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…

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Mongolia to Korea July 3/4

The last day of Our two month journey to Mongolia. We had an restless sleep last night, Mervyn was sleeping sitting up because he was coughing too much and I, well, just could not sleep.

In the morning we rechecking our packing and adjusted every thing again to get correct weight in our bags. We were just a little over and hoped that would be ok. A lot over means the dreaded excess baggage. Tugsoo came down and suggested we really aught to post our painting home instead I’d paying excess on them. There are 10 kilos in the works on paper and photographs. So off to the post office we went and the strange shape didn’t concern the ladies who know us now. Cost, $130 instead of $400 at $10 kilo excess baggage on korean airlines. And onelessbaggsgeto worry about. It should follow us home in about ten days. The ladies are great, they scotch taped the whole package to waterproof the cardboard outer case.

More rest then lunch with Tugsoo’s family. And we watched a movie of dollops choice. Toy farm or so,etching like that. She had already watched once today. She is starting to say a lot of English words. She wants very much to learn English. She is only four and I am certain by our next trip she will be speaking good English.

Apparently there were two more newspaper articles published today about our show in Mongolian newspapers. Unfortunate that we were. Unable to get any to being home. I am hoping Tugsoo will send them on.

The family came to the aiort to see us off on our midnight flight. They decided it would be better to get out of city early because of the traffic and head out to the hill and enjoy the last moments of Mongol countryside.

Well, was that a surprise. We drove out up into the beautiful lush green hills to the national park only to see the development of large houses that would not look out of place in the wealthy suburbs of Melbourne. Large McMansions some three and even four stories taking several block sizes to bu old. There were new apartments being built. Houses and houses under constructional there were paddocks that did not look anything like Mongolia anymore. Fences everywhere. Steel picket fences, timber fences, dry stone rock fences, cement block rendered fences. Some with a ger sndno house inside the fence. It appears as if the community here had come out and out a tape about a plot of land and made their claim. All the the bu idling work is illegal. All of the houses and apartments are build in the national park. This is what the Mongol political corruption is all about. My friends say these houses are owned by political party members and embers of parliament. Some want the houses to be demolished. The law forbids houses to be built on this national forest and still it goes on with a ferocious intensity. The houses are on cleared land and I wondered what came first because the back houses are in the thick treed forest.

In this forest live all of the wild Mongolian animals. Bears, wolves, deer and the small creatures. The land houses sit on have the remnants of herders flocks of sheep, some cows and horse roaming through the building sites. It all appears incongruous.

We drove up through the houses to the gates of the old soviet hotel Tugsoo wanted to show me only to find guards and a gate barrier. Nope. We were not allowed any further. The guard said th ey were repairing the road, but his comment seem thin on the truth. What was happening further up the hill? We may never know.

We go elsewhere,Tugsoo said. We came back down through the many builders carrying soil and materials by hand and w it’s buckets. We went up another hill and this one was so beautiful… Till we noticed the white marks in the grass and tape carving up the landscape. This alley too soon will be an illegal housing lot. This is the new Mongolia. Welcome…

At the back of this road we came upon a ger camp. It was the best kept ger camp We have visited. Historical, clean. There were gers constructed of the earlier time ger with the higher roof and these gers were highly decorative. Missing was the broken glass, papers and rubbish strewn around other ger camps. The largest ger on the world claims fame here too. The camp is set beneath a forested hill.

We stayed here for dinner.the Restaurant ger was clean and decorated its the many skins of wild animals. Most of them I am saddened to report were the grey and white skins of snow leopard. At first I could not believe these skins could be real as their were too many. Hundreds! They had come from confiscations at customs we were told.

During dinner we were also accompanied by a wonder traditional young man playing the horse hair fiddle and singing a throat song.

July 1 2012 Ulaanbaatar

The realization we are leaving here in a day or two has just hit us as we headed into the UMAGallery to pack up our exhibition. The last few days have been a little difficult as we begin the wind down being in Mongolia and think again of Eltham. Not much food shopping anymore and we are working out how to get all the stuff home. Yes, still stuff as well as the boxes we have sent by UB Post. It’s is far cheaper to send goods to Australia by regular post as to pay the $40 excess baggage fee at the airport. We will probably still have excess baggage as we have the paintings to bring home.

