Mongolian Hats, History Museum, Temple and Ger Town assault

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This morning we collected the hats we had commissioned from the ladies in this art studio. They are special because they have been made to size for us and will be a lovely addition to our collection of Mongolian Hats.

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The top hat is a female hat and the bottom one male. The women working in this studio make beautiful hats as well as flags. Everything is cut out and sewn by hand and machine.

Afterwards we took a taxi into the exhibition at the History Museum. Have I mentioned the taxis? Don’t think so… Taxi is simple in Ulaanbaatar; just stand at the curb with arm out and wiggle your fingers. All cars in Mongolia can be taxi. You have car, you are taxi and can by law pick up and charge a fare. Usually the fare is by kilometer so if big traffic jam no extra for the time. And usually average fare between 2/3000tg. If you wanted to get an official taxi with a proper light you will be waiting a long time. They exist but are rarely sighted. Sometimes the taxi can be newish car but usually on the mor aged side and usually a young male driver though we have had one female. This time we have had Tugsoo with us most the rides which makes it easy for directions.

We caught up with Sauurel the museum director today. He is out of hospital,and was disappointed he was unable to open our show. We are making plans to have a couple of days painting with him after we return from the Gobi desert. He had also wanted to accompany us to the desert but is unable to take the time away from the museum.

Tugsoo took us around town to visit a few more galleries, some open and some not. We were near the ger town below the large Buddhist Temple Gandan Khalid. We left Tugsoo here and proceeded to walk to the temple, remembering my time here two years ago I wanted to visit again. I had very good memories of the beauty of this main Ulaanbaatar temple and monastery. Here is a photog of the path leading up to the temple.

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Mervyn had just gone ahead while I photographed this hole in the pavement. This is quite typical around the city and why you need your witty about you ALL THE TIME. Often the man hole covers are set into the path and more difficult to see, at least this one was offset and raised. It would not be of any benefit to be blind or intoxicated.

There was a wild sky and lightening when we reach the temple. Seems such a pity cars are now allowed to park inside. If you look back towards the mountains it is possible to see the beautiful layout of the original plans with the many small buildings and temples that make up the grounds. Many people are feeding the pigeons and it was just about closing time when we reached the main temple housing the enormous golden Buddha. We didn’t go in this time as the approaching storm made us think better to head home. Tugsoo had given us directions on how to get back to our district 11.

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We began walking down through one of the ger town lanes next to the monastery when we noticed a man coming up behind us. He began speaking to us and it seemed obvious he wanted something and he appeared pretty drunk. As he approached he kept talking to us quite wildly and we said the only bits of language we knew that implied no. He was saying he wanted us to go into another lane and we indicated we were going the opposite direction. As we approached the T intersection he grabbed hold of MervynS sleeve as if to steer us in the opposite direction. We kept heading to the right and he shouted to us to turn left. He stayed with us hanging on to Mervyn as we crossed the lane. Then he had hold of my leather bag that Mervyn was carrying and would not let go, either would Mervyn. All the while he was talking instructions in Mongolian to us and the alcohol on his breath was strong. We were saved by a car load of men who pulled up beside us and could see the assault talking place. They yelled at the man in Mongolian and obviously knew him. He didn’t want to give up the bag and took some talking to to let go. He then headed off in the direction he was trying to steer us.

This was pretty disturbing for both of us. And we are extremely aware of our bags and things where ever we go. I hate to thin where this may have ended if the little white car had not stopped and disturbed the potential assault. And my iPad was in the bag. If we had intended to go into this area I would have heeded my own advice and not taken any valuables with me.

We decided to head back towards the city and walk back to district 11 from where we were more familiar. Here is a photo of one of the many Children’s fun activities around in the celebrations for Children’s Day which is apparently tomorrow, not yesterday as I had originally posted, yesterday.

Also a photo of a pink university from yesterday’s walk.

