I kept a blog whilst I was out in Mongolia and I thought I would put them up on here to give you an insight into what life in Ulaanbaatar is like. Nothing could have ever prepared me for the immense cultural differences but I think it is important to know the kind of community you are donating your hard earned money to!
I am in general good health although I woke up this morning with a stinking cold! I know right? TYPICAL. I also had a pretty rough time on the Saturday after only managing about 10 hours sleep over 72hrs? Longest and hardest day of my life Saturday- without comparison. Felt so so homesick and tired and just generally awful. More than a few tears were shed, I can tell you. All of your lovely cards and letters helped me through though- they are all up on my windowsill and really are making my room feel like my own space :)
(Left: Flying into Mongolia at sunrise)
Today I am feeeling goooddd. Although, I have to admit, a little hungry. Well, actually, VERY hungry. Mongolian food is basically carbs and protein and oil. Although everything they have cooked me tastes good, I can only manage very small portions as it is so so rich! I am coping though and I have changed my money up today so I can get some more food from the hypermarket which is only justtt accross the road :)!! Granny is worried and thought I was on some kind of diet I have eaten so little :L
I have to say, from what I have seen of Mongolian family life however, that it is so fascinating. To give just one example, due to the jet lag and general awfulness that was Saturday, I woke up at one o clock in the afternoon :/. I went in to have breakfast and ended up sharing it with the entire leg of a sheep wrapped in a blanket. In terms of technology etc, everything here is very much western but in terms of culture, it really is so different. They laughed at me as I went "woah" having shuffled in in my sleepy state :P
I start my work placement tomorrow and am working there only three days a week I discovered? Can I hear a woop woop for Mondays and Fridays off?? :P Start 9 and finish at five though. I might try and see if I can set up some extra sessions on those days to deliver my health and safety stuff. I have 50 certificates to distribute after all!
Already, there are social events booked into the calendar which means my time is already divided up- really 5 weeks is noooo time at all!! On the 18th I am going out to the nature reserve of Terelj (?) with other volunteers so see the real mongolia! This is what I have been hoping and waiting for so am so glad that I am going to be a part of that! :D Then, the following Friday, we are going for karaoke- oh yes, karaoke. Apparently a MASSIVE thing here, especially with the volunteers? Looking forward to humiliating myself there also! Lastly, I have also been asked to take part in this Your Voices project which is basically delivering hope to under privileged people and bettering their environment by encouraging aspirations. As a part of this, on the 2nd of April, I am visiting an orphanage where Zulaa is going to be giving a lecture- I will be working closely with her nearer the time to write articles etc for that.
So yes, I think that is basically me up to date. As much as I miss everyone at home, it is remarkable how quickly this is beginning to feel like the norm. I can see the days flying by remarkably quickly from now on. I think also that it has finally hit me that on what scale this really is going to be the adventure of a lifetime. I am well and truly independent here without a doubt and in a strange way, I am enjoying it?
I am saying this, bear in mind, before I have had to do my own washing...
Bainnnuuu from Mongolia chumlings!!
Blog numero deux. Seems crazy to think that I only just wrote you all two days ago but so so SO much has happened I just have to sharee :D!
I am well and truly in my stride now I feel (apart from getting into the aparment however- I cannot use keys to SAVE MY LIFE- call it an Anna-ism if you will :P) and am absorbing culture left right and centre. I understand homesickness to an extent but, in a foreign country I think it is remakrable to see how alike humans are. They may have a different language etc but in so many more ways we are exactly the same. Granny is so like my own Granny in her mannerisms and concern for me that I can't help but feel safe in her presence despite her not speaking a wordddd of English.
I digress. Where did I leave you? Ah yes, Zulaa was about to take me around Ulaanbaatar for the first time.
Zulaa and I have really bonded as, whilst we were trying to sort out my mongolian mobile phone, she whispered "Anna!"... "yesss...?" ..., "can I tell you a secret?"..., "what?"... "you're my first volunteer!!". I already love her to bits as she's just so much fun and open to any suggestions of mine which is awesome. For example, she told me about the three girls which have already been selected for the voices project and I suggested I set up a sponsorship scheme for them when I come home- something she really seemed keen on. So yes, potentially setting upp my own charity there??