This morning we three visited the nearby monastery to do as the monk artist yesterday suggested. He had told me I needed to visit the monetary 58 times and pray. Tugsoo had offered to continue the good work on my behalf after we leave.

The process was a little different to what I had understoodl I was led to believe we would see a monk and he continue the good words of guidance. Instead, Tugsoo and I lined up at a glass window where several women were taking money. It seems you have to tell the ladies what you wish to pray for and pay what you think is reasonable and say how many times the monk will say a prayer for you. Tugsoo suggested I pay 5000tg approx $4.00 and the monk will pray ten times. My prayers will be read tomorrow morning. Oh, I was a little disappointed. I had expected a meeting with a priest and a sense of enlightenment. This instead was just a monetary transaction. All I received was my receipt with the tg amount and the number of prayers. I understand it is up to each individual to offer the amount of money and number of prayer times.

After this transaction we were ready to head into the city. I wanted more. I headed into the beautiful temple and Tugsoo and walked around the large carved hard red wood timber rosary that lay at the feet of the enormous gold Buddha. As I caressed each giant red wooden ball I was reminded of the small redbud balls carved years ago by hand by Grace. She would have really loved to have seen these giant red sculptures. The wooded balls were shiny from the many human hands that had touched them.

We were given at the door a little packet of holy water in a plastic sealed bag. This was to be used in the evening to wash. Tugsoo said it was ok to add more water to the concentrate. We were also shaded in a sealed bag some ground cypress to burn. I think and hope it is cypress for it looks and smells very similar to marijuana. You can s mell if often burning in small cal drums around the city and in particular at the black market.

I had also been told yesterday not to receive gifts from anyone offering a patterned cloth. It was ok for me to buy and pay for a patterned item, but not to receive as gift. If I did receive it I was to pass it on to someone else. I would also benefit from white and green cloth. I bought a white and green silk from the Buddhists, and a green set of beads.

As we left the temple and headed by foot into the centre to the gallery a dog began to follow us. He was limping a little. He had kind eyes and Mervyn and I liked the company. I did not have any food to give him. Mervyn though the dog just liked to be with us for the company too. He crossed roads with us and stayed within a foot step or two. I gave him a pat but also remembered we had not had our rabies injections. Dogs here we have been told can pass on rabies just by licking you and it is not a good thing to catch. So we all kept a healthy distance while enjoying each others company. At one point we crossed the road or ‘j’ walked really and had to step over one of the small iron fences in the street. oh dear, momentarily I had forgotten our friend and as I stepped out of the way of the traffice saw the dog looking st how he was to get over the fence. Now if it was our poodle sartie he would have just jumped; or slipped tween the iron bars. Our friend dog was too large. It happened just near us was a bit of fence with a iron rod missing. I showed our friend dog the whole as as the traffic started bearing down he got it and stepped though. We were all together again stepping though the rough streets and deadly man holes without covers together.

We passed a golden statue of a man in boots. The sculpture was leaning against a pole. I was surprised to see the dog see the bronze boot and shy away. It was as if he knew what a boot can do…

We made it to Sumbucca square and Togsoo went off to gallery while Mervyn and I went in search of last minute shopping such as the Mongol Messenger and the artists book we looked st yesterday. I also admit, I did want to buy a fury camel I had seen some weeks ago. Tugsoo had said to visit a bookshop across from the square. We had hoped our friend dog might meet up with the other dogs that hang out in the park by the city square but no. Our friend dog was still with us. This time he stayed close as we all together negotiated the road. We went into a book shop and he sat and waited. Did not find the book. It was hot now. The street too sunny and for friend dog too, he was looking a little tired and hot but he kept with us and waled in any shady patches in the street. At another road crossing (with lights) he sat Dow in the green grass under a tree and we thought perhaps now he had enough and may stay in the cool. The lights turned green and up he came with us.

