Tuesday, 26 June 2007

The Ger and me

The "Ger". This is where nomadic mongolians live. It takes 5 camels to carry the ger to another place. Herders have winter and summer places to live. In places like Kazakhstan, they also have a tent like this, but they call it "yurt". I think "yurt" is the right term because Ger, in Mongolian term actually meant "home" and not a kind of dwelling. It is only that as time went on, Ger - to mean "yurt" has become an operative word in Mongolia.

Just like Philippine "Bahay Kubo", the ger can accommodate the entire family or just 1 or 2 persons.

There are also hotels and summer resorts and vacation places that offer Ger in equivalent to Hotel rooms. The Ger is made of felt (processed animal fur). It is very warm inside during summer. But during winter, you still die of hypothermia if you do not keep the heating system on fire.

The heating system inside the ger is done manually. You have to have stockful of cow/horse dung inside. Or wooden sticks. But since it is not good to chop trees, Cow and Horse's dung are the alternative fuel. The downside of living in a ger is, you can not sleep soundly. You have to get up from time to time so the heating will run and so you are kept alive.

This one you are seeing, is a ger in a resort. We went to Terelj Park, the day after we arrived in Mongolia in order to feel the countryside before we go to language school. True to its form, Mongolia is super cold. You can see high rise apartments and they leave their butchered cow outside their windows. Why? Because the outside temperature is way colder than their freezers. Plus factor is, they do not have to chop the entire cow into bits and pieces. Serves them cool.

Me inside the ger. The Ger can acutally accommodate up to 5 beds. Each bed has its built-in drawers where you can put in your clothes. Gers can be designed to or it can be plain. It depends on the owner and on where they bough it.

Each ger can cost 300 to 500 USD. Yeah, just about the cost of 1 laptop. Poor and rich people in Mongolia can also own it. But most poor people live in it.

The Government Seat of Mongolia

In 2006, Mongolia Celebrated the 800 years of Great Mongolian Empire. I know it is quite misleading. Haha.

This one, is the Seat of the once Glorious Khaan. That looks like a replica of Chinggis Khaan.

Behind this Seat, is the Parliament House.

The Sukhbaatar Square. Sukhbaatar is a revolutionary Hero. Baatar in Mongolia means Hero. Sukh means Axe. He is called Damdin Sukhbaatar (1921).

This is a central square in Mongolia and serves a stage for many activities within the capital.

The Government Seat of Mongolia.

The State Great Khural or the State Great Assembly is the unicameral parliament of Mongolia.

All 76 members represent 26 multi-member constituencies, and are elected by bloc vote for a term of four years. The election is only valid if 50% of the electorate votes. Mongolian citizens are allowed to vote from the age of 18 if they live in Mongolia. They may be elected to office at the age of 25. The government is dissolved and new elections are called if the prime minister or half of the ministers in the Cabinet resign. The Khural can also be dissolved if the President dissolves it or if two-thirds of the Khural's members vote for dissolution. (Adopted from Wikipedia. Click Here)

That's me and that's the parliament building behind me.

The view of the Government Seat from Sukhbaatar Square. The wonderful part is that, it is not a prohibited place. Everybody can come near it. Unlike our Malacanang Palace here in the Phils, and Batasan Pambansa requires a valid ID just to get close to it.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Visit to Herder Family

One day, on a weekend we went to the countryside to have a cultural feel of some sort. Mongolians, i can see, are very proud of their culture and traditions.

L-R: The Sociologist, The Herder Couple who served as our hosts during the visit.

The traditional exchanges of perfume scent. It's not Issey Miyake, okay? Haha. And I am asthmatic so I flinched everytime.

She is making us "Milk Tea" or Suu Te Tze in Mongolia. It is the traditional drink of Mongolians - I mean, aside from Vodka. Haha. Milk Tea is usually served before a meal at any restaurant. Sometimes it taste a little too salty.

This is Aarul, Mongolian dried cheese curds. I do not know its health benefits but it sure tasted sour.

Traditional Mongolian Bread, it is called ul Boov. It taste unleavened and is way too hard to get a bite.

An herd of Ewes.

An herder trainee =)

That same day, we went walking uphill and we had a nice view of the plains and endless steppes of Mongolia. I missed the sea and the trees that we can see everywhere in the Philippines. But this one, this is a new experience.

Friday, 1 June 2007

Mongolia, here I come

 I am cross-posting this from my old blog (so allow me for some editing). In February 2007, on the date that marked my 28th year on earth, I went to Mongolia, the land of Chinggis Khaan for a Volunteering stint with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO). There are five (5) of us coming from the Philippines. I am supposed to stay in Mongolia for 12 months. Yeah, right, 1 year!
My flight was on 12:10 AM on February 24, 2007. Technically, I spent my birthday on 3 different countries, to include the 8 hours stopover in South Korea. It was my first time to travel outside the Philippines. So I equipped myself with google, historical accounts and important facts of Mongolia. There was one important thing, the most important thing I missed in my preparation. I missed to prepare myself – about eating the world’s worst food. Well, I only eat Filipino Food and that is a big mistake going to another country.
But okay, let me chronicle our going-in trip!

Airport send-off by my Mahal. Sweet!

It feels great to be loved by you (",) knowing that wherever I go, whatever I do, our love is enough to keep us together.

That's us inside NAIA 1, minus Willy who took the photo. L-R Chielo, Rayso, Me and Marlene.

That's me, proposing a toast to myself. I had wine on the first hour of my birthday.

Then, after eating all these and more, I dozed off to lalaland 47,000+++ feet above the ground.

Hello Korea! Saranghae... =)

L-R: Marlene, Me, Chielo, Rayso and Willy. That is my birthday lunch in South Korea. We had an eight-hour stopover in Incheon. We arrived 4AM and our next flight to Ulaanbaatar is at 1PM, Korea time. Notice that Korea is 1 hour late compared to Manila time.

This is my post lunch meal. On Boar MIAT Airlines, bound for Ulaanbaatar. A different kind of Birthday meal.

We landed in Ulaanbaatar at 4:30 PM Mongolian and Philippine Time.
From 29 degrees to -18! So difficult to let my hands out and take pictures. That's the downside of it. And coat is a bit heavy. It bothers me all the time. =)

That is the road going to Ulaanbaatar proper. It is 20 minute ride or so. We went straight to VSO Office.

This is the VSO Office in Mongolia. It is a nice, well-kept building. We are given key to the volunteer room at the basement full of reading materials, 2 internet connected computers, WIFI place, and has a magical silver box! After that, we headed to hostel (guesthouse were are staying for the entire month!) where we literally dumped our luggages, picked up the British Volunteers and heed to MODERN NOMADS for Dinner. My Birthday Dinner.

This is my Birthday Dinner. This is actually worth 7 USD or so. Expensive but not tasty. I did not finish my food, but at least I got it for free. Alison just showed my passport and another ID to validate that it is indeed my birthday. I got ice cream too. Wonderful. So our day almost ended, we have to take a group photo.

 So there, that's us again. L-R: Raysolyn, Willy, Chielo, Jim, Marlene, Sarah, Alison (VSO-Mongolia's Country Director), Linsay and Me.