Saturday, September 21, 2013

Living Broke in the 'Baatar

Last week was fantastic.  Classes were going well, the weather was great, and I was so happy with my new friends.  I walked around singing Jason Mraz songs, because when life is that good, you HAVE to sing Jason Mraz.  If I'd had to choose whether to stay or go last week, I would stay in Mongolia another year.  And - really - I still feel that way, but after church today my song changed from, "Everything is Sound," to "O Fortuna!" from Carmina Burana.  Having your bus drive right past without picking you up when it is snowing will do that to you.  Well, since I'm an emotional eater, when I finally got a taxi I decided I was NOT in the mood to go home and cook Korean anymore, so I went to the nearby Chinese place instead, ordered my coke, started looking at the menu, and the waitress had poured half my coke into a glass before I realized what she was doing and could stop her.  Why, oh WHY would you do such a terrible thing to a coke?  (Seriously - that flattens it).  Being a little scratch-and-sniffy doesn't help, and so, in spite of the fact that I needed to go to church today (I missed the last couple of Sundays), when I got home it was with the feeling that I should have just stayed in bed.

Nothing too exciting going on this week - Engrish and I had a nice hike yesterday morning accompanied by about a billion swarming insects - so today I'd like to address the latter part of my summer.  I've already complained about being broke and alone for most of July and a little of August, and this post will give you some ideas about what to do with yourself if you end up broke and alone for the summer in UB.  I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that actually doing something productive such as working on lesson planning or illustrations doesn't appeal, because it sure as hell didn't appeal to me.  These are a few of the things that I did...
Pack up your hotdogs in your old backpack and hike, hike, HIKE:  I live and work in the Zaisan area, which means I see the Zaisan Memorial out my window everyday, chiding me, asking why I've only climbed it once in the last year.  Well, the obvious reason is the fact that I'm lazy as hell, but over the summer I decided to discover the best path to go up and come back down.  I nailed it on my first try.  Instead of going up the front steps, do yourself a favor and go to the back, which is more interesting visually and has a gentler slope.  Then after a good look at UB all spread out around you, take the steps down the front, but zigzag going down the stairs by moving diagonally as you descend each set...it's a little easier on the knees and a lot less scary if you have a small phobia about falling down stairs.  Bonus points for getting up early and catching cool sunrises.  And if you get bored with Zaisan, there's always the lovely hillsides of Bogd Khan National Park, on which we are all illegally squatting.
Go down to the Tuul and play in the water:  So Zaisan (and thus, my home) is just south of the Tuul River.  Throughout the summer you'll see kids and even some adults playing in the water.  Having nothing better to do, I strapped on my swimsuit and took about a 20 minute walk down to the banks.  Have I mentioned that there are times Mongolia reminds me of rural Missouri?  This is one of those times, except instead of floating down the river on the inner tubes of tractors, Mongolians find big pieces of styrofoam (possibly having blown away from construction sites) to sit on.  Even in July the water is pretty nippy, and I was trying not to get completely doused as I waded across to the other side, but the current was really strong, and just as I was almost to the other side, splash!  My feet went out from under me and I got really wet.  I had a good laugh at myself, and walked back to the other side where I stood in the nice warm sun skipping rocks (or attempting to), before laying out (if you can call it that when you're covered in SPF70 sunscreen) on my beach towel and reading.
Become a film snob:  Thanks to the facebook group, Expats in Mongolia, I learned about Indie Thursdays at Bliss Lounge.  It was my favorite thing all summer.  Not only did it introduce me to some great movies - Les Amours Imaginaires and Taking Woodstock - it was a nice way to hear a voice besides my own, and I met some pretty chill people there.  The only reason I haven't been back yet is someone (ahem, me) decided to schedule Grub Club on Thursdays while the movies were on hiatus.
Gallery Crawl:  Okay, actually, I didn't go to any galleries over the summer...too much like work.  However, there are plenty of them around UB, with some decent artwork to check out: Pearl Art Gallery, 976 Art Gallery, the Tsagaandarium, and my personal favorite (because it's next to Bangkok Restaurant), the Union of Mongolian Artists. 

And if that's not enough, you can simply hole up in your apartment with the internet for company, blog about what you're cooking, and wait for fall. 

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