Eltham to Timore Leste

ImageThis photograph is NOT how we will be travelling to Timore Leste from Eltham. The photograph above depicts a traditional Mongolian Nomadic family moving camp with their Yak train for better pastures.

We will be flying from Melbourne and arriving at 1.00am in Darwin. Sleep for five hours on the terminal floor; seats, whatever we can and waiting until 6.00am for the 1.5 hour flight from Darwin to Dilli. Leave Melbourne winter behind and arrive in around 30C tropics.

Purpose of our trip? We are part of an NGO team from the Eltham Rotary Group involved with the building of an accommodation unit at an ophanage 25 kilometres from the capital city, Dili.

Eltham – home again

We arrived back in Tullamarine airport Melbourne on July 5 at 6.00am. Our flight from Korean was thankfully boring and uneventful. It is good to be home. The garden is lush and needs attention and winter has settled in. It’s interesting how quickly we forget the seasons and what being cold feels like. It’s away with the Mongolilan summer clothes and the search for last seasons winter attire again. Where we’re my boots…

Trish kindly came early and open our house, turned on the heater and dusted the last two months emptiness away. How lovely to come home to a lightened warm house with a kind smile for a welcome and a little sartie poodle dancing frenetically all over us. We felt welcomed hme and loved. And Trish had even brought in fresh milk for Mervyn, and rice milk for me. A cup of tea. So good to be home and with the familiar.

I think it is important to go away at times just to realize how good we have it in Australia. I know now we have our own little paradise at home. We have a good house, land for a garden and studios to work in.

We stayed one night and then headed off to Digby to check out our Digby dacha. It has been many months since we have been to Digby. We were greeted with a mice plague!

The mice had been partying through out the houses even the bedding had to be washed and dried before we could go to bed sometime in the early morning! Lesson: – never leave a house vacant for so long. All of the cupboards with food, or even without food had been raided. It could not have been worse. We through out all our food and washed and cleaned everything. It was too disgusting to make a cup of tea and all I could think of was selling the cottage as it seemed too far and too difficult at that time of night to contemplate keeping!

Anyway, the next morning after it was all clean and snug again and we after that blissful quiet country sleep I was once more pleased to have our little cottage. It is safe for the next while… And we vow somehow to come down here more often.

As I write it is Tuesday and we will leave tomorrow for ELTHAM. Much of our Digby the has been spent doing nothing. Relaxing and contemplating the past two months in Mongolia. There is much to do to catch up back in ELTHAM, but that can wait…


Camp 8 – The great Gobi Sandhills

We all slept in. This is the first day we have slept so late since being in Mongolia, or indeed at home for a long time. We all slept until after 9.00am. We blamed the long days travel yesterday over the rough rocky roads. Unench likened yesterday’s driving to a full day on a horse.

We were very slow getting going and had coffee and a leisurely breakfast. It was already quite ht in the morning. Very hot, I had to have a second shower to cool down.

When we finally got moving we continued along the sand hills towards where the staff had directed to find a natural spring. The water, we were told is very special and healing for stomachs and one of the boys asked us to bring some back for him.

After following some sandy tracks through the small sand dunes we came out at a river with water. Horses were grazing on the grass nearby, so strange to see water out here under the giant sand dunes. the horses stayed close and were not disturbed by us. They came down into the water and I was able to photograph and video the beautiful horses with foals going about their horsy business drinking and rolling in the shallow waters. We watched the water level rise and change direction as if by some affected gravity pull.

I found some bones behind a sand dune and some clippings from an unknown age of past. It is a. It like finding clippings in the Australian outback. If you look they are not there, they just show themselves when you are least expecting.

We had not found the spring, just a river. Two young boys came along on a motor bike. Tugsoo asked them where the spring was and they said they would take us. Off they set across the river. We had been a little hesitant crossing the river in case we became bogged and it may be difficult to get help out here. The boys took off in another spot along the river and we followed, safely, for if they could get across on their bikes we could manage in our car.