I just about managed to set up my Mongolian mobile phone (it took over an hour and a half) which is a slide phone (REALLY nice?) and it cost me just 30,000 MNT which is about twenty five pounds? Crazy cheap! She also showed me the central post office (mailing things to you is going to be much harder than I anticipated guys.... sorry in advance- nonetheless I shall give it a stab) and the central deparment store where we had pizza. Mmmm. Pizza *drools*.
In the evening, I got a phonecall from Zulaa asking if I wanted to join her for her friends birthday at a bar/restaurant in the North of the city where they were going to go and see some traditional Mongolian music. At least this is what she told me... :P It actually turned out to be traditional Mongolian instruments but played in a modern way. This bar I think was aimed at tourists as it had a ger in it and lots of traditional Mongolian artefacts. Zulaa explained them all to me. Very interesting indeed.
This evening also produced what I feel may just be the best anecdote of the entire trip though :P as, whilst posing for a photograph with Zulaa, she did the peace sign backwards. This, of course I chastised her for (a brilliant accompanying photograph) and she kept doing it, much to her friends laughter. Zulaa has also picked up on the ol' Anna-pose (the two thumbs up and cheesy grin) and she keeps doing it. She then proceeded to tell me that this was offensive in Mongolian culture which actually it wasn't :L... Manic moment of panic there as I had been doing that to the Granny since I arrived to sign that something tasted good- and she had been doing it back?? :P At the restaurant I had ORANGE JUICE- man alive did that taste good?? :P Also have had cucumber two days running- I think they are cottoning on the my distaste for the lack of vegetables!!
The music was actually very enjoyable- there were some insanely talented musicians up there!! This one guy in particular was playing a two stringed horse hair violin thing. he was just mental. The music also contained throat singing which I found hilariously funny. I managed to stifle the laugh but it really was very strange??? I don't think it helped that in the first song he was out of tune as well?? :P (left: Zulaa and I watching Altan Urag)
This brings us to yesterday which was my first day in my placement. Walking to my placement takes about half an hour (tis not toooo farbut it is mentally exhausting as crossing the roads is insaneeeee). I managed to find my way home okay though without getting lost (much). Everywhere you go there are also people staring at you which can get a bit tedious- I do not feel safe walking the streets at all but then again with so many people around, it has got to be safer than most places.
The school where I am working is beautiful- it is just like an american school really and there are computers in every room. The classrooms are also really well stocked and the children are in tiny tiny classes? like 12 is the biggest class? Nuts- was expecting much lower standards if I'm honest. The children are lovely though- I am responsible for teaching spoken English to 11-16 year olds and whereas in my job description, it said I would get told what to do, she ended up just chucking me in front of the class. It turns out I can improvise quite well??? :P They really seemed to like me as whereas their last volunteer was "boring" I was not. I believe the exact word they used was "crazy".
These blogs should become quite regular as I have access to the internet in my breaks at school and during office hours at Projects Abroad between 10 and 6. Ringing home is going to be slightly more problematic however due to the time difference (plus eight hours GMT here) and as I have noooo idea how you use the international pay phones- I am a bit scared to ask in the central post office as it is all very intimidating there.
Anywayyy I have spend far to long on this!!! I am meant to be devising a health and safety booklet for a health and safety course which I am running for my classes starting next Tuesday. And I have to leave for work at 15:00. And it is currently 13:00... WOOPS.
With regard to the title of this blog, that's right, me. It was however, a fluke. Sorry Tisha Tash I am not going anywhere fast with learning Mongolian- it is the hardest language ever! All the letters make different sounds and their alphabet is different 80% of the time anyway- just AHH! :P So far though (be proud peeps) I can say: Genghis Kahn, hello, thank you, bye, what's up?, knife, fork, spoon, sugar, dumpling and yes.
I am in a routine now and really can't believe how fast this week has flown by??? I come home in four weeks?? Just nuts.... So soooo much has again happened and I am just exhausted from it all to be quite honest!! My feet haven't touched the ground long enough to even think about home or anything for that matter!
Here is a week in the life of Anna-whilst-in-Mongolia...:
In between these times, I have to fit in socialising, the journalist group, lesson planning and everything else. Hard work this is! I thought life would be quite leisurely here as I was originally only assisting in lessons and working just 3 days a week but no, no rest for the wicked as it is quickly turning into a stress test :P! Still loving it though- every pant-poopingly (sooo coining that term) scary second!
