Cultural Connections

Musings about my experiences, art, and life in Mongolia and beyond.

My Photo
Location: Ulaanbaatar, Tuv aimag, Mongolia

Native Chicagoan currently teaching in Mongolia.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Day in the Life of Mongolia

There is a famous traditional style painting in the Zanabazar museum called, “One Day in Mongolia”. It depicts Mongolia's daily nomadic lifestyle. But this traditional lifestyle has changed rapidly, especially with the establishment of Democracy and globalization. The traditional lifestyle is virtually obsolete here in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, home of more than one million people.

Here is a composite sketch of my current “Day in the Life of UB”. Initially awake about 6 am due to the bright and early sunrise. About 7 am, a young man calls outside the cluster of concrete apt. buildings – “Milk for Sale!” If you’re not awake by then, you usually will be from someone’s car alarm, or someone slamming their heavy metal apt. door, or a train horn from the nearby freight yard.

Fill up the electric kettle and boil some drinking water for the day. After a cup of coffee or tea, see about getting on the internet and connecting with the outside world. English language TV programs are limited and most stations aren’t up and on the air until about 9 am. No “Good Morning America!” Dial up connection seems to be run by moody yaks that operate on their time. Today, it’s unavailable altogether because the landlady has not paid the phone bill and has gone on vacation for a couple weeks. Decide to go out to a Wi-fi café.

Hope that there is hot water available for a shower or water at all. In summer, the city likes to conserve hot water for the winter months - ?! and will often shut it often for a few weeks in August or early September. Mind you, the hot water is always scalding hot. Why they keep it so hot, as well as the heat so high and have to control the temps is mind boggling. Leftovers from the controlling Soviet era - ?

Off to a café – walk down 4 flights of uneven, Chinese constructed, concrete stairs, past piles of garbage and the smell of old mutton. While walking down the street, I keep my eyes to the pavement as most of the sidewalks are now broken concrete and uprooted Chinese produced polished ceramic tiles. While walking in the downtown area, one also has to be aware of their bag and pockets as pickpockets work together and are VERY clever. I nearly had my laptop taken out of what I thought was my well secured backpack. You also have to be keenly aware of the traffic as drivers think they are in a horse race and rarely stop for pedestrians, even if you are already crossing the street!

At the café, the electric sockets are often falling out of the walls (similar to my apt.). Ugh. After playing around with the plug, ordering a coffee, we’re back in business. The cafes are great if you can get a table. But keep an eye on your things as people often wander in off the street. The other day, a young girl who looked to be about 5 yrs. old, tugged on my sleeve. I barely noticed her. She was holding a small box of wet wipes and was trying to sell them to me for 1,000 tgs. (In the store they are half that price) But often, alcoholic parents will send their little ones into the street selling stolen goods to raise money for the next bottle of vodka. Best to give them some food. It really tugs at one’s heart. Often too, while intensely writing an email, someone will come up and ask where you are from, if you are married and have children, how much money do you make and then ask you to teach them English – for free of course.

It’s about noon, so to keep my spot and the internet connection going, I order some lunch – “sloppy dorj”, the Mongol version of sloppy joe, except they seem to have put mayonnaise and mustard on this version. Oh well…
To be continued….

Labels: , , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home