Sunday, April 29, 2012

The day we acquired a Mongolian Bible

Another week here and life trundles along. Language classes seem to be going well. On Wednesday night we had some drama, as the people above us had left taps on while the water was off, resulting in water running into our apartment once the water came back on. With some help we had building staff turn the water off for our stairwell of units, so that was a blessing.

Also on the water front, we haven't had hot water for several days (related??), which means no hot showers, only lukewarm to cold ones. This hasn't been fun.

Lastly, today we bought a Mongolian language Bible, which hopefully we will start using to learn even more Mongolia!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A month in Mongolia

Yes, we've been here a month now. That's a bit crazy. This post is not an attempt to recap the month though, just to talk about our weekend.

On Saturday we went out to try and buy some glasses. We walked through a ger district to get to the back entrance to the Black market. It was quite a warm day. Anyway there were no stalls at the market at all. Just lots of people cleaning. So that was odd. We then went to a nearby building that has lots of small stall-shops, and it too was similarly shut and lots of people cleaning. This was all very weird. We happened to be nearby a mission run cafe, so we went there and there was just the one guy working, Eric, who has been quite friendly. So then we enjoyed a lovely coffee and some chocolate-banana cake. Also Seumas was introduced to coffee cupping. Thanks to some texting with a Mongolian, we discovered that the Mayor of Ulaanbaatar had declared the day a cleaning day, so everybody was meant to be cleaning up and if not you could get fined for not beautifying your property or something. So everyone does it!

Today (Sunday) we went to our two churches. At the first service we had a visiting preacher from San Diego preach in Korean, which was translated into Mongolian (from the front), and then was translated into English for us as well. That was an interesting experience. Also we heard some encouraging reports from the mission teams that had travelled into one of Mongolia's neighbours.

At the international church we have volunteered to get involved in serving with music and service-type stuff. So Seumas played bass today, and Rachel joined in the singing practice as well.

A huge amount of dust came up in the afternoon. Spring is renowned for being very windy and quite dusty.

So those are some things that have been happening.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The day we got chairs

Oh man! I can't even begin to tell you how exciting it is to have chairs. Chairs are a great invention. Rachel went out with Naraa to the black market and brought home four chairs. Now we can sit at our new table and type blog posts and watch youtube videos. The pinnacle of civilisation.

wow, check out those chairs!

In other news it snowed a bit overnight and for the day. Also sometimes our power goes out. When the power goes out a lot of extra people just head outside to hang out. Here's some snow back on the mountains:

The view from our lounge room window (room does not include lounge)
Mongolian continues apace. We are nearly caught up on the current season of Survivor. And did I mention we got chairs?

Monday, April 16, 2012

The day we got a bank account

So today Seumas went to visit the diplomatic branch of the Khaan bank (lovingly named after the great man of this nation). It was in the center of town, so about a 30min walk. Really they are a branch of the bank set up for foreigners, so the staff speak several languages. I've never been treated so well by a bank. We said I was there to open an account, and I was taken into a lovely board room and this woman came and gave me papers to fill in and I was served some hot water in a tea cup and it was all very good. I even came home to find that my online banking details had already been sent to me. Great service, I definitely recommend it if you are opening a bank account here.

Here is a video of some soldiers marching past our apartment singing.

In other news, today we started separate language classes. This is a good thing because it allows us to go at our own paces. Yet it is also more taxing, as there is no downtime in the middle of our lessons. Also, we now switch between three teachers, and the new teacher has very minimal English, and so her class is a lot of Mongolian speech coming at you, which takes a lot of brain power to process. Anyways, Mongolian language acquisition is going forward.

Tonight we went to UBean cafe for a birthday party for an Australian girl here. Lots of people we know from our school, our building, and our international church were there, so that was nice. It was a dress up party, which Seumas does not really like, but it was okay. The great thing from his perspective is that UBean sells beans, which means that all is now in place for home espressos. Also the barista made him a double shot.

Iron Horse coffee. What a good name.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The day we got a kitchen!

As you've read over several blog posts, we've had construction going on. Namely, tiling of our kitchen and building of cabinets. Well the great news is that it is done. More on that in a moment.

This morning we had Naraa come over, laid out carpet in our bedroom, and moved our wardrobe and
dresser in. That was job no. 1.

Then we had him replace some electrical sockets. Apparently 220 isn't enough of a shock to worry about, so there is no turning the power off, just rip those suckers out of the wall and put the new one in. Job no. 2.

 Thirdly we went to BSB and bought a stove and vacuum cleaner, and they threw in a free kettle (finally, a give away item that someone wants).

