Last Thursday, Michael Richmond (from the US embassy) and I visited four companies to select a new primary and a new secondary project. Not that I really need a new secondary project. It is clear that I (or rather, my skills) am nothing more but a chip in a political poker game. However, I do not know the players and I do not know the rules. Quite a couple of people, within the embassy, were pushing for my placement at Kapital bank with FIFTA (Foreign Investment and Foreign Trade Association) as a secondary project. And guess what? It seems Kapital bank will be my primary project and FIFTA my secondary.
The way I understand it, the CEO of Kapital is a Mongolian who's lived in the US for a number of years after almost fleeing the country somewhere in the 90s after a land-slide election victory for the democratic party.
Last Friday, all schools and universities finished off their year with the highest classes graduating. Flower shops around the city had a magnificent day and, for the first time this year, some natural colors could be seen in the streets. The main entrances to the schools and universities were packed with nicely dressed girls, guys, men and women, all holding multiple bouquets. Either to give away or just received.
The 10pm curfew due to SARS has also been lifted. Although they already did that on Friday, we still weren't allowed in to Khan Brau after our weekly gathering at the Steppe Inne. On Saturday, the whole city was throbbing with celebrating youngsters and we couldn't escape a gathering at Hollywood club, where Tsolmon, one of the employees at Golomt bank, where Henry works, was celebrating his graduation.
Easily, Saturday night was the 'worst' night since my stay in Ulaan Baatar. Sunday morning I came closest to a headache I've been since being here. Not really surprising, considering we mixed beer, vodka and champagne. Still, we ruled on the dance floor, again, where Tsolmon tried to convince everyone we had to dance bare chested and circle up.
The black market has also opened again and yesterday, in search of sneakers, I almost had my backpack slit open. Quite suddenly, five or six people came up close to me, pressing themselves against me and my bag got caught between two people in front of me. Realizing what was going on, I pushed the people around me briskly away when the person walking in front of me turned around, looked at me, saw my face and took off, in the opposite direction.
Later, I also walked up to the Zeisan memorial, a Soviet-build memorial to commemorate 'unknown soldiers and heroes' from various wars. The memorial is already impressive enough by itself, but also built on top of a hill just south of the city. On normal days, you have a great view of Ulaan Baatar. Unfortunately, on Saturday, a huge dust storm limited view to only a couple of hundred meters.
On Sunday, waiting for the internet connection coming up, I started talking to a Mongolian girl who was going to the Gobi for two weeks the day after, as a translator. She told me that all Mongolian babies are born with a large blue birth mark on their backs, a sign of true Mongolian heritage. I remember from my stay in Hungary that there too, you are considered of true Hungarian decent if you're born with a large blue birthmark.