Saturday, October 20, 2012

Grub and Pub

This is a bit of a hybrid of my normal Mongolia posts.  We're on vacation for the next week, so Grub Club is on hiatus, but last night we went to THE hotpot place, which I've heard a lot about but never been invited to go to, while my grubbies had, and thus, was not likely to come up on a normal Grub Club night.  I didn't eat hotpot as much in China as I did xiaolongbao, but it was a great cold weather food nonetheless, and in case you didn't read my post last week, it has gotten cold here lately - in fact, the snow was coming down pretty heavy again tonight.  This hotpot - The Bull, above Los Angeles restaurant a block west of the Circus on Seoul Street - was pretty similar to what I've had in Shanghai, except with horsemeat and without the dodgy poppy shells.  And by the way, horse meat tastes just fine - not gamey or anything - but with all the other flavors floating around, it's hard to know exactly what you're tasting.
 After hotpot it was off to Hennessy's to defend our Pub Quiz title.  Last week four of us went out there to check it out and left with the title.  And I do mean the title.  That's all we got.  What kind of quiz gives you nothing for winning but bragging rights, I ask?  One like this.  I love quiz nights, I do, but I was not overly impressed with this one.  For starters, I couldn't take part in two of the rounds - the quizmaster did two drinking rounds - one liquor identification and one chugging contest.  I can kind of see how the i.d. could be considered trivia, but chugging?  No.  Although it is a pretty bar, with some impressive decor in the bathroom.
Last week we won by two and a half points, which I thought was odd because we faced off against two teams of Mongolians and one of Russians.  However, the quizmaster tried to put together a balanced quiz with plenty of Mongolian questions, so I didn't think too much about it.  Last night there were more teams, including more foreigners, but the team that beat us only had one westerner on it, and they supposedly beat us by six points.  Now, I don't like to bring out the, not that one - I meant cheat...but one of the girls on their team came over to ask us, in the middle of a round, where we were from, and looked at our answer sheet while we were still figuring out that she was on another team, and not a waitress.  Now, they had a significant lead over us when all was said and done, so in the end, it probably didn't matter that she TOTALLY LOOKED AT OUR PAPER (yes, I know I sound like a high schooler), but you know what?  I'm calling shenanigans.  Because there is no way a team of five Mongolians and one Westerner should have been able to beat us.  That probably sounds racist, but I assembled a crack team, and one of the reasons why my quiz bowl trivia club for school was shot down was that trivia is so closely linked with culture, and it would be really hard to run a trivia club with Mongolian students.  There were not enough Mongolian questions to make that much of a difference.  Also, harkening back to school, we were told that our students don't really think of cheating the same way that we do - that finding the correct answer isn't wrong - so I wouldn't be surprised to learn that some of our opponents were using their smartphones to look up answers.  Shenanigans, I say!
We, on the other hand, came by our win honestly.  But in the end, I guess it doesn't matter.  There's no real prize for winning, no 400 kuai worth of vouchers, bottles of wine, or Sunday roasts, and between our dodgy loss, the lackluster quiz, and the fact that 20,000 tugrugs disappeared from the money we left on the table after we counted it for the third time (the waitress came after us while we were assembling outside after a last bathroom break), I doubt we'll be back.  In fact, there was talk of starting our own quiz, but that would require breaking up the dream team.

To end this on an unrelated but somewhat humorous Five and I have been going out to Gachuunt to volunteer at the Lotus Foundation orphanage on a biweekly basis.  The volunteering has been good for me - I'm an entirely-too-selfish person - and I will, no doubt, write about it some weekend in the future.  However, we've noticed that we attract a lot of attention.  This is nothing new to me, but it apparently takes a little lubricant to give a guy the nerve to use the same five phrases with us over, and over, and over, until one of us gets off the bus.  I say this because not only did this happen on the way back two weeks ago, it also happened this morning on the way to Gachuunt and again on the way back to UB (being chatted up by drunks on a bus twice in one day?  Excellent).  The way back was one of those fantastically surreal experiences.  The guy quit talking to us after he picked someone else's child up (a bit scary, since - between the alcohol and the road conditions, he was none-too-steady on his feet!) and deposited her on Five's lap before sitting down on someone he may or may not have known, but then I made the mistake of making eye contact with him, and he came back to chat at us in Mongolian, with the occasional interjection of "Chinggis!", "Very Good!", "No Good!", or "Sorry!"  I haven't quite decided if the highlight was having a singalong with him to "Hey Jude" and "Yesterday" (he mentioned Paul McCartney in one of his monologues), or if it was when he decided to show Grade 5 the scar on his chest from the bullet wound he received in Vietnam (we weren't able to convince him that she wasn't Vietnamese, no more than we were able to convince him or the guy from this morning that I wasn't Russian - I'm still not sure whether to be insulted or flattered, but since Mongolia has as functional relationship with Russia as just about anyone, I guess the answer is neither).

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