, you can visit Erdene Zuu Monastery , and Pictures to get the history and to get some photos. The one time capital of Mongolia, Karakorum, built by our hero Chinggis is also near here. So a return visit is essential.

Shanka Temple.

We broke the journey at the Shanka Temple. We had also collected a puncture which Maglesh dutifully fixed.

Above the gate are a couple of pictures. I was told the temple was built by a rather brutal leader who, on conversion to Buddism, wanted to atone for his bad behaviour. The tiger represents ego. So I guess the guy is trying here to keep his under control!!!

Before the 1930's purge of the Lama community, this temple was the focus of 10,000 peoples lives. Now there is but a handful of Lamas. Thousands of lamas were rounded up and kept in appalling conditions which most of them did not survive.

Stupas, each with an image of Buda inside. Please visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stupa for info on the meaning of the Stupa.

The view from the gate. Stunning.

Yak Spotting

Zoe and Maija yak spotting. Zoe in particular has become enamored of the yak. She has reportedly even combed one. It apparently was not too pleased and kicked her on the shin!!

Zoe is on a mission to get yak wool accepted as goat derived cashmere is. Goats eat everything, including roots and the explosion in the goat population is destroying the environment. Yak is an indigenous animal and lives in harmony with it's environment. But they always look so woeful!

Birds

Bewick Swans. Four of them. Quite unexpected. How do I know? I was a bird spotter, I would have you know.

The swans were on a small river on a huge flood plain, completely disproportionate to the river's size!!! Beautiful.

Turn around and these two chaps were quacking away. No idea what they are but they quack. Can you help identify them? We also saw a flock of cranes but no photo, unfortunately. And I know you will not believe me without a photo, but on the next leg of the journey home I saw two pairs of seagulls. Yes seagulls. I swear. They were stood on a nearly built section of a road. Lost I assume!!!

Arvayheer to Harhorin - 112 km

We set off about 14:00 for Harhorin. A small part of the journey was on metaled roads but most of the time we traveled on tracks across the landscape. The driver, Maglesh, had done the UB to Arvayheer section before but not Harhorin to Arvayheer. How he navigated, I have no idea. No map, not landmarks..... nothing.

We only stopped once to ask these guys if we heading in the right direction. The 'countryside' is really quite amazing. I can fully understand how you could fall in love with it and never leave. Yes it is wild and dangerous and you would have a precarious existence, but the 'feel' of it and the nomadic life style are so different from settled agriculture or urban living. Quite unique.

But even here technology is evident. We saw herders on horse back using lassos held out in front on a pole, on camels and of course a few on motor bikes.

Trip to Arvayheer - 447 km

This was my first real over land trip. Gek stayed in UB. Only Secure Livelihoods guys allowed on this one. We were off for a networking meeting and to visit Erik and Hazel at their placements. (Work details are on the SL blog.) To get to Arvayheer took 10 hours on and off road. The different coloured roads on the map are meaningless. But there is a lot of road building going on. The other thing is that there is hardly any traffic. And this is a main route. No surprise I suppose with half the population living in UB.

And this is it. A view of part of the town around Erik's place.

A caped crusader in the middle of the town,
giving these little lads the evil eye!!!!!