So on Wednesday I didn't start my work until the afternoon (and I came into the office and wrote to you all) and another supervisor was concerned that I had so much time off so got me ANOTHER placement for Monday and Friday mornings- bugger. ;) This one is at the Golden Bridge language centre which is right next door and interestingly, is affiliated to the university of Cambridge of all places! It is part of a chain and is the largest language in Mongolia. I felt mighty important ;)- it turns out I am their first volunteer.
The head honcho dude (technical lingo there) was really nice and keen to have me there teaching the intermmediate and higher students. He also seemed keen to help me with the health and safety awards and although he said it would not really be useful in the school, his wife had contacts of children's homes, NGO's etc where it would be more needed. I actually went into Golden Bridge today (my first day) and it emerged that they have a lot of Mongolian volunteers there who want to make a difference but don't know how. I, being the saint that I am (paha- I'm so self-righteous), have set up a one day programme (this sunday- goodbye day off :() to teach them how to teach health and safety. They can then go into underprivelaged areas and teach young children without the language barrier. It's like the old saying- give a man a fish and he will eat for a day but give him a fishing rod and he will eat for life. Well, unless you overfish or something.
The head of Golden Bridge also mentioned something about a teaching program in the countryside to miners (uranium and coal) over a weekend? He casually asked me if I was interested- I OF COURSE said yes- so I really hope that comes to something as I really don't have any time to get out and see the real Mongolia with all of this charitable crap? (ooo hello dark sense of humour?)
Yesterday was my first full day at the Children's Palace where I learnt I get more free internet- YAY! But yes, contrary to my job description, I will actaully be teaching alone?? So yes, some frantic googling has been done and I have invented some basic language games. I managed to blag this week with talking about my life in England which I have now done six times. At one and a half hours a time, there are only so many times you can do a Scottish accent with the same enthusiasm. It is also really funny that when I asked them if they knew any famous English people, they always said Simon Cowell?? Closely followed are footballers from the boys- it turns out the nickname "Shrek" for Wayne Rooney is an internationally sweeping thing?
In my last blog, I think I said something about the school actually being quite well off but after sharing lunch with my supervisor there yesterday I have changed my mind. The nice building is a facade for the small amount they actually have. True, they do have hundreds and hundreds of books donated by the Asia Foundation in the classroom, but they are essentially useless. For example, they possess 15 copies of Anthony and Cleopatra (clearly the remnant of high school) and 3 copies (brand new) of the Story of Buzz Aldrin- I only wish I was joking.
It made me unspeakably angry and I had an emotional moan at the teacher. Yes, at- language barriers are wonderful things. It just made me cross that they are getting book after book after book and yet they don't even have proper textbooks. The ones they do have are copies and the ones their beloved Asia Foundation have given them, there just aren't enough of.
The really sad thing is that the Mongolians don't even realise that they have been given a pile of rubbish. We're going to get them books guys when I come home as it just isn't right- it really effected me in a way that I didn't think this trip would- they too are human beings and deserve better. If we don't have a use for book, what on earth possesses us to pack it off to Mongolia?(left: me teaching Health and Safety in the Children's Palace)
Anyway hellooo (again). Here are the much anticipated weekend activities that I got up to!
Saturday was Terjl- the volunteer trip to the countryside. It was really nice to meet other volunteers and explore a bit more of Mongolia outside of UB. All 10 of us CRAMMED into this tiny minibus. It was so so tight that there was a guy sitting in the boot. The bumpy roads that are the norm once you leave the city made this rippingly good fun. Was such a laugh as we didn't have seat belts, the bus being designed to only comfortably seat six.
First on the trip was a stop to a holy mound. This we were told to walk round clockwise three times in order to become holy. I did however have to question how holy this area was though, as strewn on the pile were a load of liquor bottles. It was like finding loads of holy grails... full of vodka. (that made sense in my head).
Next we stopped on the side of the road because there was the opportunity to ride a Mongolian, two humped camel which, we were informed were very rare. I did indeed ride a camel, yes, I named him Gregory. The name implies I grew attached but he actually smelt really bad so attached is probably not the appropriate word. Funny anecdote alert: As we were riding up the two guys who owned the camels were being filmed astride the beasts with bottles in their hands. All became clear when they yelled with a cheesy smile "coca-colaaaa!!" So so funny! I can only assume it was a Mongolian coca cola advert?
