I know, it's been a while. Betsy, my girlfriend, has been here over the past two weeks and every moment I had a little bit of time, say to write some for my blog, she came in and claimed that time. And rightly so. And to be honest. I already miss her.
Hardware seems to be vexed in this country. After my modem, network card and sound card, my diskette drive now also seems to have stopped working. What's worse, my digital camera has died. After it gave off an early warning in my first week here, which was solved by dropping it on the floor, the pictures accompanying this entry will probably be the last ones ever taken with my good old Canon Powershot Pro 70. I bought it near the end of 2000, just before my trip to Ghana, also for Geekcorps and it has served me some 20.000 pictures.
Just before leaving for Mongolia, I almost bought an inexpensive video camera to play with. Ah, hindsight. Luckily, Gin borrowed me her Concord (what brand?) digital camera. It's better than nothing, no?
Since two weeks or so, Gin, one of the Australians here through AYAD (Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development), and Henry have been more or less dating and Betsy and Gin became real mates. A good thing since last week the four of us and Andy went to Marco Polo, according to one American, one of the better strip clubs in town.
And it was good, although Betsy and Gin unanimously decided that the girl with the perfect boobs had them surgically altered. The best show of the evening, easily, was Gin and Betsy doing a table dance for us boys. Without a doubt, they beat the very impressive contortionists who have a show at Marco Polo's everyday at 12am.
Later, Gin had an interview on Australian national radio on Mongolia's transition from a communist economy to a capitalist one. In it, she claimed that the strippers at some strip joint some of her American friends had gone to hadn't really understood the new economy yet, since they weren't wearing any garter belts to accept tips in.
After the exciting Saturday night, the Sunday was for the kids. That is, 'Children's day', being renamed to 'Mother and child day' a while ago, had now been renamed to 'Children's day' again. For some reason, the Nairamdal (friendship) park, which is normally quite empty, was littered with people. It made me wonder were these people normally hang out on a Sunday. The line for the ferris wheel was some 150m long.
The good thing about the celebrations was that we got to see children's sumo wrestling. I'm not totally sure if this sport is very healthy to a kid's physique, but at least it was a spectacle.
Last Tuesday, it was finally time for the awards ceremony of the 'All Mongolian Web Awards'. As you might recall, I was a judge for that back in my first week here in Mongolia. Because of SARS and the ban on public events, the final ceremony was postponed a number of times but now, it seemed, it was finally happening. On Monday night, I got a call from one of the organizers, if I could please give a speech on my experiences as a judge. No problem. Almost needless to say, I gave them a good verbal beating. I was only impressed by one of the six winners, a comprehensive guide on how to obtain certain effects in Photoshop. Most of the other sites were as good as your nephew's.
Claudia and Ryan also showed up at the occasion. The master of ceremony, Ian, a Brit working in Mongolia as a UNV, had supplied them with invitations. Or was it only Claudia showing up, since I can't remember talking to Ryan at all. In fact, I can't remember talking to Ryan over the past five weeks or so.
This weekend, Betsy and I staid at UB2, a ger camp in Terelj, one of the natural reserve areas close to Ulaan Baatar. Although the area supposedly is great for hiking and has a very tacky disco, we discovered neither. I still had a blister from the previous week's hash and Betsy isn't really into hiking at all, so we mostly staid close to the town and the ger camp, reading books in the sun, next to the Tuul river and enjoying the food at the hotel restaurant.
On Saturday night, when we were both in bed, ehm, reading. Betsy asked if ever these gers catch fire from the stove inside the gers. I suggested that, probably, occasionally, a ger actually would catch fire. And an hour later, ours did. I was lucky enough to notice it shortly after it happened. But what was better, some of our neighbors had noticed it too and were already banging our door down before we could get dressed. Before we knew it, one of the guys had gotten some of the wallpaper we had found lying around, which we used for getting the fire started, and climbed up on the ger to beat out the flames. Shortly after him climbing up, people were throwing bottles of water at him to use that to kill the flames. We thanked the man, who turned out to be Korean. Over the next two hours, every ten minutes or so, we had people walking into our ger without a warning. From receptionists, to children to neighbors. I still do not know why.
Not that THAT was a real surprise since, in the afternoon, we already had a cleaning lady walk in on us when we were having, well, an intimate moment together.
After getting a really good deal on a trip back to town on Monday, we mostly just chilled. It being Betsy's last day in town. Fate, as these things go, had other plans. During an afternoon nap, my phone rang and I jumped up to pick it up. Being to late to answer the phone and still groggy, I stumbled over to the bathroom to take a pee, only to almost faint. I got up again and stumbled back to the bedroom, realizing that my right leg was really sweating a lot. I looked down and noticed blood running down my leg.
I somehow had gotten a long and deep cut across my knee. Almost fell to the ground, started sweating, and called Jocie, one of the Australian nurses in town, while Betsy was starting to take care of my leg.
Jocie, working at the city's children's hospital, dressed the wound nicely but considered stitching it up the next day. In her office, taking off my pants, her office help almost went into cardiac arrest for me doing so. That was a hospital for chrissake! What a country.