Ulaanbaata, June 23, 2012

We have been back in Ulaanbaatar now for a few days and mostly have been preparing for next Desert Sharing III Exhibition to open on Monday evening at the UMA Gallery in Ulaanbaatar.

Preparations have included working on some of the paintings started in the Gobi Desert, selecting and printing the large photographs for the exhibition. It is fortunate that most places here are open long hours so we can source materials and services.

As we have commented on previously, Ulaanbaatar is quite a different place to the serenity of the Mongolian countryside. The traffic in the city is chaotic and with the recently rain even more hideous to negotiate because there are huge puddles; or small lakes on the roads and footpaths. There are some crazy drivers who delight is speeding past pedestrians and soaking them with muddy spray. There is little attention paid to the drainage system and a mystery as to where the water is supposed to go.

Have met some Australian Soroptomist women for a second time in Tugsoo’s studio. They have been on a couple of adventures into the countryside and took a short horse riding tour. spring was not the best time to work with animals as the herds have recently come out of winter and as they described grossly thin and unwell. For a couple of mad horsey women this was very distressing. Summertime is when Mongolia comes alive. It’s the time for the large Nardam festival and all manner of festivities and holiday time. Schools and universities close for three months. Students often use this time to get out of the city and work in holiday ger camps to make some money, or anywhere they can find work.

Had another day in the country with Lkhamaa whol took me back to her relatives ger camp with the beautiful Yaks to meet Otga again and have a dress fitting for the traditional dell she is sewing for me. It’s a beautiful piece of Textile art and will be the most treasured spending I do in Mongolia. I plan to use the outfit as part of our Mongolian exhibitions in the Eltham South gallery. The dress is constructed from a turquoise blue silk with various bands of embroidery and the outer coat a red silk with black and gold braid. It is a traditional married woman’s celebration outfit. The sleeves will be made of green stitched silk and will hang down to my knees. This is so when the Mongolian cold weather sets in you can tuck your arms inside the sleeves. It is not a simple outfit for everyday use!

Staying at the ger camp currently as about 30 wrestlers in preparation for the Nadam Festival. We were lucky enough to be able to watch them training, in their colorful wrestling costumes. Otga usually does all of the cooking for the camp and at the moment is very busy with the wrestlers who need to be fed three Huge Meals a day! It’s hard to find sewing time between the food preparations, the wrestlers will train right up to three days before Nadam And have a couple of days at home and then fight for real against each other again.

It was surprising how quickly the spring brown grasses have turned to a healthy green and the scent of the new growth is unforgettable. I have probably talked about this particular smell of Monglian grass before. If only it could be bottled… The smell is a fine heady aroma of the best and freshest herbs including tyme, lavender, sages, clover and dandelions. The flowers are blooming now. Whereas Australia Springtime is usually the time our flowers come out here it is definitely summertime. The sad looking apartment blocks are becoming more alive with grass in the garden beds and many blocks have planted flowers such as marigolds. The city is changing and beginning to look less tardy.

The streets are also amass with political propaganda. Elections will be held on June 28, right in the middle of our exhibition. historically this has not been a good time I have found from experience to hold an exhibition. It has happened before that after booking a show the elections have been called. There are vans spouting party flags all over the city, huge billboards on the sides of apartment and city buildings, streets littered with faces full of promises to help the living conditions of everyone. One party is promising to pipe hot water into every ger in all the ger districts. That is according to locals a pipe dream… Other politicians promise to rehouse people in ger towns into the new apartment buildings. There are even promised to fix the traffic, the roads, cost of living and inflation. Speaking with people I meet there doesn’t seem to be a clear party that is considered Good. There are parties with members before the courts for corruption and all manner of questionable dealings. There is a flurry of road works taking place, but in most situations it seems cosmetic. It’s the big issues like drainage and complete resealing instead of ad hoc patching that needs to take place. The disabled here simply cannot get around, with any kind of ease.

I think one of the differences between life as I understand it and living in Monglia is that the people do not have expectations as the western life has. If you lived with the same expectations you would be very disappointed.

An example of normal life is after returning from our Gobi trip Unench parked his car, as he always does in his garage. This is not attached to the apartment but around the block in a car parking lane.

Overnight there had been some construction works, or perhaps it was from the new apartment block being built next door, a large chunk of concrete dumped outside his garage door. The concrete waste is far too heavy for one man to attempt to move alone. Phone calls were made to try and have the concrete moved. No success and who really is responsible? Unench has not been able to get t his garage since. Eventually this afternoon we found a shovel and a short of crowbar in our units verandah and between Mervyn and Unench they managed t move the lump. There are bits of building waste and rubbed all over the city dumped anywhere. I was surprised how calmly Unench and Tugsoo treated the inconvenience, in Australia we would have been jumping up and down and someone perhaps would have been sued.

Unench tells me there are laws in place here for such things as we have in Australia as far as people being injured from dangerous public works. The difference is if you tried to act upon it there would be no hope of any success. Perhaps somehow the blame would be put back on the injured party.

That’s enough for now, have to finish cataloging the new works. We hang the show tomorrow.





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




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.






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.