Across the other side of the road was a small stall selling drinks and sweets. I bight a bottle of water, and a paper cup. The water was cool. I poured a cup of water for friend dog and held it out to him. He would not drink. I put the cup down on the path and he drank gratefully. It was time to leave each other. I put the cup to the edge of the street in the shade. Friend dog seemed to know it was for him and we parted ways. He sat with the cup of water and did not follow us any more.

There was a man selling street paintings on the corner too. He was smiling with amusement as he watched me buy water for the dog. He seemed a kind person and i like to think they two shared some time together.

Eventually after eating Indian food for lunch at a great little restaurant we came across, buying last minute items we, we made it back to the gallery to pack up our show. Already the next batch of artists were waiting for us to leave so as they could hang the next show.

It didt take too long. Back at our apartment we repackaged the works and Mercyn took all of the canvases off the stretchers and rolled them up again in readiness for our flight on Tuesday.

Dinner with another Mongolian Tugs poet, and Tugsoo as well as two Soroptomist members from New Zealand. We met Tugs yesterday when she delve us around to the Mongolian artist collectors gallery apartment.

Two more sleeps to the airport…

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June 30 2012 Ulaanbaatar

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These pics were taken at a textile stall in the Black Market. Traditional braids used on traditional clothing. Textiles and sips are among some of the memories I will take away from Mongolia. If there is one thing Mongolia does well it is the beautiful clothing using traditional and modern silks to make deals and shirts and all manner of clothing. Most smart restaurants cloak the chairs and tables with fabric and much is used in curtains and all manner of things.

Today we visited yet another of Tugsoo’s artist friends. This time a wonder painter of ink work and a sculptor who also happened to have a gallery home housing amazing antiques from hundred of years and mostly Mongolian relics. He is also from a buddhist monk dependency and was the keeper of some ancient hand written works by monks. He was very interesting and gave me a reading from the knuckle bones and coins. I am to go to the temple 58 times to pray. Tomorrow Tugsoo and I will return to the temple nearby to begin my work. As we are leaving I’m a few days I will not be able to complete my prayer work. Tugsoo will complete it for me.

Interesting, it is the temple which is nearby and which we have walked through several times and of which I stopped in a photographed the Hugh wooden balls that reminded me of Grace’s carved Red gum balls. They are actually prayer beads – enormous ones.

I bought one of his ink paintings as I had admired them greatly in the History museum and was very pleased to meet the artist today,

After our visit we went back to the UMA gallery and sat with our show for a while. Mervyn and I went off in search of a book of the artists work we had looked st in his home. It was a long shot as it was published in 2006. Could not find it anywhere and presume it is well out of print. What was special was that it had photographs of Mongolian landscape and then his ink drawings printed as overlays of ancient warrior drawings and other ancient life activities that would have taken place at the place of the photo. It helps the viewer see the modern landscape with a sense of history’s I have never seen this before.

Elections are over and it still the democratic party seems to have the majority of votes. The result is like Australia, close to a Jung parliament. Deals are being done and. As our friends said maybe 10cents worth of change.

June 29 Ulaanbaatar

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On the way to our exhibition we walked into the city from our apartment and visited the newspaper office, Mongol Messenger and the editor said my story will be published tomorrow but without a bionic of my name as story was about me so really I just wrote our story. The UB doesn’t seemed to have published the second story I wrote so its a pity a whole story wasted. Indra asked me to write a story of impressions of Mongolia to be published after Nardam. I will have time to return home and reflect on the past seven or eight weeks

We also visited one of Tugsoo’s artist friends who had the largest private studio I have yet seen in UB. He has been exhibiting in many countries, good money for his work and has large, bright spacious apartment gallery. He had invited us to visit at the opening,

It was another full Ulaanbaatar day with many people visiting the gallery and one other tv interview for Eagle TV and another newspaper. The TV was on one hour after they came and repeated at 11.30pm. We caught the late viewing and it was quite a long story with many paintings and comments by all of us but mostly Tugsoo speaking over our voices.

There are many Mongolian artists who come to gallery and want to have connections with Australia, or have been to Australia. We seem to be gathering a growing number of name cards and I am all but out of business cards.

The weather is getting hot. The elections have been called in favor of the democratic party but with some disputes. Apparently there were some greens seat held.

