the night train, the hypnoscreen and three dramatic characters
on Catherine Dupre (Mongolia), 20/Oct/2010 02:51, 34 days ago
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Hi - so, wow, I didnt realise it had been a whole month since the last post.  Since then, I have had my friend C staying - visiting from Paris for 2 weeks.  her first couple of days I had to work, and let her sleep off ehr jet lag, and in the evenings we ate beef stew and drank red wine and created the perfect itinerary for her stay.We decided to take advantage of how long she was here for to do a kind of minibreak.  We decided to spend three days in Erdenet, which is proudly touted as Mongolia's Third Largest City.  Mongolia only has three cities.  I have a Mongolian friend here in UB who's family live in Erdenet, and she was going ot be visiting that weekend too, so we were very excited, and were not disappointed.We travelled up on the night train, as this was the cheapest form of transport, and meant we didnt waste a whole day travelling.  It was cool, the same soviet train as I went to Selenge in.  I didnt sleep much, as I was engrossed in my book, and also kept awake by the snoring and farting of my fellow passengers, but I was very restful, on the top bunk, being rocked by the train.  There was a seatbelt that I tried to strap myself in with, but in true Mongolian style, it of course didnt work, so I was mildly concerned that I could be thrown out of my little nest, especially since stopping suddnly is quite a strong mongolian trait....However, we arrived in Erdenet unscathed, but pretty sleepy, we got poked and prodded out of bed about half an hour before we stopped, but the surly train attentant.  One thing I will NOT miss form Mongolia is the constant prodding.  Please do not touch me, I am British. We stood looking bewildered for a while, as the train statoin is outside the city, but deflected the "taxi!" calls, and opted intead to get on a bus we saw.  I asked people on it if it went to erdenet, and they said yes, but seemed very bemused.  I thought it was just because they didnt see so many foreigners, but soon relaised that all the passengers of the bus were young women who were dressed very similarly....and then the bus stopped at a school nd everyone got off - a haa.Uya rang and told us to get a taxi to her family home, where her sisters would look after us.  This we did and soon found ourselves drinking sudete (salty milk tea) and talking about Justin Beiber (the girls were 17, very cute, very sweet, but with questionable music taste).After a hearty lunch of boiled mutton spine, me and C passed out the sofa's, both having mad dreams.  We were so done in that that evening we just found a hotel, and hung out eating bread and cheese and chatting til we fell day we met up with Uya, and went with her to visit her parents bed factory.  It was so cute.  A higgldy piggldy collection of ramshackle buildings, with a security guard living on site, in a ger, which we went into too.  Unfortunately, I had neglected to charge my camera battery, so after taking the one picture above, which is C and N at the apartment, my camera went byebye, and I am waiting for C to put hers up online so I ca steal them for le blogge.So we watched the menfolk building wooden bed frames, very nice workmanship, and the then to another building, to see women putting the mattresses together, first compiling a plethora of springs, then upholstering them.It was interesting to see how they worked, quiet, serious, the place seemed an unorganised mess, but there was also a strong sense of process about it.After the factory we headed to the black market, which was nicer than the one in UB by a huge long shot.  the stuff was much better quality, there were much less people, who were much less pushy, and the atmosphere was super chilled, rather than frenetically tense.  I bought a bag and a pair of plimsolls,after more wandering and a visit to the 'funfair' where we took a ride ont he big wheel, which was very big, and had no security features, so quite terrifying, C and I went to get a pizza while Uya went to have family time.  then we met up again at a bar later that night, and went on to a night club.  the club was seemingly quite fancy, the light show was the usual seizure inducing dazzlefest, and the music was the usual cringy R&B, and the clientelle were actually a lot less pretentious than the UB lot.  Nice place, I thought, til I went to the toilet.... two squat holes, with swinging doors were the unisex loos.  one of the doors had a big panel missing, the other didnt shut properly, or lock.  nice.  People were barging in and out constantly, smoking heavily, and chatting loudly, and the space was tiny, but my bladder was protesting, so I squeezed my way through the puffing gibbering crowd, and went for the squat.  I could hold the door shut while I peed, but as soon as I let go to pull up me bricks, the door was flung open, by a girl who had seen me go in there, seen my hand holding the door shut, yet who still thought it would be ok to walk in and trample over me.This is another thing I will never understand, the mongolian delusion that two solid objects can occupy the same space at the same time.Anyway, the club was fun, we danced, and were 'chatted up' by a group of giggly young men (never understand giggly men, it is all wrong in my opinion, and freaks me out - are you a 9 year old girl or are you a MAN?)The next day me and C were up early ish to go for a wee hike in the hills, which was ace, the fresh air, the views, and then we were invited into a ger by a very sweet lady called muugii, who offered us aruul, and spoke to us in the broken english she had taught herself from a book, she had a hilarious little booklet called "american idioms" which contained some funny little colloquialisms.back to the flat for salty tea and watchig "dance your ass off" which even dubbed in mongolian is probbly the BEST reality show I ever saw, fatties dancing to lose weight, performing, getting judged, getting weighed and crying.  aaah, bliss.We had a slap up korean meal before finding a car to drive us back to UB.  The drive back was long and a bit scary at times.  Mongolians drive as if they really truly do want to kill themselves, their passengers, and everyone else on the road. We have been told never to be driven at night, and I was a bit nervous as after it got dark at around 8pm it got pretty hairy.  We passed a big accident as well, which added ot the fretfulness.  But we made it back in one peice, and spent the rest of the week exploring UB, museus, markets, monuments, the fun fair in UB, aving a dinner party, doing the pub quiz (and losing, and the pub has closed down, so what am i going ot do now?!?!), going to the cinema, and the theatre to see a mongolain opera called "three dramatic characters" which was ace, such a spectacle.  Didnt think much of most of the singing, but the costumes were amazing, and the last scenes was a wedding party, which had dancing and wrestling, a wonderful show.We went out on C's last night to kareoke, well, we werent going to go, but we got convinced, and were so glad we went.  Loads of people were there, a big ex-pat crowd for the leaving do of an AYAD, and we were all singing awy happily.  then there was a power cut, and the music stopped, but we were undeterred, and all kept singing, in the dark, all together, which was so funny and happy.Not so funny and happy when we had to get up at 4.30am after getting to bed at 3am, to put C on her plane!So, now life is back to kind of normal, back at work, back to living alone again.  We had the interpreters training, that I helped design, and we got very god feedback from that, and our training materials are going to be duplicated and used in other areas, so that is nice.I had to cancel my Chingeltei lecture today as a doctor at the hospital wants to hang out with me this afternoon, so i am a little nervous about that, as they alwasy seem to misunderstand my role, and start asking me diagnostic questions, which I cant answer, so then they lok disappointed and I die a little inside.Photos to follow in next post.Oh yeah, the hypnoscreen - did I ever mention it before?  Its a huge screen in the centre of town that shows adverts and stuff, and showed the world cup matches when it was on.  it freaks me out a bit, especially the other day I walked past it at dusk, and the light it emitted was so eerie and is getting colder here, down to -12 at night, but still around 8 or 9 during the day, and super hot inside as the government has turned the heating back to hypo/hyperthermia seesaw.  What FUN!