“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.”
― Malala Yousafzai
― Malala Yousafzai
This won’t be a regular kind of posting (mostly because nothing about this blog is regular), but I’m making a start! One of our graduates from last year made this video, and what I like about it is how she shows off all of the different kinds of art you can find in UB. It’s a great city!
Another expat teacher shared this video on FB, and I thought it would be fun to share here. The only dish that we haven’t had is boodog, although it’s very similar to khorkhog (both are mentioned in the video). Enjoy!
PS. At some point, we’ll have to upload pictures of our travels during the break, but that might be another few days!
**I feel like it would be easy to misinterpret the intention behind this post, so I want to clarify that this post isn’t meant as a complaint but as an illustration of a challenge and an adjustment for an American living abroad.**
Because I grew up overseas in several developing nations, I was used to the necessity of shopping around to get all of the household goods. Or at least, that’s what I thought I was used to before moving to UB and realizing how little I understood what my parents actually went through to keep food in the house. See, by “used to the necessity of shopping around”, I mean, I knew that’s what my folks did, but I rarely participated in those shopping trips because I deemed them boring and just wanted to stay home and read a book. Let’s be honest, I still find shopping boring and would rather stay home and read a book.
As an adult, the only shopping I was used to was going to Safeway or Albertsons or whatever big name carry-all grocery store was closest, loading up on everything I needed in one trip, filling my car trunk, and going home with enough supplies to last for several weeks at a time. Here in UB, I’ve had to adjust my grocery shopping paradigm. For starters, we don’t have a car, so I can only buy what I can physically carry. Every time we go somewhere, I try to think of what else we can do in the relative area of where we are going (or what we can accomplish on the way) to help cut down on trips. Otherwise, I could easily be gradually purchasing throughout the week and would never feel “done” with grocery shopping. Factor in carrying a baby (in a snowsuit, he no longer fits in the baby carrier), and shopping becomes a bit of a challenge! Fortunately for me, when we have students over, I can usually convince them to come with me so we can bring home more at one time, rewarding them with food and chocolate. (You know who you are, and I thank you so much!!!) Also fortunately, our neighborhood grocery is well-stocked with the basics, and is about a five minute walk from our apartment.
However, to get the best deals on different products often involves shopping around at different markets. A meat market, for instance, is going to be cheaper than purchasing meat in my neighborhood grocery, and I can find meat for a wide variety of prices depending on where I go. The best deals on different products might be found through a friend who knows a guy who sells something out of the back of his truck. (Totally not as shady as it sounds!) A friend of mine connected me with a guy who sells Japanese diapers in bulk for cheaper than what we can find in any store so I get diapers delivered–handy, especially in winter!
One of the interesting things about household products and groceries here is that they come from all over the place. Sure, there are the expensive American import stores full of Skippy peanut butter and Starbucks coffee beans that go for $90 for a few pounds, but in our neighborhood grocery, we have stuff from Korea, China, Russia, Germany, Mongolia (duh), Kazakhstan, Poland, Hungary, and so much more! I’ll include some pics from our neighborhood grocery to give you an idea of what a basic supermarket holds. 🙂
So that’s an idea of what it’s like to go grocery shopping here. They opened an Emart (Korean store similar to American Target or Walmart) at the start of the school year, but I have yet to go because I’ve heard that it’s super busy all of the time. Also, I still don’t have a car so it’s not really worth it to me to make the trek. I’ve heard that they might open another Emart that’s closer to us, but I’m not sure how much truth there is behind that rumor.
We are wrapping up Christmas Day here in UB, and I hope that those of you reading this who also celebrate this holiday have a wonderful one wherever you happen to be in the world. I don’t have much to say beyond that, but I’d like to share a video that I first saw last winter and that a friend in the US shared with me earlier today. It’s a fun take on a Western holiday song, using traditional Mongolian instruments.
A note about the clothing in this video, the deels worn are primarily winter style, which are lined with fur or sheep skin and are much warmer than the summer style. The deels we had made our first year are summer style and are still quite warm! 🙂
PS. Any tips on how to get a 7 month old to smile in more formal pictures? 😛
Bloomberg posted an illuminating article yesterday that broke down the current pollution issues. Guess what? Beijing can move over. Ulaanbaatar’s pollution has it beat–five times over.
Because it’s the Year of the Monkey, Mongolians have been predicting an extra cold, extra long winter. One of our coworkers said they are expecting four months of winter rather than three. (To me, it feels like winter lasts for six months anyway so…don’t listen to the expat who apparently doesn’t know these things. 😉 ) I’ve also heard that there might be an extra nine added to the “nine nines” of winter. What I’ve come to learn about Mongolian weather, however, is that you can never predict what might happen.
We’ve had snow on the ground for well over a month now, which has been nice in some ways. It’s kept the dust down, and the times that it’s been warm enough to snow has helped the air quality. The snow clears out the pollution for a couple of days before it gets bad again. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to stay indoors with Z more often than not. The pollution is so bad that one of the military hospitals is opening a wing for children with pneumonia because all of the other hospitals are full to overflowing. Even one of our teammate’s kids is recovering from pneumonia, and we are fortunate enough to live in a part of the city where the pollution is not so concentrated.
The pollution is so bad…that even Mongolians are wearing pollution masks, and that is an uncommon sight indeed. Usually, the only face masks we see people wearing are because they are sick (or vulnerable) and don’t want to pass on/catch others’ germs. So if you think of us, remember Mongolians this winter, especially those in Ulaanbaatar.
Nessim Stevenson, filmmaker from Beirut, Lebanon, traveled to and made this short film/documentary about Mongolia last year. I think it’s a great snapshot of the country and does a wonderful job of capturing the wild beauty of its nature and the gentle warmth of its people. Fun fact: the scene with the meat market caught my eye because the female butcher is one of the women from whom I have purchased beef in the recent past.