Tag Archives: Mongolia

Mongolian “Old McDonald”

Look at the farm and the animals in it.  Not the same as the American farm, is it?  Lots of dogs! 

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October 23, 2013 · 3:52 am

a Korean luncheon

with director but not tsengel

Here are some of the directors from NUM taking us to lunch at an amazing Korean restaurant across the street from Building 2 of National University of Mongolia ….the spread was vast and varied — but it was hard to know what to combine, and whether to use chopsticks, forks and knives, or spoons to move items from the serving dish to the plate. It was all delicious, as you can well imagine!

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how nomads move these days

nomads moving their ger

I’m back in the States now and winding down the blog, but I wanted to make sure I posted a few great photos first!

This is how nomads move these days – Mongolian nomads actually only move a couple of times a year, basically following the seasons, so they take their whole kittenkiboodle with them. You see the ger top and the chimney in the back of the truck? And underneath them are all the possessions that will go in the ger. Not sure about how the livestock are moved.

I already feel like I have visited another planet and have trouble describing what I saw and did – unless you visit the blog – it really helps tell the story!

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panoramic view of UB from war monument

IMG_6374

Last night in UB/Mongolia, taken by a wonderful friend to the Zaisen Memorial to WWII Russian dead, a most impressive monument with the best view of the city. The photo doesn’t show it – it was too dark. There are about 500 steps to the memorial and it was freeeezing cold, but it was worth the climb!

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Variety show at Wrestler’s Palace

Tonight, I decided to take in some live music at a popular performing venue, Wrestler’s Palace, about 2 km from my apartment. The building is a huge version of a ger, seating about 1500 people – maybe more, with decorative huge flags draped from the sloped ceiling. Mongolian wrestling takes place there every Sunday afternoon, but the rest of the week it’s used for live music shows.

A student walked me there, and the air was so polluted we could not only barely breathe, but hardly see ahead of us either. She cheerfully said that it’s from the “ger zone” outside of town, where the ger dwellers heat their dwellings with wood fires or other combustibles, causing a great amount of smoke. It was truly extreme. People wear face masks against pollution, but — this has to be corrected, fast.

So, I bought my ticket, 10,000 tugrig, about $8, and my guide was allowed to come in with me to help me find my seat. There was a fair amount of pushing and shoving at the door, including by women, and I’m not sure why. Was it by people without a ticket, trying to force their way in? It wasn’t sold out, and we had fixed seating, so it shouldn’t have been about those issues. Anyway, inside there is stadium seating, rows and sections of small fixed seats with curving sides to them. The seats are really narrow and small by American standards, and both sides of my body were pressed against my neighbors during the entire show.

I was advised to come about 7:30 for a show posted to start at 7, and it was right on the mark – it started at 7:30. The advertised performer was a singer named Amarjargal. She is apparently nearly blind, and needs to be led on and off the stage with great care. She came out with a minder and sang two songs, which everyone enjoyed and sang along with, then left the stage. There were three more acts, each singing two songs, and then Amarjargal came out in a new outfit and sang two new songs. She left again, and 4 more singers came out to sing one or two songs. Amarjargal came out a third time, in a traditional Mongolian outfit, with a male singer in a matching outfit, and they sang two duets.

All this time, a flower vendor was circulating and people were buying bouquets to hand to Amarjargal. Each person who bought a bouquet was able to just mount the steps up to the stage and put the bouquet in Amarjargal’s arms, as she sang! At some points she was cradling three bouquets in one arm and holding a cordless mic in the other. Another fan – a mother/daughter team, bought a huge cellophane wrapped teddy bear and brought it up on stage, leaving it beside the electric piano, which I assume she was going to play later in the show. Of course, it worried me that she might trip on it but I figured her handler would make sure she didn’t – and this must be a regular occurrence for Mongolian artists.

Well, she sang well enough, but — during more than an hour in the audience, I never saw a single musician pick up a musical instrument. To me, it looked like just karaoke in fancy costumes ~ oh, in some cases, the music video by the same singer was playing on two screens behind the stage. That was also disconcerting to me because the synch on the music videos was just a little off, so when the singer was singing it live, the lips on the closeups on the music video were a couple of words behind. Anyway, the audience loved it and sang along at the top of their lungs – men, women and children. Mongolia is an incredibly singing centered culture!

I left after an hour because I knew I had a long walk home. There is absolutely no danger walking at night in Mongolia – no words, no looks, no hassles whatsoever. People just go on their merry ways. The main concern at night is lighting. The pavement is so irregular and there is no street lighting on many streets, so all you have to go on is the headlights of the cars, and they are in your face. So you pick your way along, carefully.

I guess I sound rather disenchanted with the show – I like to see people play instruments; it’s my “bias.” I do know that exists – in the Tumen Ekh show (see my link) which I’ve already seen twice. It is so spectacular it’s at the level of a Broadway show in its perfection: fabulous voices including two toned throat singing, expert instrumentalists, dazzling dancers, and a truly captivating writhing contortionist, all true to real Mongolian traditions and practices

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‘small monster’

Buddhist monastery

We weren’t able to visit inside because the gate was locked, but this beautiful rustic monastery is tucked deep into the hillside in a birch forest about 100 KM east of Ulaanbataar. The road was basically nonexistent — and we wove our way precariously across some surfaces which were not meant to be driven on – but our trusty driver, from Lotus Guest House, was completely competent in every detail. He spoke zero English, but when we headed toward the monastery, he said we were going to ‘small monster’ – we couldn’t figure it out until we got closer and saw it!

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An Auwa

front view of south facing shamanist status.  note offering around the base

There are Buddhist roadside shrines called stupas with blue ribbons on piles of rock, but this one is a shamanist shrine instead – much more heavy duty. The statue faces South, like the doors of all gers, and there are offerings left around it.

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