We came home and our workers arrived to continue on the kitchen. We had lunch and then went out to language class. When we came home they were almost done. Our stove had arrived and Naraa was here fixing up the wiring for it, and after an hour or so, they finished the kitchen! It's great, as you can see from this picture.

Still no table, chairs, or couch, but we have made great leaps in apartment-setting-up today.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The day we bought a water filter

Not the most exciting day so far. We swept and mopped the floor twice to try and get the dust under control. It seems to have had some effect. I also did some work binding some sheets of some material to our balcony to stop them rattling in the wind.

We did end up at a nice cafe, quite western-ish, looks like it's run by a christian organisation. This did solve an emerging lunch conundrum, which was great. Would definitely return.

After lunch we walked into the city and went to a camping store which sells these great water filters made by Katadyn. We had been looking for one, and they had them. After some 'discussion' (I use the word in the very loosest sense), we managed a purchase (it's always exciting when I can use a card instead of bundles of cash), and caught the trolley bus home.

So some small progress: a water filter and cleaner floors.

Here's a video of some driving in Mongolia.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday in Mongolia

Whew, things are moving along here. Sometimes fast, sometimes slow.

It's the end of our second week of language classes. This week we've only had one class a day, which has been a nice little breather. Our teacher this week doesn't have much English, so that requires extra concentration. Anyway, we keep learning.

For lunch today we stepped into a small Mongolian eatery. There are tons of these, and Mongols grab quick, cheap lunches. We always over-order (in my opinion), which is easy to do since we can't read menus. This place had pictures of food on the walls, so basically we just point.

In the afternoon we walked into town. It's about 30mins walking into the 'cbd'. We were going to catch a trolley bus, but given the traffic it seemed possible to walk faster. Also it was very warm today - the forecast was for a 16 max, but we passed a sign saying it was 20! We had to buy a wireless router as the one we brought from Aus was an adsl router and wouldn't take the input cable we had (just a straight network cable). So we walked and went to this little computer district and found a router (with help). About A$25, chinese-made (when we got home we had to set it up in Chinese, but the pictures in the manual told us which buttons to press thankfully).

After buying the router we stopped into the big department store. It's called "the big store" (kind of). Anyway, it's almost like a Western department store and it's where we bought our fridge and washing machine. Today we bought a microwave and a toaster - exciting appliances that make more food possible to eat.

Over 2000000T for this coffee machine. No thanks.
We took a taxi back to our apartment, and they were still tiling our kitchen. Our hallway has been littered with amazing amounts of debris. So after an hour we were going out again, this time to a Good Friday service. It's amazing how many public holidays we get in Aus for Easter. The service was held by the international church, at a place called UBean, which is a missio-run cafe, again about 30min walk from us. It was a simple service, with 3 songs, bible reading, short sermon (translated into Mongol), and prayer. Rachel had a nice chat with a Mongolian girl who has been living in the USA and is about to move there and  get married.

When we got home, good news - they cleaned up the debris in our hallway. It's still full of dirt, but it's at least a little more manageable. And the floor tiles are done. Progress.

We're looking forward to life being more settled. Unpacking boxes into drawers and wardrobe, getting a table, not having a construction zone for a kitchen. Buying a stove. Hopefully this week will see most of these things sorted and a more regular life emerge.

Good Friday at UBean

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Life in a construction zone

The more interesting the happenings, the less time there is to chronicle them. Also we’ve been lacking the means, since we moved out into our own little apartment.
That was on Tuesday. We bought a fridge and washing machine after our morning class, and then Seumas went to the airport with Naraa to have another go at picking up our boxes. They were released into his care for the bargain price of about AUD$0.80

Meanwhile, I went and had some soup at a European-owned cafĂ© and then went to the mobile phone place to try and work out how to get internet access on my mobile. After much repeating of the same few English words over and over, they managed to get me to comprehend that I could turn some of my units that I’d already bought into data whenever I wanted by SMSing a number. How about that! Too bad it didn’t work.

Anyway, when Seumas and Naraa and Chinbat came back with the boxes, they deposited them in our lounge room and then moved the bed over from the Hall’s. Then we ate dinner with the Halls, stole some final internet time, and moved our suitcases across. We were in! Our fridge and washing machine came at about 10pm, carried up three flights of stairs by a single guy on his back!

I didn’t really sleep the first night. It takes until about 11.30pm or so for things to be quiet; night time is prime time for Mongolians. Also cigarette smells are frequently getting in from other units; possibly through the wiring. I can smell it right now. It kind of sucks.