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Zaysan Tolgoy memorial and Development

I was shocked tonight to discover how much development has been happening around the Zaysan Memorial at the edge of town. This memorial is a very important historical political monument t the Red Army and holdthat and that drove right across the land to Russia. We have been told about the political situation whereas certain development is banned from some locations for environment reasons or because it is land and parklands that are for the people. Yet, even though development is banned there are numerous multi story high rise apartments and buildings constructions underway. In fact if you drive around the edges of Ulanbaatar it is more event. It is amazing to think the city can support such rampant development. Modern development after development has changed the skyline with a filigree of gently moving cranes waltzing between floors of concrete slabs.

OK, the worst aspect was driving up to the historic monument that used to stand high above the city with a long steep stairway to the concrete statue and mosaic work. From the top of the stairway and monument you were able to look down on the large gold Buddah overlooking the city. Unbelievably, today there was the beginning of a new multistory building under construction. And to obscure the view another one stands between the car park and the view of the city. At the base of the steps bulldozers were mining the hill to excavate a site for yet another building. They are growing like a bacteria. We were taken for a drive up into the hills. Even more shocking was the development went further up the mountain with developments of walled communities set close together in shadows of each other. Some of the walled fences had razor wire protecting those in or perhaps keeping the residents in. Apparently, I am told these new apartments are mostly owned by politicians and mining company executives. In amongst the new fenced properties of apartments and large multi story houses are enclaves of ger camps. These are probably lived n by the workers on the building sites. There is also a tourist ger camp at the base of the next range.

The contrast of the apartment we are living in at the moment in this old part of town and these new gated communities is very wide. There is definitely a visible rift between the new and old here. There is a family of three living under the stairs in our apartment. A mother and two children who had apparently come from the country to UB after loosing all of their animals in the countryside. They are basically homeless, though they have found a shelter. This city is experiencing a growing number of homeless people at the same rate it’s growing a more wealthy society. Now all residents are given money by th government as part of the mining deals. It’s extremely complex politically. There is allegedly a lot of corruption and when you look at the buildings being built on ‘sacred soil’ and the state of the roads around the city in the poorer areas and then look at the brand new roads to nowhere, or at least to the flash gated communities questions should be asked. The city also likes to turn on the glitz which is designed to pacify people. Lots of pretty blue lights decorate street lights. It would surely be better to get the infrastructure improved.

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Photo: Apartment blocks overlooking the American Embassy. The wire fence is around a hotel.

The Black Market, Naran Tuul Market & Children’s Day

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This morning we walked to the Chingiss Khan hotel to change some American dollars before heading to the Naran Tuul Market, or as it is known, The Black Market. And not because it’s an illegal market, it is I understand the largest under cover market in Asia. I remember from our last visit to Ullanbaatar how interesting it is. The first being traffic getting to the market. Tugsoo had suggested we not arrive until after 12.00 or 1.00pm because any time prior we would be just dodging carts of stalls setting up. Hmm. It took a good hour to get through the crush of traffic into the grounds and to find a car park. There are people who jostle in front of the car to help you find a car park and get indignant when you drive past them. Unench had a plan; there was a paid car park he was heading too. 1,000tg, approximately 77c Australian secured a paid spot with a little more security. The Black Market is known for its pick pocket thieves and bag slashes and car break ins. The guide books always suggest not taking anything with you that cannot be lived without. And it is quite obvious there are men with eyes on the crowd as their days work. Several times I followed a gaze to the zipper on my shoulder bag. I was only interested in the fabric stalls and headed straight for them and was not disappointed. They were as good as my memory served and at least two thirds cheaper than silk road shops in the centre of Ulaanbaatar. The same fabrics selling for much less and looking just as stunning roll after roll after stall upon stall. And as before ladies with silver beads on trays to set off the deel presumed you would make from the bolts of silk.

There is much to see and the market needs a lot more time than we had today… Plan to visit again next week. A day away from from the museum and exhibition.

