May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets’ towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkey’s howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches where storms come and go as lightening clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you---beyond that next turning of the canyon walls. ---Edward Abbey (thanks Trudy Hall)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

To Mongolia

July 6 A woman from our hostel is studying traditional secret Mongolian dance, and was in Ulan Ude for festivals that showed the costumes and traditions of the form, so she suggested we go to a museum.  I loved the posters of health problems and what you can take to cure them.  The bodies had fluids flowing from them, and displayed the location of fluids, energy and organs. There were masks and costumes and pouches and the same orange round things I have that the Dali lama breathed upon.   

hotel breakfast
July 7, we left at 7:30 on the bus to Ulan Baatar. It took only about 2 hours (by train 11 hours) to get through customs.  They say that the logging trucks wait 2-3 DAYS to get through the queue.  Along the way, I went to an outhouse with just a slit in a concrete floor.  The shelter was tilted quite a bit.  I grabbed some weeds for toilet paper before I went in and I think it was marijuana!  I brought some back to show Les, but I tossed it before we took off again; we weren't sure.  The landscape is stunning; Les keeps saying that it looks just like Colorado.  Yes, BUT there are real live cowboys/goatboys herding their livestock around the open range with cylindrical “gers” that are nomadic homes for these people.  I LOVE the idea of having only essentials and moving them along from time to time.  That said, Les wrote a postcard today that pictured a gur with satellite discs and solar panels.  On arrival, we gave up finding the Happy Travels Guest House, after a long goose chase with various drivers and callers, and ended up in a hotel that brought us breakfast (egg, hot dog, sandwich) in the morning.
"Happy Travel" is someone's apartment!

July 8, we continued in a taxi to look for our guest house.  Nothing; so we booked a bed in another hostel--but get this—When we went to get our bags, we were hungry, so we went to the Korean restaurant, I wanted to sit in back by the sun, we were trying to read the menu and look a the pictures, when this woman (Haliuna) asked us if we needed help.  She gave us advice in ordering and we got to talking.  We said we couldn’t find the Happy Traveler Guest House, we’d been looking for two days.  She said, “Oh, that’s me!”  GO FIGURE!  So she took us up to the space where there were two tourists who just come back from a long (weeks!) motorbike trip around the country.  It sounded amazing!  So we got our stuff and went up the five floors to sleep on hard wooden slatted cots in her living room.  I think of Bob Naeher everyday trying to have a vegetarian experience--not easy.  Also, he set me up with the Mongolian Arts Council people (Daria) who will email me a meeting time and place tonight.
            As promised during EW reunion, I wanted to deliver the rock to the left of the entrance way of the government building.  When we got there, it was dark with a very imposing statue at the top of the huge stairs.  There were guards and ropes to keep me from going up, so I put the white rock (I put a little purple heart on it) at the bottom of a ramp on the left side for the EW alumna to find it when she comes in a week or two.  Also, I had a homemade fabric bag on my shoulder as we walked, and someone slashed a little hole in it while we were perusing the street!

Daria of Mongolian Arts
July 9…was quite a crazy day.  We spent the morning at the internet center, because I thought I would be able to connect through Haliuna’s computer last night Daria from the Arts council was supposed to tell me when a meeting with her could be.  We talked about the arts in Mongolia; she thought that setting up an opportunity for me to teach next time I come was a great idea. She’s getting ready for Nadam, and gave us two invitations: one to the horse racing center just out of town, and another to the grand opening of the Chinggis Khaan exhibition that is here from the USA. SCORE!   When we left the thunder started, and we made it home before the rain.  We bought some dumplings and boiled them up (more boiled mutton.  Hmmm) and then I got my hair cut across the street while Les did his laundry.  I got a nice long head massage, and she spent quite a bit of time making the length just right.  I gave them quite a little "hair" dance in thanks for such a good time. 
Drama Theater
We were too late to go to the traditional song and dance show, so we went to a traditional drama about how good Mongolian moms are.  We were the only foreigners there.  It was so great to see something not catered to tourists and to hear the sniffles at the end of the show.  The play was stylized so that the lines were delivered in an almost operatic way: long drawn out vowels with long pauses between lines.  Music under their speaking gave it a cinematic feel, and the costumes were intense.  They wore the traditional outfits with the long sleeves that can lengthen down past the knees with huge cuffs. By the time we left the theater, it was pouring—a deluge that flooded sidewalks and filled our shoes.  Everyone in the world wanted a cab, so we got on the bus.  I think there was an accident or a blockage and eventually the bus took a detour that skipped our stop.  We ended up in another part of town with a woman who was trying to help us.  She had us meet her boyfriend who spoke English and he invited us up to his home to wait out the storm.  Instead we tried to get a taxi.  A couple picked us up, wanting to return all the help they got when they were abroad.  They wandered toward the train station, and suddenly there we were, right in front of the hotel!  Miraculous!  Our feet were very cold, so filling a basin of hot water as I showered (a tub with a shower head is typical) helped a lot.

July 10 
We got out and went to the monestary.  Wow, what a huge 50 foot?, blue eyed, golden Buddah in the ornate temple!  Folks were bowing three times with their foreheads on the money donation box or the white silk fabric that ran across a platform with pictures of the Lamas and ornaments.  Then they would douse themselves with insense and spin the large prayer wheels all the way around the temple clockwise while a lone voice and small cymbals set a lovely, peaceful tone to the place.  Apparently you walk backwards out of the temple.  
 People fed the pidgeons outside, where there was a bride and groom standing. Then we walked around to find that the music and dance show was cancelled due to Nadam.  So we rushed around to find an inferior performance for tourists.  Here is a photo of the contortionist.  The pop dance was horrible, but I loved the music and traditional dance at the end with huge masks and lots of props and layers of costume.  We have found a place that makes espresso and milkshakes.  Ahhh.
Les has more photos of today, I'll add.  Tomorrow we're going to the horse racing site for Nadam.

1 comment:

  1. Sue and Les... I love following your blog. So interesting! I cant wait to show! Can't wait to read more of your adventures! Barb