We then all piled back in the van and moved on to Terejl which, being even higher up, was even colder that UB (which is currently about -5). As we ate our lunch (kebab and cookies- another superbly balanced meal), it began to snow. Hard. This made the horse riding fun to say the least. I honestly was terrified. This wasn't helped by the fact that my guide insisted on cantering, I forgot my hat and my horse kept slipping. Honestly feel I am quite lucky to be alive. Still, although I didn't enjoy it, I am glad I did it. Certainly would have regretted it if I hadn't.
Funny anecdote here too as our minibus was following us on our return leg through the beautiful snowy valley. One of the volunteers actually fell off (not the funny bit :P) and my guide and therefore me ran back to go and help here. Whilst at the back of the pack, the guide took the drivers cigarette and smoked riding his horse. Such a anachronism that riding through snowy valleys, on a traditional Mongolian horse in the middle of nowhere, my guide was puffing on a fag. Just surreal. (Below: me astride a bactrian camel)
After a fleeting stop to the famous Chingis Kahn statue, we made it home (although I banged my head several times on the ceiling of the minivan during this time). I was then pretty much straight out again to Jemma's house for dinner as her family live in UB. So so glad I went as NOM WESTERN FOOD! Salad (nom), chicken (nomnomnom) AND ROAST POTATOES (NOMNOMNOMNOM). Best. Food. Ever. I certainly hope I get invited back as I am so sick of the taste of lamb right now. It tastes remarkably sheepy here? (okay made sense in my head.)
Then went out to a bar with Billy, Kate and Ben but I made sure I got home nice and early as being out at night here is so so dangerous. Jemma got mugged and pick pocketed in a week. You really are just such a target as you stick out so much.
Then Sunday I was working training the Mongolian volunteers in Health and Safety so that they can train young children in orphanages etc. I have kind of set up an alliance with Projects Abroad there so am proud of myself. 40 students plus teachers trained in all and am pleased with how enthusiastic they were- I look forward to hearing what they get up to even once I am gone. Fire hazard is the biggest thing here and so I hope a fire plan will be set up in the near future there. I personally start giving proper training tomorrow at the Children's Palace. Wish me luck!
I finished there about three then was back out again at four to go to the Mongolian ballet with Jenny and Kate. I say with but actually, I sat alone as I didn't answer my phone when they were at the box office. Sleeping Beauty was amazing- so so good. The Mongolian Theatre experience was what I loved so much though! EVERYONE turned up late and nobody stayed in their seats. Neither did anyone turn off their phones and about ten mins in, all these children filed in and sat on peoples laps? I had one either side of me (I scared them being a foreigner :P!) in the first act. It was just so odd but good in a weird kind of way?? I also managed to temporarily break my phone (I don't know where the off button is so thought it a good idea to take the battery out. Of COURSE this was a dumb idea as how do you turn it back on again?? Anna-ism much!) which was a bad idea as I was walking back alone at dusk. I literally ran and nearly jumped out of my skin when someone asked me for the time. It honestly is petrifying?!
Sorry there has been quite a gap in my writings just not muchh has really happened it feels liike but, looking back on the week, I feel it warrants a blog- besides I want to tell you all my exciting weekend planss... ;)
So yes, I last wrote to you on Mondayyy... Since then I have been a much larger part of family life and have taken to sitting with them in the communal room. It has meant I have been exposed to a lot more of Mongolian culture as well. I have helped Granny cook a meal - well chopped an onion but I think that counts- and been shown Dok's sowing which, I must say is exquisite. Unfortunately. Tommi also got a call on monday which has meant he has had to leave for the countryside. Goodbye English conversation at homeeee.. It has made trying to communicate where I am going this weekend interesting though.... Have ended up getting Zulaa to ring home for me to explain? In other way it is funny miming food, drink etc.
It has also meant that I have been exposed to Mongolian TV? As well as watching 101 Dalmatians in Mongolian, yesterday I managed to catch Top Gear and then watched Extreme Wipeout USA... oh yeah I is cool. I also have started semi following a Mongolian Soap... what is is called and what is happening I do not know. I do know however that someone has just died as there are a lot of slow montages set to dramatic music and some hysterical tears (the acting leaves a lot to the imagination). The advertising out here is also absolutely mental. Pepsi and coca cola really are waging something of a proxy advertising war out here... Also, random film music is on these adverts, like the title song to the animated 101 Dalmatians is on what appears to be a recruitment ad? Most odd.
