Settling in...
on Alienor in the Land of Blue Skies (Mongolia), 22/Oct/2010 07:57, 34 days ago
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So I have been in UB just over 2 months and settling in quite nicely. It is getting cold now, and this weekend will see a high of 0c and a low of -14c...Luckily I am now living 5 minutes from work, and 'round the corner' from pretty much any place of interest, in a charming Soviet-style two bedroom apartment, cable including BBC World News, and the internet... It looks kind of drab, but that leather sofa is so incredibly comfortable I don't tend to leave it much unless I really have to. As if it couldn't get any better, my next door neighbour happens to be a Korean-American Fulbright scholar who shares many of my interests ranging from political philosophy to shoes. All in all, a perfect living situation unimaginable in London, especially with the equivalent location.Work has also been very interesting. It looks like finished report and end-product of my research placement will set out to inspire UN agencies and other NGOs in Mongolia to tackle some of the key problems that the education system faces. So far I have been meeting with several interesting people here a the World Bank, UNICEF, George Soros Foundation amongst other major players in the field. Inequality is at the heart of Mongolia's current situation. The nomadic lifestyle means that the urban-rural divide greatly affects access to education, health and sanitation. The disabled are still pretty much marginalised and the Kazakh minority completely left out of the system, so there is still so much to do!The entertainment in UB has been fantastic. A group of us went to the circus, postponed by a day as the animals were stuck at customs at the Russian border - who knew animals also had visa problems? The acts were spectacular and really gave Cirque du Soleil a run for their money. However, the whole show was enough to give PETA a stroke... Initially it started off quite soft - dancing geese who along with a poodle genuinely seemed to be enjoying themselves. Then came the bears. The poor things had probably been drugged before the performance but their reluctance to do handstands was met with their 'master' pushing them aggressively as they tried to escape, several times. As if it couldn't get any worse, they then put the poor bear on a trapeze... It wasn't even attached and was grabbing onto the bar as it swung at least 30 metres above ground. We were horrified, and our Mongolian friends were amused at how Westerners get so freaked out over animal welfare... The only cute part was when the bear hugged the poodle, not the poise of the evil Russian master...Then there is the ballet. Thanks to the soviet legacy, it truly is of excellent standard and for only£2.50 a ticket (the price of two beers in Mongolia), it makes you think that maybe the communists did actually get something right in making ballet and opera open to the proletariat. First we went to see Swan Lake, and ever since it has become a weekly event with Giselle and now the Russians in town to perform Romeo and Julliet this Sunday... Last week we managed to sneak in for free thanks to my friend Nyamka being friends with a recently retired ballet dancer... He introduced us to the Director of the theatre, and was pointing out all the local VIPs as we waltzed in without tickets and sipped San Pellegrino - a real luxury here. And now a video taken by our friend Ayuna when we went two weeks ago. It's my favourite part of Swan Lake!