Tuesday 14 June 2005
A rather slow day as we only had scheduled a flight from Ulaanbaatar to Dalanzadgad in the afternoon. The day was beautiful and very sunny, so I sat in an open window and watched people passing by, men going about their work, an old woman in traditional costume walking slowly by herself carrying a large box that was falling apart. I got the sense that I could sit in that open window eight flights up and no one would admonish me because while these people are friendly they also know how to keep their affairs to themselves and trust each other much more. I really appreciated that and was able to comfortably bask in the sun watching from a distance daily life until I felt moved to do something else. Our flight was only about an hour and a half in a small plane that used outboard propellers. It was quite loud as the propellers were right outside my window, but I had experienced that before with inboard propellers in the United States. Landing was a little scary though, the pavement everywhere in Mongolia is rather bad in a state of horrible deterioration. Stepping out into the desert weather with the bright sun felt wonderful, the Mongolian wind was much more pleasant than up north and greatly appreciated with the dry heat. The hotel is even very nice, the best built so far even with the lack of hot water. We all wanted to explore the shops as well, I only bought a few things although I have desired to do some real shopping for several days. After the sun went down, Helen invited us to a disco club with her friend. In Mongolia no age limit exists for drinking so the majority of the people at the small restaurant/bar/club were in high school. Apparently all the places close at midnight here, however, so while a few in our group were already a bit tipsy they were geared up to party. In the end we did walk back under the overcrowded starry sky. I think the reason so many men and women hold hands here is simply to support each other on the unsafe walkways. It is an endearing trait I would love to bring back with one if it did not have as many implications, so I enjoyed as much Zerguu would offer while we walked through the rocks and glass in darkness back to our hotel. I did rather enjoy the whole experience and hope I can be less inhibited when we go to the disco club in Ulaanbaatar.
Wednesday 15 June 2005
The librarians gave us a tour of their library today. The air in Dalanzadgad is unusually sweet and warm, as if someone had turned the breeze into a pastry freshly cooked and inviting. Their library was very friendly as the aimag libraries seem to be with its typically Russian layout of reading rooms with closed stacks. Slightly different in that many more books were available out on display. The library Internet Center was nonfunctional, the cost too overbearing nearly the entire library budget just for Internet. They are slowly developing their technology access, baby steps. We visited our normal routine with the private television/radio station established last year, then briefly sat at the other Internet Center paired with the local post office. Heading out into the Gobi was a lot rockier than I imagines. Dust storms still rolled around us, and I was reminded of the Steppes except more desolate with its browns and greys. Our ger camp is a lot more luxurious this time with electricity in the ger, a restaurant and shop, and flushing toilets with individual shower rooms. I did enjoy the first ger camp and its complete disregard of modern novelties though, it felt freeing. This is also nice in its own ways, I am glad I have the opportunity to experience both.