So I lied... I'm still on my summer vacation. Hanging out in UB before my Mid Service Training because I don't want to take that 12-16 hour (9 of which is hell on wheels) bus ride back to Choibalsan. Since I have all of this free time, I'll just give all of you a brief description of my summer travels.
My memory is foggy so the dates will not be exact.
Middle July: Spent two weeks in Kharkhorin (Ancient Capital of Mongolia) with Kristen and other PCVs there. Finally got to see Erdene Zuu which is KK's prime tourist attraction. Cool and all, but the 100 or so stupas didn't really impress me. Coming from SE Asia, monasteries don't really put me in awe unless it is truly spectacular. As it is a heavy tourist season during the summer time, you can see foreigners coming in and out of the city everyday with their expensive cameras, back pack, and traveler's get up.
Hung out in Kristen's ger for the most part because it rained continously for almost two weeks. When we had a chance to sneak out, we walked to the mountain top and then went down to the river. The scenery was beautiful; a field of green, horses galloping and cows roaming with mountains in the backdrop and a river that carves through the land. It clears the mind and cheer the spirits when one is able to experience it.
End of July: Summer reunion of sort for some of the PCVs that trained in Orkhon. Tom, Leila, Alona, Rich, Kristen, and I made it out to our old stomping ground. The soum changed so much in one year! They now have a diner, two karaokes, and even streetlights during night time. The ammenities would have been useful had in been there for us last year.
Ben, another PCV from Zavkhan aimag stayed with me and my host family. He tagged along because he wanted to see Orkhon's 50th anniversary Naadam. Naadam is the Mongolian word for festival, but in this case it showcases the three manly sports of the country: Wrestling, Archery, and Horse Racing. The festival is one of my favorite holidays because there is also an abundance of khuushuur (fried meat enveloped in dough) and Khorhog (true Mongolian BBQ) for sale. Watching wrestling and eating khuushur during the festival is the quintessential Naadam experience.
After the two day affair, we just hung out by the river and had some beers and reminisced on good times.
Darkhan: On our way back to UB we stayed at Garrett's apartment for a couple of nights. City life means hot showers (which I hadn't had for a week or so). Once again, it was easy to see the marked changes in the city since one year last. There is a whole new section of town, new apartments going up and a Korean restaurant that is worthy of UB comparisons (It is very hard to find good food outside of UB). On one of those nights, we brought out the Weber grill and made cheeseburgers. Beers were on hand ofcourse, and thanks to Garrett's awesome TV reception, HBO movies!
Now: Just hanging out in UB for the last week. Nothing much to do at this point. Ran almost all my errands in the city. Planning on traveling to other sites and then coming back to UB for the inception ceremony for the new M20 PC volunteers.