We left the gallery in the late afternoon and attended an opening of Korean and Mongol art at the history museum. This is where our last show was held. Suurel opened this show. Anyway, we went off to the children’s Park and saw a traditional dance and music show and later dinner with the Koreans. Many speeches later we were invited to exhibit with the group next year in Korea.

We will see…

It is not hard to find an opening or performance in Ulaanbastar. There is at any onetime an array of artistic activities to see. Tourist season is also hitting yo as the artists hit the streets with. Bundles of art in folders to sell tourists for a reduced price and because you are good customer, even a better price. They stand in streets and at cultural venue doorways. It’s all part of the color that is Mongolia.

Just thought I would add this pic from the Gobi desert…

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Hustai National Park

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the Hustai National Park is now the only place where the wild Monglian horse can roam free. The Takhi (Prezwalskii) horse became extinct in Mongolia and through a world breeding program have been reintroduced to this 50,000 hectare park.

The park is approximately 120 kilometers from UB.

Saruul, our Mongolian artist friend invited us to stay overnight in a ger camp with him and also Tugsoo. Saruul is director of the History Museum. We Had a driver and a large Land cruiser to travel through the park.

The west of UB road to the park in also the road we travelled to khorkhorin two years ago and thankfully in a much better state than back then. It did however take us back over the atrocious muddy roadworks of recent trips. The cars slide about all over the place and in parts are still directed through service stations and I hope the servos are being compensated for no one in their right mind would try to stop to buy petrol!

Also along this stretch is the most beautify green steppe. The dry hills have turned green since our last journey here a couple of weeks ago. It is truly a glorious sight to see the great green plains of the steppe country wander into the mysterious horizons.

For first time we saw long stretches of fences with crops and possibly potatoes growing for miles. The new food basket of UB? The trouble with fences is it cuts down the herding options for the nomadic people who have had their own kind of boundaries for hundreds of years.

Small towns along the way service the cashmere and wool industries, buyers, sellers, rough looking fenced factories and all sorts of industry on the Edge of UB.

Turning into the park area we drive once again through little Gobi sand dunes dotted with small trees. These sand dunes far more lush than further south. There are many wild flowers coming out and small herds of horses sheep and goats.

We stayed at a large ger camp on the edge of the National Park and decided on having a large lunch and a siesta so we could drive into the park in the late afternoon and watch for the horses to come down from the rocky hills and feed in the river valley.

It was a sensible option. We headed ten kilometers on from the camp into the beautiful park and saw many marmots and prairie dogs scampering about their burrows. We came across a herd of goats and sheep, though herding was also banned in the park… There was only one fork in the road and we had taken the wrong one, as usual. We headed into some really stunning landscape and stopped many times to take photographs. We met another vehicle asked the way and offered to follow the truck back to the other fork. In the back of the truck were two very unhappy looking goats, guess someone’s dinner tonight. And Nadam Festival is coming up soon and goat is always a celebration meat on the menu.
Back on the right track wevery soon came across out first small family of wild Takhi horse. Not so far off the road there stood a group of small chestnut horses with their distinctive short main and stocky build. And one white horse with foal. It was something special. Able to take some good photographs with canon camera for downloading later at home.

As we moved around the park we were lucky to come across about 50 of the horses. In one beautiful valley we stayed and painted for a couple of hours. Many small rodents, grasshoppers and insects played a concert for us.

As the evening approached and the air grew cold we saw more family’s in growing herd numbers up to a dozen or so horses together.

It was nearly dark by the time we returned to our ger and prepared a slap up meal by the warmth of our ger stove. And a delicious sleep again under the covers of sheep felt in the round walled ger room.

We gave ourselves a generous sleep in this morning. It began to rain and we returned to Ulaanbaatar satisfied we had a good session with the wild Takhi horse.

it is election day tomorrow. All the faces posted across Ulaanbaatar have vanished and we have been still urged not to go out tomorrow for the fear of riots. This stems from the riots in recent years after elections. The warning has gone out to American nationals and other western peoples in Mongolia. We had planned to sit in the gallery with our exhibition with Tugsoo.