As for my lessons, it really is so rewarding. I have eight classes in all but two of them are just horrible. Their attitudes stink and they just don't want to speak English. Seeing as I am the English speaking teacher, this makes an hour and a half lesson go so. Slowly. But yes, my other classes more than make up for it. I especially like the class that I take twice a week at the Children's Palace. I was so so tired on Tuesday and they picked up on it so one of them gave me a back massage- felt so loved. This week I have been doing family with them and giving them words to describe people but I also gave a brief English Literature lesson (which they loved!) and a lesson on travel this morning at the Golden Bridge Center. I feel particularly loved there as all of the people from the afternoon classes have started coming in early to hear a native speaker. Today, in a class which is normally 8 to 10, there were 20?! Crazy- extra chairs had to be brought in.
As an aside, I have also been branded as the "crazy-enthusiastic English volunteer". I was going through words you could use to describe appearance, one of which is "stunning". Anyway to illustrate this, I ask the class "what does the verb, to stun mean?". A girl at the front of the class was on her phone so I ran towards her going "MLEHMLEHMLEHMLEHMLEHHHHH". Face. Was. A. Picture. So yes. Task completed? ;)
I also started my proper Health and Safety Training this week which has meant about 20 more children have been trained there. I have actually run out of certificates so more have been sent from London!? That makes 60 so far. And four more classes still to go. I had news back from the head of the project at the British Safety Council and he wants to cover my story when I return to Blighty. It also seems like I am in the running for this 100 pound prize for strong outreach! Helltotheyes Henners.
Today I am in the Projects Abroad office and (Zulaa has told me to mention this ;)!) she and Zolo cooked me Mongolian Dumpling soup after she saw my facebook status about it yesterday! I say Mongolian dumpling soup but it was actually Korean Ramen (reallllll spicy- my stomach is going to make me regret that later) with dumplings floating in it. I have to say it tasted pretttty darn good even if my throat was set alight by the kajun pepper? Pictures were taken. :P (Left: Zoloo and Zulaa making me Mongolian "dumpling soup")
All that is left to say now are my weekend plans! Tonight I get more Western Food *yay* as Jemma and I are having a girly movie night with ice creammm mmmmm. I'm staying at hers tonight and then am going shopping with Kate and Jenny in the morning followed by a quiz night tomorrow evening at somewhere called the Taj Mahal (God knows where that is!). THENNN I am working at the Children's Palace (hello second sunday in a row working) with some Japanese Chilren followed by the ballet at 5 which I believe this week is Swan Lake. And then I am into week three? Crazy how fast the time is going.
Sorry I haven't written in like a week. I am thoroughly exhausted as each week just seems to be more mental than the last but I have finally been in touch with Mum and Dad which was lovely. Can't believe I get to see you all again next Friday but sadly, I am leaving just as I am getting attached to this place and beginning to make a real difference.
Last week, nothing much of note happened really. Had a really full week of teaching and went out in the evenings to eat things-which-weren't-mutton with the other volunteers, but they are all beginning to leave now which saddens me greatly. So yes, nothing much has really happened. It probably has but it is remarkable how fast things like playing a game with lamb ankle bones and getting electrocuted by a pupil become normal...
So yes, I think, as I have soooo much to do before five o clock, that I will only tell you about my weekend- that alone is enough for a pretty lengthy blog.
So. Friday. Friday, Friday, Friday. Boy does that feel like a long time ago. I had to work in the morning but then had a great time at Projects Abroad in the afternoon. I MADE CAKE IN A MUG AND IT TURNED OUT WELL! There are pictures, rest assured. But yes, the staff were mightily impressed that a cake could indeed be constructed in a microwave. They have kept the recipe and all the ingredients so I have left something of a legacy there... :P
In the evening, we went out for pizza (om nomnom VEGETABLE pizzzzzaa) and then went to the sky bar which is the coolest bar I have EVER been to? It was on the top of the "posh" department store and the views of the city were spectacular. Just incredible. It was realllly expensive but it kinda had to be done because everywhere else runs dry on the 1st of the month which I found very odd. I mean have they SEEEEEN the streets Sunday morning?? You can't see the pavements for the Chinggis Kahn vodka bottles.