The sand was very soft and deep on the other side of the river. After a short distance we came across an abandoned camp of twigs, mud and dung. There was a sense of many many years occupation by herders. Small clippings of Chinese porcelain, broken bottles and glass.

… Later
I will have to write about this later as I am too tired.


We come to rich green grass,
A spring of icy cold water
Horses everywhere
We stay for lunch and paint
The dunes from the luxury of our
Green cool undergrowth, with
The horses.
There are purple iris and small yellow
Flowers like dandelions.

Sandhills, dunes, singing dunes,
Tall, falling sands, walking, higher
Too high, out of breadth, will I make it to the top,
Encouraged, come on you can,
My lungs in pain, I am breathing fast,
my head is hurting
Mervyn is not any fitter
Tugsoo and Unench are already at the top
We make it and the view is on top of the world
Beneath us endless mounds curves and valley
Of sand dunes stretching in all directions
As far as our sight.
Then the wind comes and I am scared for my camera
Don’t like the idea of sand in my canon
Can feel the lens is stiff from the fine grains.

The downward trip is much easier and faster
If I keep my eyes at my feel it looks as if I am walking
On flat ground, the brilliance of the light on the dune
Washes out shadows.

a day of horses, cool damp thick grass, purple irises
Huge sand dunes
Blue sky
Camels and the baby camels at the camp.
Tugsoo has a friend at a ger camp we visited and I
Fell in love with a baby camel who kept trying to eat my shirt.
It was late in the day and the others were calling for their

How good it was to come back to camp and have hot showers
And how red I will be tomorrow.

In the evening we watch hedge hogs and hopping mice
Around our ger.

The sky was full of stars and life in the Gobi is good tonight.


Mongolian Hats, History Museum, Temple and Ger Town assault


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.



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.


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.




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.



Desert Sharing Exhibition Set up

We had a great day setting up the exhibition at the History Museum in Ulaanbaatar Mongolia yesterday. We had two lovely Mongolian women and three Australian Museum volunteers assisting us. Our works hang under the Mongolian and Australian flag. The museum has supplied several show cases for the work as well as good hanging wall space. I have paintings of Australia and Mongolia as well as silk paintings, photography and small gouache studies. Mervyn has a collection of gouache paintings and Tugsoo is showing a series of oil on canvas paintings. Unfortunately the director of the museum who invited us and was to open the show is in hospital. The assistant director will now be opening the show this evening and I am to give a speech in English with a translator. This will be interesting.




Ulaanbaatar May 26

We are still in Ulaanbaatar planning our first exhibits at the History Museum to Open on Monday May 28. We have been back to gallery to measure walls and study the available showcases. There are some Australians who will be assisting us through Austrade. We have sent in details of work so labels can be made and ordered large posters.

I have posted an article I have been asked to write for the Mongol Messenger newspaper about our exhibition.

Our time in UB is as always very busy. Tugsoo has been taking our out to all sorts of Opening Ceremonies and cultural events. yesterday we attended an Opening at the lovely UMA gallery with an exhibition by Mongolian artists. Some pictures are posted below. Mongolians rivière their artists much more than we do in Australian. They appear very generous and respectful of the colleagues of their fellow artists and honor them with speeches and most often gifts of flowers and plagues.

At each theatre event we have been too including the wonderful Japanese singers we watched last night there is an array of speeches. Often the speeches will be in two or more languages. There many interpreters translating speeches from Mongolian into English or Chinese or as last night Japanese. Wow! Those Acapulco singers were so good. Six of them singing the instruments to the songs and it was hard to believe they did not have instruments or recorded music. They were students.

We have done a lot of walking around into and home to the city. We hailed a taxi after the show and that was entertaining and a somewhat dangerous experience to end a very long day. Being Friday evening, like most places on a balmy night (yes the temperature has soured since the snow a couple do days ago) the traffic was out in usual Mongolian chaos and seemed to be at full sipped dodge-em-car pace. There are road rules but no one obeys them and it’s each for their own at full speed ahead. We had to take the long route home because it was impossible to take some turns; only option to follow the mass.


