Winter in Mongolia
by Tara Munch
Winter in Mongolia
I just want to start this by assuring you that this is not a whiny blog. At least it shouldn’t be. Sometimes these things get away from me. That’s the risk you take with stream of consciousness writing, I guess.
It is cold here. Really, really cold. I checked the temp a few days ago in the morning and it was -42F. All I can say is, thank goodness I am not walking because I didn’t pack my boots. I tried to. Of course I tried to pack most of the state of New York if I am honest with you. I don’t know what it is about the winter break that causes me to completely lose my mind when it comes to packing. Let’s do the math here. Two suitcases, at 400 pounds apiece both going to Mongolia should cost in the area of my first three unborn children. Of course when this was gently pointed out to me I panicked (eight hours until we leave for the airport…) and started wailing that of course nothing that I packed was expendable. Two calls to the airlines and one very rude customer representative later I have the exact details of expensive not repacking would be and grudgingly repack. Has anyone else noticed that getting the exact information about luggage allowance from the airlines almost impossible. Well, not getting the information so much as having it be right. This was the second time that I have called the airline ahead to insure that I didn’t over pack only to get to the airport to find out that that information was wrong. Fortunately for me both times the ticket agent saw the crazy coming out of my eyes and didn’t charge me. I am starting to think that the whole thing is some sort of conspiracy… Still, I got (some/most) of the crap that I bought back to Mongolia.
The first couple of weeks back in Ulaanbaatar have been dominated by three things. First: I have a cold. So does everyone else and I am thinking that the combination of air travel (ew, recycled air!) and the pollution are just taking their toll. I am learning all sorts of tactful ways to point out to a seven year old that they have a slight green slime problem. Second: My power keeps going out. The bright side of this is that my heat is not affected by the lack of power and so I am not a human popsicle. The downside is that it keeps happening at about 7 at night when there is no light to speak of and yet it is still too early to go to bed. I keep telling myself that this is all part of living in a developing nation. Sometimes it works and sometimes I spend the whole time without power muttering to myself. Note to self: When in US invest in better flashlight (I am using a borrowed one at the moment!) And Third: As previously discussed it is cold beyond all reason at
the moment. It is a dry cold which like dry heat is not as miserable as damp cold would be. The boots that I tried to pack but which were triaged as unnecessary would be really nice right about now….
It was pointed out to me that there are playing cards lying on the ground everywhere in the city. I didn’t think much of it but now whenever I am outside I see them everywhere. I have come to the realization that it is not possible to walk more than 50 feet in Mongolia without seeing a playing card. Which leads me to wonder: Where do they all come from? Are there midnight gambling clubs that meet in the middle of all the streets? Was a train carrying packs of cards derailed scattering the contents to the wind? No doubt the real story is more mundane but I can’t help thinking that there should be some sort of back-story to something that idiosyncratic to Ulaanbaatar.
My school is thinking of moving the teachers to different (read better) apartments. It was all that I could do not to break into a happy dance when I heard this. The apartment that I am in is… problematic. I could go into details but really, who cares? The director of my school took me to see one of the apartments that the school is considering. This may have been a mistake. It was a beautiful brand new Japanese style apartment and I want it now! I think that I would have moved my crap last night if someone would have let me. The apartments aren’t even finished yet! Of course when I came back to the apartment that I actually live in I felt the need to pout. “Not good enough.” The rest of the year is going to last a really long time if I don’t get over it. On that note I am changing the subject as I am pouting as I am typing this and that is just not acceptable.
I am having trouble figuring out the going rate of taxi’s. I am pretty sure that the rates went up recently. Inflation here is something like 34% so they almost have to. I had to take a taxi home from the school three times last week and was charged a different amount each time. The basic rates should be about the same so I am wondering if some of the taxi drivers are just trying to cheat me. I think that the solution to this is to ask about the rate per km. before I get into the can and to write down the mileage (is it mileage if it is in km?) and do the math myself. This of course would take both effort and the willingness to argue with cabbies every once in awhile. Being the non-confrontational sort that I am I wonder if I have the guts…
So, that is all from Tara who is writing from her apartment, which she all of a sudden finds substandard.