Saturday was Dream Outreach and wow. Just what a day. It was exactly what I had came here to do and the kids were just amazing. I was volunteer supervisor (oh yes, I got to push the space button on the powerpoint) and Zulaa and I conducted out first piece of Dream outreach work. It is just the beginning of the charity which has now been set up between us. I need all your help when we get home guys to get this off the ground so be prepared and ready! Kids were amazing and we are going back on Sunday for Zulaa's birthday. Then we are returning again and doing a dirty day on the Friday before I leave. Here we are also planning on planting a tree to launch our Dream Outreach program (planting trees are a symbol of celebration). It really is more than I ever dreamed of doing out here and Zulaa and I are just so excited to launch it by ourselves. We are planning to run a camp over the summer for underprivileged children where they can find their dreams and escape from their normal orphanages. Our program also has other goals which I worked on yesterday (YES THIRD SUNDAY IN A ROW WORKING!!). At Golden Bridge, I have now not only trained over 60 Mongolian volunteers in Health and Safety but in Dream Outreach too. I set up a meeting wit my supervisor from Golden Bridge this morning and they are going to work together to create a Mongolian Dream Team who will go into Schools and Care Placements and conduct activity days combining Health and Safety and Dream Outreach. Zulaa and I have secured office space for there to be weekly meetings and a strong link between my placement at Golden Bridge and Projects Abroad has been forged. It is all so exciting. (Right: Zulaa delivering our Dream Lecture)
When I get back, I need to create an English Dream team to raise money for the Dream Discovery School. We only have 7 weeks to raise 2000 pounds so get those thinking caps on. I have seen first hand the difference the contact can make and really we can help more than anyone on the ground here. 4 million tugrik is impossible but 3500 pounds is achievable.
Sundayyy I was Dream Outreach training which, originally, Zulaa was meant to be undertaking. Unfortunately, her son got sick so I had to do it single handedly. Bolorma and I had a lovely chat at the end though and, with her 4000 volunteers, this is quickly turning into something massive. I thennn went out for Chinese with Jemma and other volunteers and we razzed back to hers, watched films and generally ate lots. Chicken tomato pasta- sooo good. I was going to get a nice early night but slept so so badly for some reason. I think it was the excitement from talking to Ma and Pa as it was only when I spoke to them that I realised the magnitude of what I have achieved out here. I have made and am going to continue to make such a difference to children's lives. I am now only slightly sad that I am not going to be able to see it first hand.
That's right, I have just had my last weekend in UB? And boy oh boy did I make the most of it? Having worked EVERY Sunday I have been here, Ben, Amanda and I did the whole of UB in one and a half days. I am thoroughly exhausted. I am getting just tireder and tireder as I am not having the weekends to recover. Furthermore, this weekend was particularly well.. heavy? ;) All shall be explained... :P!
Sooo Fridaaayyyy I had work in the morning and then got some time in the Projects Abroad office doing Dream Academy Stuff and getting to know Annett, a new volunteer who is going to do amazing things for our cause. She works for the European Union as head of Swedish translation and the links, know how and advice she can provide the Mongolian Dream Team with are going to prove invaluable over the coming months. I am just so glad she is here!!
In the evening Sayo, Zulaa, Zoloo and I all went and played tennis!! Hhahaa. The itch has been scratched despite the ridiculously heavy tennis ball, impossibly high net and junior tennis racket. Was great to play and I felt soooo much better for it. I swear I was suffering withdrawal symptoms?! :P Of course, this outing was NOT without its anecotes though as the male sports coach who let us the courts at the school was absolutely smashed. Off his face. Bungalowed. Whatever you want to call it. He kept trying to play with us and then proceeded to tell us ALL how to play, including myself. He OF COURSE lead by example, playing with his hand in his pocket. It was so funny as when I hit it past him he proceeded to call the ball out or do a classic double take- was so funny! The female tennis coach (horrifically embarrassed) was much nicer and when she found out I was a coach in England, asked for my email address as she has questions to ask me. Seeing as she doesn't speak a word of English, I sense this may be interesting but hey, if I understand, I would be happy to help! (Left: Playing tennis with Sayo, Zoloo and Zulaa)
After tennis, I razzed upstairs with ice cream, Ben and Amanda to see Jemma and meet her Mongolian friends. We all (I say all but said Mongolian friends turned up late and then proceded to ignore us) sat, ate pizza, chocolate and ice cream on a duvet and watched Kickass. It was HILARIOUS because we couldn't work out how to get the subtitles off and so had to leave them on. So glad we did though as they were all wrong? "Red Mist" became either "Red Tornado", "Red Cyclone" or (personal favourite) "Red Tomato" and "cocaine", "coacoa powder". "Mindy" was called "Mandy" and "Mo" and (wait for it) "Kick Ass" became "Huan Bian Wang".