Ulanbaataar May 24

Well, we just turned down a trip with a tour company to first fly out west to the Alti mountains, horse and camel riding and camps by beautiful lakes before driving south to the three parts of the Gobi desert. The price tag was more than a month is Paris, with air fare. And we have exhibitions to organize and a short trip with Togsoo to the Gobi. We would have been the only people on the tour. We would be met at the airport by a driver, cook and English guide. Guess the Alti mountains and the Gobi will still be there is we decide to return.

Toogsoo invited us to a presentation with the Korean and Japanese university today out of town a bit past the Russian region of Ullaabaatar. There is a lot of ceremony in honor of artists and people who do here. We met a few more of Togsoo’s artist friends today, some of who were in the celebration of international artists.


We also spent some time looking at picture framers who may be able to cut some mounts for the works on paper that we did not bring mounts for. Unfortunately framers here do not seem to have mount cutters. Instead the Korean framers in Togsoo’s studios only make mounts by slicing each side with a mitre shape… A painting could then have four different color around the frame. The second framer nearby appeared to be a dealer too for there were hundreds of well framed paintings on the walls and no, he would only makes frames if you bought the whole garish frame. And then he would only make very fancy mounts, not the simple mount we need. The solution will be to pin the works directly to the walls in a more contemporary manner.

I bought one of Togsoo’s beautiful etchings today. Her studio is full of many large oil paintings, some we have seen previously and many new works. Her Lino cuts and few etchings available are very fine.

We have also spent some time in one of the Ulaanbaatar fine art museums where we saw many fine artists in the making. I was surprised to find most students here in the art school male. We seem to have a ghee percentage of females in fine art at home.

Impressive was the quality of the work being produced and how much still life and traditional work was set. I met some students mastering traditional Mongolian painting using pencil sketch and gouache paint. It was exquisite work.

Also interesting was how small a space each student had to work, and on entering the room the ‘quiet of concentration’ and work was happening; with maybe six to eight students easels on top of each other.


Below is a photograph of the ‘Childrens Art School’ where Togsoo says she learnt to paint when she was young. What a great thing and how good would this be back in Australia. children here are introduced to art at the earliest age and some of the young children musicians are just wonderful. The sculpture is that of a young Lenin.



Ulaanbaatar Friday 18 may

Ulaanbaatar Friday 18 May 2012

We met the Director of the history museum this morning to discuss preparations for our exhibition at the end of the month. The museum has frames we can use and glass showcases for the silk works I am exhibiting. We watched a small political protest outside his window at the gates of parliament house; parliamentary elections will be held soon.The newspapers tell of a recent president being arrested for corruption.

There is a lot of movement in Ulaanbaatar, some districts are showing marked improvements with roads and infrastructure. Indeed as I write one of the roads and car parks besides Togsoo’s apartment block that we are renting has new tarmac is being laid by brand new looking machinery. I hope they make it around the corner to the side we enter from each day and where Unech’s car Is garaged.

Crossing roads is still dangerous but this time it is not so frightening as I become familiar with the process and of direction the traffics hails from. The traffic still comes from all directions and road rules are maintained as little as possible. Many streets have police to direct traffic but they seem to be decoration as much as anything as they don’t notice cars proceeding through the red lights or if traffic is entering the wrong way into streets. Sometimes it is totally chaotic and mini grid locks occur frequently. No one seems overly troubled, it is just the way traffic moves. This city was not planned for the extreme traffic that is entering at 1,400 cars per week.

The English papers also say that in ten years the energy demands will double as the country begins to embark on more manufacturing. I read yesterday the country supplies 100% meat, wool, wheat and over half the vegetables needed are grown in Mongolian soils. The paper went on to say how much better the country will do by providing more manufacturing of their own raw
materials and it seems they are set to become another China in the next few years as they begin to use their raw materials with cheap labour into goods to export to the west.

