Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Turkey and Mashed Potatoes!

This past weekend I had the opportunity to leave my site for the first time since arriving in Choibalsan in August. It was 5 days of bliss spent in the glitz and glamour of the capital city of Mongolia. But we shall begin our story from the 7 a.m. departure on Thursday morning. Jasmine (M18 PCV) and I arrived early to the bus station to catch the puragon (Russian bus) heading for Ulaanbaatar to find a crowd of drivers buzzing about, running to, and grabbing our luggage and bodies to fill their cars. While Jasmine inspected each car and talked to the drivers, I was still shivering from the morning cold and fighting off other drivers that came and asked “hottod yavho?” “Go to the capital?” I replied, “no, just wait,” in Mongolian. After finding a car that she liked (the determining factor was the design of the seat covers), Jasmine and I huddled into the paragon. The windows began to frost as we waited, 30 minutes passed, and then 1 hour, and then another. Cars in Mongolia will only go when all the seats are filled up. After waiting 2 hours, the driver decided that he will not be driving to UB today, so we grabbed our stuff and joined another group of people heading to the city by bus.

We moved to the larger bus to find 12 or so people waiting. Paid the 30,000 tugrugs (about 30 dollars) for the seat and acquainted ourselves with the back of the bus, cuz you know that’s where all the cool kids and sheep meat is. The area was packed with luggage, meat, and other goods. Normally there isn’t that much room to move around, but our ride was fairly comfortable in the amount of available space. But the problem of heat was another story. The buses here are not fully heated. The heat comes from the front of the bus, and as you go further and further back, the heat diminishes into nothingness when you get to where we were sitting. So while the people in the front were in a sauna, Jasmine and I in the back was fighting off the bitter cold. To add to that misery, they also open the windows so that it will be cooler. Sometimes people here are quite inconsiderate, I mean, if you are hot, why not take off your layers of clothes before opening the windows. Yes, and so we rode on for 16 hours. Along the way we stopped for food twice and made 2 bathroom stops. I don’t think I will complain about traveling in America ever again.

We got into UB around midnight. And right after getting off the bus, another swarm of drivers came to ask where we were going. We would have gone right away if it wasn’t for Jasmine and her box of assorted meats. Let me explain, her social worker had asked her to haul 15 or so kilo of meat from Dornod to UB for the son that is studying in the capital. So after hauling this dead weight for 16 hours, we expected someone to greet us upon arrival to take their package. She had sent texts and called prior to this, but what do you know, the kid never got there. Jasmine tried to call, but all she got was hang-ups and unanswered calls, so this went on for a good 10 minutes while the drivers are still asking us where we were going. Exhausted from the travel, we gave up and headed for my guest house. And so is the story of my first traveling experience in Mongolia. Not that bad, but definitely not a good time.

So after this experience, Thanksgiving in UB was the most appropriate celebration that one can have. Since I like making lists, and is tired of writing, I’ll just put ‘em out there:

I’m thankful for:


Friends (Americans, PCVs, Mongolians)

Heat in my apartment

Warm-Hot showers

Long underwear

Hats that cover the ears

2,500 (~$2.20) tugrugs for a kilo of beef

Vegetables (Onions, carrots, potatoes, peppers: that’s all I get)

Spices (thanks once again family and friends)

Thanksgiving in UB (good food, good friends, good times!)

And you, yes YOU! I know you read my blog.


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