It was and early ish start the next day (got about 6 hrs sleep) as Amanda, Ben and I blitzed 3 Museums and the Black Market in one day. First we went to a monastry museum then onto the National History Museum and THEN onto the Natural History Museum. Funny story here actually as at all these places you have to pay extra if you want to take photographs. We had just discreetly took them throughout the day but at the Natural history museum it seemed a lot cheaper. Ben bought his ticket first but, after countng his change, discovered that it was more expensive than the misleading advertising had said AND that you couldn't even take photos in the paleantology department (the only thing TRULY worth seeing?). Amanda and I then didn't pay for the hiked up prices but Ben was DETERMINED to get his money's worth. Some hilarious photos were the result and oh myyy are they inventive?? I actually reinacted the process of liking a poisonous mushroom and then dying. Boydoeswehavegoodtimesinmongolia?? No doubt they will be on facebook in the near future for all to see...
It was then into a taxi and off to the Naarundul Markets, or black market as they are otherwise known. These were insanneeee. It is nothing like I have ever seen. Whereas the bizares and market you go to on holiday are tourist directed, these are purely functional. So instead of mini gers etc, they sell underwear, sofas, carpets, toilet roll, belts... everything?! There were like little districts as all of the stalls which sold the same or similar things grouped together... Crazy. Just Crazy- eat your heart out Faversham International Farmers Market?!
Despite being physically exhausted, I somehow managed to get to the State Department Store for 9 o clock Sunday morning where I met Amanda and Ben. Together we went up to the Gandan Monastry- the Mongolian home of Buddhsm. We actually arrived an hour before it opened and so got to see all the Buddhist monks doing their morning rituals which was fascinating. Heard them ringing the gong and everything. After that we went inside the temple and there was the biggst golden statue I have ever seen in my life. And I just wasn't expecting it. I will never, as long as I live forget the moment that I saw that... was insane.
We then walked up to a mound of rocks which had various sacrifices on it including sheep, horse and goats head. All very macarbe?? (Right: A traditional Mongolian Rock Mound or odoo).
I THEN met Zulaa at Golden Bridge where we formed the Mongolian Dream Team. We now have a team of fourty at our disposal which is all very exciting. Form there, we went up to the Lotus centre again and built a wish box for the kids. They all wrote their biggest wishes and put them in the box. It was so sweet as they remembered me and I am so excited to go back on my last day this Friday. They really are an inspiration- something I can easily recognize depite the language barrier. There are soooo many pictures of them as they stole my camera!! They were just so so sweet though <3!
Then is was back in the taxi to Zulaa's where she quickly taught me how to make Mongolian classics that I have come to love out here. She only talked through most of them but it doesn't seem too difficult (I hope). Shall have to give that I stab when I get back...!
Thhennnn I WASSS going to go home and sleep but I ran into Billy in the Nomin (paha!) hypermarket and she was going up to see Jemma so I ended up going back to hers afterwards where we watched some more films. Easy A <3 Ahhh Rach how that reminded me of you and how much I miss you!!
Anywayyyyy I'm just tying up all my loose ends this week, about to meet Amanda to go shopping and last day at the Chidlren's Palace tomorrow I am hoping as I REALLYYYY need Thursday to pack- my room is a TIP.
This undoubtedly has been the most amazing month of my life and it has made me realise how much more to life there is than just learning- the thing that has definied me thuse far. University isn't the be all and end all. It has also taught me a lot about myself. I can cope away from home and create a life for myself anywhere (tbh if I can do it here, I CANNNN do it anywhere). Walking down the street and being stared at has become normal, as has speaking slowly at people. My room is like MY room and everything here so feels like home now it is strange. I certainly will miss it a lot."
To see more of my pictures, you can go to https://picasaweb.google.com/108954669481473175010/MongoliaTrip