The mining companies are digging up the raw material; coal, gold, silver and whatever else can be found. Some of the wealth is being distributed at a cost of the old nomadic peoples way of life. Land is soon to become free for nationals to purchase. Each Mongolian national has had the option to take shares in the country’s mining fees or take 21’000 tg per month. More than half the people take the money over shares because it is immediate. Poverty is still in the streets, people are not so much begging as offering services such as the old lady squatting I saw with an old set of scales who would allow passers bye to weigh themselves for 100 tg. At the other extreme are the many new department stores offering most products for sale as can be found in any large global department store.

Shelves of local supermarkets are stocked with rows of Russian goods and two full isles of local vodka which can be purchased for as little as $4 Australian dollars per bottle. Sweets also occupy much shelf space similar to our rows of soft drinks in the supermarket. Alcohol is a problem and no wonder as it is so accessible and cheap. I have not seen any sign I can understand to limit sales to an age group.

Today after the museum Togsoo took us schooling along the streets and we ended up at the famous Amsterdam restaurant which has good Dutch food as well as free Wifi which is going to be useful for us. It seems the data I have been buying for the iPad and the phone has been leaking like a flooded river. Each day I have bought data and each morning it is gone.

Below the Amsterdam cafe is a shop that sells fair trade Kazak people embroideries and artworks. They make stunning wall hangings that are traditionally used to line ger walls. Sadly the people are selling off their old hangings and exchanging them for money and polyester clothes. The people are wanting to swop tradition for modern fabrics. The hangings are becoming more rare now as they are sold intact or cut into pieces to make handbags, purses, mobile phone pockets and even passport bags. We purchased a very old hanging completely embroidered and for the price of the time put into the work it seems so unfair in many respects. The price has risen since we we here two years ago and I hope the extra money is going back to the people who have given up the beautiful work. There are many modern copies on offer to tourists now made from polyester thread. The one we bought was old and made from cotton.



Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

After two nights at the Hyatt in Korea we were finally given A boarding pass to fly to Ulaanbaatar.
And then it was a slim chance… We had for two days in a row checked out of Hyatt and taken airport bus to airport and at least second time see our flight actually register on the flight arrival departure screen. When airport announcement said gates were open for boarding we lined up with the Mongolians in anticipation of a late afternoon flight.

We were even standing at the gate with boarding pass in hand when another announcement came across that the flight was again in doubt due to the tumultuous weather. There are floods in china now just to add to the Asian weather pattern. Then moments later the gates opened again and we boarded flight KE 867A for Mongolia.

We could see snow in surrounding hills as approached Ulaanbaatar. Togsoo was at airport with Unench to drive us to our new home for next few weeks; the ground floor in her apartment building in district 11.

Today was spent running around with Unench through the traffics to try to buy more bits for camera, stock up on food and buy sim card for phone. Trouble is the Mongolian Mobicom sim card does not work with iPhone from outside Mongolia. Seems my phone is locked to OPTUS… And to change it would require buying a little thing to blue tooth the phone and this would cost about $180 dollars. It was cheaper to buy cheap iPhone and use the Mobicom card I purchase from woman who did not seem to understand this. We had to go to head office to try to use sim card.

We also stopped at art supplies shop and bought some oil pastels, beautiful brushes and more paper. I will only do gouache paintings, watercolor and pastel this trip.

We made some changes to the exhibition brochure Togsoo has been preparing.

Mongolia Ulaanbaatar does not seem to be much different since our last trip two years ago.

Jenni Mitchell’s Blog

Today’s technology is both exciting and extremely frustrating and at times (most of the time) I yearn to be able to go back to the simplicity of a beautiful sketch book and pen to keep a log of my interesting moments to journalise. And yet it wonderful to be able to at the click of a finger view the wild landscapes of the Mongolian desert or see our backyards from space. So here we go with the latest of technology at my fingers to begin a new journal that will take me through the forthcoming travels to Mongolia and hopefully if techno skills willing be able to drop off pictures as I go.

I am hoping this blog will accompany my other web sites and allow me to say things I would not post to my professional sties – the ‘official site ‘ for Jenni Mitchell the artist http://www.jennimitchell.com.au,  the gallery at http://www.ElthamSouthFineArt.com.au and the other travel blog http://www.jennimitchell.net.au.

This will be a more general post for day to day stuff.