Hard to believe how fast three weeks went by. I'm heading to Beijing today and though I am definitely looking forward to that I am sad to be leaving Mongolia. I actually feel like I've spent an appropriate amount of time in Ulaanbaatar but have an equally strong feeling that I need to get out to Hovd next time I come back, which will hopefully be soon. Much more to do and learn with the music, of course, and I have a far better sense of what I am interested in studying after just a few weeks, especially among the younger players in what are generally called "folk ethnic bands".

I also really want to get to the Gobi. I met some American parisitologists who worked there for a month (30 kilometers from the closest water!) and it sounds like something I really need to see.

I don't have the time now to do a thoughtful retrospect at the moment because time is short, but figured I throw up a few more pictures. And anyway, I am sure the visuals are more interesting then my musings (best filed away in an obscure journal?)

Here is a nomad who set up a ger right in the middle of this industrial wasteland in central UB, grazing horses among these asbestos covered pipes.

These could be his cattle, or someone else's. Even in the middle of the city along these trash strewn waterways (some of which only have water right after it rains) people graze goats and cattle. This is in the middle of the city between the central downtown and the big Nadaam stadium

Here is a huge Buddha at the end of town, not far freom that Chingiss Khan inscribed in the mountainside.

Higher still then the Buddha is a Soviet-era war memorial which offers a nice view of huge sprawling UB. Also a nice aerial into the ger camps which nestle around the base of the monument, a view that is hard to get unless you wander into the ger districts. And one of the most common phrases I heard from expats and Mongolians alike was "don't walk alone in the ger districts."

Here is a view from the top, note Buddha in lower left for scale. I've been living at about one o'clock in this picture.

On top by the monument was a guy selling paintings who also could did a little khoomei. He spoke English reasonably well and it turns out had once toured the U.S. doing khoomei. He was in a chatty mood because a group of French tourists had just bought all of his paintings. (There are a lot of French tourists here, more than any other foreign group it seems. And French cafes and a french bookstore, whereas I don't know of an exclusively English bookshop, though one could exist that I missed). "The French have so much money," he said. He was actually trained as an engineer but when socialism ended he was unable to find any work so instead did singing, which he had learned from his father who was, of course, from Hovd in the West. Now he runs a music school for kids in the ger district, teaching morin khuur and khoomei. His daughter is a contortionist, 11 now but training since she was three. His wife is a Mormon. So this single family is the almost a microcosm of the modern Mongolian experience.

Here a few random pictures from the countryside. I find it hard if not impossible to capture landscape on film. Something to learn how to do.

You can call this the obligatory camel picture.

It is kind of wild to see camels wandering around though.

Here is the Argapala Meditation center, up a ways on a mountain side. The walk to it is over this very swingy bridge of weathered planks and steel cables. For some reason I didn't take a picture closer up to the temple. It was small but impressively set against the mountain with the 108 stairs up.

The lama at this temple was friends with my driver. When we found him he was building something with some carpenters and looked indistinguishaable from them. Most of the meditation happens in these gers, instead a structure.

Actually that is a terrible picture since you can't see the gers. But the view looking this way was nice.

Behind there are some paintings up on the cliff, though also hard to see unless you zero in on this picture.

This is at a nomadic encampment on the steppe. Standing on the steppe is definitely interesting, makes you wnat to be even more remote though at the same time it is a bit wild to be around absolutely no trees. I really would have rather skipped the visit in the interest of going even further, but stop we did, I think because my driver wanted to buy and drink a bunch of airag (it was his birthday). Airag is fermented mare's milk, and this is the season for it. There are gers all over the city selling it, but our in the countryside they give you it free if you stop by and also sell liters of it for about 2000 tugrugs (a bit over two bucks).

Horses, steppe.

I did really like the ger camp stoves, which they sell at the black market in UB (along with all the other parts to make your own ger) but I couldn't really see a way to get it back to the US, alas. Would have been good for camping.

If you are looking for romance in the nomadic life, forget it. The nomads all hung out and watched satellite tv, via these solar panels.

In town you see all sorts of weatherbeaten and very dynmamic looking bandylegged old timers in deels and riding boots looking extremely out of time and evocative. In this nomadic camp everybody wore shiny addidas shorts, flip flops and no shirts and watched some kind of cartoon. It was both surreal and a bit hellish, truth be told.

I don't even have satellite tv, so these folks are keyed in better than me.

My translator grew up in the remote northeast, where Chingiss Khan was born, and grew up in a ger with her parents and 10 (!) siblings. She used to race horses too, and sang a song to the horses she used to sing when starting a ride as we were standing out there, best part of the day to my mind.


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