Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Brief notes after the first week in Ulaanbaatar

- Squeezed in the ultimate frequent traveler’s workout at Beijing International Airport by carrying over 150 lbs of luggage through multiple security check-points and between terminals via shuttle, then realizing 90 minutes before check-in closes that you’ve forgotten a duffel in the baggage claim at the first terminal, which is only accessible by shuttle bus or train (but since the train ticket machines are not actually working, I had to hand-carry a 50-lb duffel along with several other items while sprinting through both terminals)

- Left Mongolian Immigration after arrival at the airport without getting the necessary stamps in my passport, necessitating a rather nerve-wracking trip back there in order to legally stay in the country

- Bought үxрийн нүд (gooseberries, I think?) and айраг (fermented mare’s milk) fresh from the countryside at Mercury Mart, perhaps my favorite place in UB to buy foodstuffs.  The үxрийн нүд turn out to be ideal pancake ingredients but айраг is definitely better when drunk in the countryside from a proper bowl, not straight out of a repurposed plastic water bottle

- Found the only ceramics studio in Ulaanbaatar open to anyone aside from professional artists and finding out that there are pottery courses available every month for either hand-building or the wheel

- Attended a demonstration against stress harassment and sexual violence organized by Young Women for Change, a Mongolian feminist organization, just south of the State Department Store.  Organizers and supporters waived hand-made signs in English and Mongolian for the bevy of media representatives in attendance

- Visited the temporary exhibition on Tarbosaurus bataar, the dinosaur skeleton illegally taken from Mongolia and successfully repatriated only recently after a dramatic international legal battle

- Made arguably the best purchase I will make all year:

Five Beatrix Potter stories in both English and Mongolian!  Purchased on my first shopping trip to the State Department Store, the oldest catch-all shopping center in downtown Ulaanbaatar, I couldn't ask for a better way to start improving my vocabulary.  Who wouldn't want to learn how to talk about Tom Kitten getting too fat for his jacket or Jemima Puddleduck wearing a shawl and poke bonnet in Mongolian?

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