Anyway, yesterday we went to class in the morning and then Naraa helped us with some chores in the afternoon, like getting the internet connected and picking up some new power points. He also figured out why my phone wasn’t getting internet! Pretty much Naraa can do anything. We were going to go to the open air market to get some carpet and furniture items, but the traffic was really bad and the wind was whipping a lot of dust into the air, so we didn’t. We ate instant noodles for dinner (all we have to cook with is an electric kettle) and then had our weekly team meeting. One of our team members is doing a presentation on Mongolian shamanism at his work, which I’m looking forward to benefitting from.

This morning we did our Mongolian homework, and I discovered that we had good water pressure at a decent temperature in the mornings, so I washed my hair. While I was washing my hair, the guys came to start tiling our kitchen. That was a bit awkward, but Seumas sneaked me some clothes. So they started tearing up the floor, and we left for class. When we came home, the guy was there setting up the internet, and there were piles of dirt and dust everywhere! Mud blocking the bathroom even. Naraa came, and we went to the market. We looked at lots of wardrobes and chests of drawers, but the sellers very quickly worked out that I was the one with deciding power, and they kept tugging me this way and that. At one point I got wedged between two wardrobes while the seller hemmed me in. It was a bit full-on! We eventually picked some out. The quality isn’t great, but they’re half the price that Ikea would have been, so that’s a bonus. Chinbat arrived with his truck, and oh was there much huffing and hard work by the guys to get the items up the stairs and inside! The tilers had left for the day as the concrete had to dry, and I felt pretty disheartened by the huge mess everywhere. I did some sweeping, and picked up some dirt, but I feel like I just moved the dust into the air. I can feel the fine coating of it on me just sitting here on the bed. I hope it’s not in between the sheets too much. I think they will finish the job tomorrow afternoon, so Saturday will be clean clean clean! Yuck.

Anyway, this afternoon I popped into a neighbour’s to get some clean drinking water, and then we went to a restaurant/bar to get some dinner. They had many pages of offerings, and we tried to order chicken and Greek salad, but they indicated that our options really consisted of pizza or Mongolian food. So we got a pizza. Pretty ordinary, but we did managed to indicate that we wanted to take the left overs home. So we’ll have to buy a microwave so we can eat them! They had a long list of ‘juices’ with very strange sounding flavours (like tiramisu, and marshmellow), so I tried a vanilla juice. It was quite nice! I think it’s just water with some kind of artificial flavouring, but whatever, it’s nice to try something new and have it turn out nice.

Seumas is trying to set the wireless router up so we can be on the Internet separately and in our room, but perhaps our router won’t work with a non-phone line connection. Maybe we’ll buy another modem tomorrow or something.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The day we didn't get our boxes

I never intended to blog everyday, but the first week or so went quite well.

Saturday: We went out with Naraa, "the Mongolian Concierge" as I call him. He can get pretty much anything done/organised. So we went and bought tiles and tiling cement and a sink and so on for our apartment. That part was easy. Then we tried to go and look at appliances and furniture. Mistake #1 Not carrying oodles more cash, mistake #2 forgetting to carry a credit card, Problem #3 deciding what to buy. After a trip to three major centres (State Department Store, a furniture superstore(s), and the Black Market), we ended up getting nothing. But at least we knew what we might want to get. In the evening we went back to Hazaras for dinner with David and Wendy (since Wendy missed out last time). I feel a little spoiled eating this delicious Indian food, but that's okay.

Sunday: Mongolian church where the sermon was translated for us again (yay!). Rachel made a contact with a girl who wants to practise English (I think this is true). In the afternoon we went to International church and heard a sermon that had some problems. I talked to some Mongolians who wanted to meet up (this apparently is common, but whether they get in touch is another question. We will see). There is going to be a 6:00 outside service on Easter Sunday. Won't that be warm!

Monday: Another day of class, just one this week as it is Spring Break. It didn't go so well for Rachel. Question particles are tricky. Anyway, after class we came home, and managed to establish that our boxes had arrived. Great. So Naraa came around and I went out with him to the airport. First we found someone to give us the right set of papers, that went fine. Then we went down to the cargo/customs area, but they decided they wanted some paperwork we didn't have - a letter from our school. So Naraa and I got back into the car and drove back into the city. This is an hour each way (more to do with the bad traffic in UB than raw distance). So we went to our school, and Naraa chatted in Mongolian to one of our teachers. Alas, our director is on holidays in Beijing, and the other teacher wasn't sure she knew where the official stamp was, which is the key ingredient in getting this mysterious letter. So, no boxes today.

Oh well. We have Naraa and his brother-in-law coming by this evening to measure up the apartment kitchen for cupboards and the like, so that is progress.

Ikea, Ulaanbaatar