Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Well...after a 12-hour flight delay, I made it to Ulaan Baatar (after midnight). As I drove to the hotel from the airport, I tried through my tired eyes to observe as much as possible, but except for a few buildings, trees, and signs in Mongolian Cyrillic, I couldn't see much of what the city was like. I was so excited to be here, though, nothing else mattered. I had been anticipating arriving in UB for such a long time. Hard to believe it was real.

It took me a while to fall asleep. I wanted to call people to let them know I was a-ok, and I was just so excited, I suddenly couldn't sleep, even though I had been so dead tired earlier. The next day, I woke up, got ready, phoned a few more people...and then I was 15 minutes late to meet Oyuka, the woman from the organization where I am volunteering (who also picked me up at the airport), because I didn't realize that Mongolia was an hour later. (I had forgotten that China does NOT follow Daylight Savings Time, but Mongolia does. Otherwise they are in the same time zone.)

So...first thing we went to my apartment. As we approached it, I thought where on earth are we going to? We went down a dirt road that was filled with pot holes that the taxi had to dodge. There were a few old, run-down apartment buildings, a playground, and a few little shops that are like convenience stores, I guess. They sell some vegetables, drinks, snacks, and the like. Except for a sign with pictures of laundry detergent or veggies, I would have no idea that these places were shops because they look like there isn't much of a storefront. It just looks like someone put a sign up over their apartment door. (I didn't actually know what these shops were at first.) But we got to my aparment building, and I was pleased to see it was one of two modern brick buildings (each about 5-6 stories). Inside the apartment, I got very excited because it seemed gigantic (especially for one person) and it had all sorts of amenities (except a washing machine, but no biggie.) It was modern, clean, bright, and very spacious!!! Not bad at all.

I later discovered that it even has cable TV.

So, what is UB like? Well, it's hard to explain, really. Most of the buildings are not so tall. Some less-than-well-maintained roads. Trees. The stupidest traffic jams I have ever witnessed.

Crossing the street is often hazardous. There aren't many crosswalks, so you have to jaywalk. You get to the middle of the road, stand there between lanes of traffic and then when you have a chance, bolt across to the other side. This was often the case in China as well. Only here, cars will hit you. In China, as chaotic as it was, it wasn't as seemingly life-threatening. I am not even good at jaywalking in Berkeley with cars 100 meters away, let alone in nutty traffic in a foreign country. So, sometimes it takes me longer to get across the street than it should. A lot longer.

It's nearly impossible to find any coffee but instant (unless you order a cappucino or something in a cafe). I had contemplated getting a french press at Starbucks in China (along with some coffee). Should have. I don't think I'll have luck finding one here or fresh ground coffee. The other day I think I bought brown rice, but I can't really tell. I purchased some Kikoman soy sauce (the only brand they sell but I'm not complaining because it's fine by me.) However, they had only one size. It's like a 1.5 L bottle, I think. Freaking huge. If I ever managed to use that much soy sauce in two months I would have to wonder about myself.

So, I have been here a week. I am trying to figure out how to make the most of my time here and explore and see stuff. But, so far I have spent a lot of alone time in my apartment. The second day I was there I was supposed to meet up with Oyuka, but she was busy the entire day with a meeting and wasn't able to meet me. And I had no idea where my apartment was in relation to anything, so to avoid getting lost and unable to find my way home, I stayed in. Also, I caught a little cold, so I was inside all yesterday.

I expect most of all I will be spending a lot of time in the apartment because I shouldn't roam around at night on my own. I go home to the apartment when it is still light and it's not like I have a ton of people I can call or meet up with or a computer to use or the Internets to access. far I've been studying for the GRE, reading, watching cable TV like "Undercover Brother" on Star Movies or the Tour de Taiwan on ESPN, and trying to practice a bit of "Les Artes de Martiaux Chinois" from a book I picked up in Lijiang, China. Chinese martial arts, in French. I can understand the language but I can't do those moves, I can tell you that much. Even the "basics."

Oh, so far in the week I have been here, I have seen the weather go from bright and sunny and very hot one day to rainy with thunder and lightening followed by snow the next! The fastest, fiercest snow I ever did see. Now it is sunny again today, but a bit chilly. Oh, and some of the apartments in the city do not have hot water for a week. Including yours truly's. I get it back on Monday, supposedly. Suhweet! I'll get a hot shower for my birthday. What else can a gal ask for?


Duncan said...

Hi Scarlett, just checking in to see how you are doing - sounds like a wonderful adventure for you!


6:42 AM  

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