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Today is Children’s Day in Mongolia. After our time at the Black market we came home to collect boxes of chocolates and toys prepared by the International Soroptomist women of which Tugsoo is currently president. We drove out to a Ger manufacturing factory to distribute the bags of goodies to the children of Ulanbaatars blind. There were about 125 bags of lollies to be given out directly to the children or to their parents. Many of the blind are able to work in the factory on the ger manufacturing or in the same factory where light switches are made. It was very interesting seeing inside the Russian built concrete buildings. I don’t know how the bond get around, the must be one of the worst cities to be disabled as far as infrastructure. The streets are broken. Some streets have raised concrete patterns runnings up the centre, but they will end in a dead end or lead a blind person to an unsafe place. Buildings are more often than not just staircases and no lifts, or stairs into buildings.

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Interesting Times

Mongolia is undergoing many changes and this is a very interesting time to be here. Our last and first visit was in 2010. There was a sense of chaos then in regard to traffic and I note most people who comment on Mongolia usually write about the traffic; the seemingly distrust and disregard to road rules. Red lights then and now are taken as being non existent and pedestrian crossings as places to attempt to cross the road. India comes to mind. However, I suspect there is change on the way too with the traffic chaos. Even Unench was booked yesterday for illegal parking. If there is any sniff of alcohol on the breadth there is suspension of license. Rules are in place and now it looks as if they are being enforced. We are noting more cars pulled over by police with notebooks. There are a few more red lights installed, but even then they often do not make sense… Particularly on intersections where you would expect lights to help you make a right turn.

There are also visible concerns about the western influence on the Mongolian ways. It is illegal for advertising signs to be written in English; all signs are supposed to be written in Mongolian Cyrillic.there are many signs appearing throughout Ulaanbaatar in written in English. Mostly the say Internet Cafe or something to do with fashion or cafe or restaurant. No idea how this is policed or what the fines are. Now only the elderly seem to walk streets in traditional deep clothing. Young people are wearing western clothing and they appear to dress only in traditional clothing when we see the, performing in a concert.

History Museum Ulaanbaatar

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Quiet today today. We rested this morning after the big opening celebrations last night. Prepared a box to take to the local post office to send home. It cost 17,000.00tg a kilo to send to Australia by post, that is about $12.00 Australian dollars. Cheap in comparison to $40 in excess baggage at the airport.

After lunch with Tugsoo in her apartment and pizza prepared by daughter in law we headed back to gallery to stay with exhibits for a while. There was a small celebration and flag ceremony in our gallery with a presentation of Mongolian flag that had been to the arctic.

I have also posted some more photographs from last and some of the exquisite costumes held in the museum collection. The history of Mongolian in costume is wonderful, particularly the collections of ancient jewelry worn by men and women. Much has an early Turkish influence.

There is a great interest in my silk work in the exhibition. I sold another piece of silk today. There have been artists using the technique of making marbling like efforts on silk but not true painting as I have been doing. It has been accepted even by the established men artists as something new.

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Desert Sharing II Opening at the History Museum UB Monglia

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The exhibition was a great success tonight. We had all of the ceremony Mongolian Exhibitions present. The labels were finally translated and printed a couple of hours before the opening and the last thing before people arrived was the timber floors were washed and polished. Once the official museum closing time has passed out came the carpet for the foyer outside the gallery and a red tape with blue rosettes was placed at the gallery rooms entrance. My video was playing on the tv outside of the gallery, images from wild places from the Antarctic, Australian dirt to the arctic, Norway and Mongolia. Guests began to arrive and speeches made. I gave a small talk about our Project of Desert Sharing and how I met Tugsoo in Australia, our travels together into the Flinders Ranges and later Mongolia and our continued friendship and Desert Sharing project. After each sentence I had to stop while the assistant director translated my words into Mongolian. Unfortunately the director of the museum, J. Saarul is in hospital and was unable to come. He is very worried about missing our show. It all went smoothly, lots of photos taken and people were interested in our work and the way we perceived Mongolia. We had many invitations to people’s homes and another gallery.

No photos to post as I was too busy talking. Later, I may be able to post pics, one on the Australian girls assisting the museum took photos with my camera.

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