32-scabby ankle-lack of work-tsaagan tsar

As i rapidly approach the 6 month mark i’m starting to get very anxious about work and how little has happened that i had planned. Since the trip to Beijing in November there have been many obstacles, changing desks/rooms=constant, interpreter missing in action=6 weeks, Christmas/New Year=1 week, Tsaagan tasr=2 weeks, reconnecting computer/retrieving files/reconnecting internet=everyday!!!

When i first began my placement the first thing i wanted to accomplish was getting the 2 designers their own room and making it into a designer haven, pictures up, swatches up etc However the nomad within all Mongolians, that appears to go deep even in the city folk has not let this happen. I did manage to get the designers in their own room and then the next quest was to get a board up on the wall for all of our images, this has never happened and since then we have changed rooms, lost a designer, gained a new designer, lost a designer to the other side of the factory and at present tsaagan tsar hit. It is now 6 months and i feel i have to give in to this constant moving and accept that it is part of the Mongolian DNA to change location constantly. Next week i am hoping to begin training the designers on all things inspirational so they can unleash their inner designers and let the creations flow, i have written up a plan, had it translated and as of Monday we begin with AW11/12 catwalks. Maybe it is meant to be this way, i mean the catwalks do begin this week, well for Womenswear anyway so it could have worked out perfectly. I have lost the flow and on a daily basis i try to re-gain it, as yet unsuccessfully so i’m gonna get strict, the designers are mine at least 1 day a week until August when i leave-full stop!!!!!

So that aside, the work i mean, regular life has become hectic, i guess once you have been somewhere new for a while and met alot of people the social side becomes hectic.                   Last week my birthday coincided with Tsaagan Sar, White Month or White Moon, otherwise known as the Lunar New Year. I was lucky enough to have the week off as i work in the private sector and indulged in daily coffees, some work and a couple of trips to orphanages. The Tuesday was my birthday and i had a relaxing day then in the evening a lovely dinner. My tiny apartment or room became a dining room, half sitting on my bed and the rest on the sofa with  a table inbetween, a friend gave me a kilo of beef for my birthday, literally not metaphorically and so we had stroganoff-a la Mongolia. It was also non-alcohol day on my birthday in UB so we were all well prepared for such an event and had brought in supplies to last throughout the night, beer, wine and the inevitable vodka. I recently discovered that mixing vodka in with jared cherries is yummy and dangerously sweet and easy to drink. As usual the evening’s conversation was filthy just how we like it and full of laughter.

The following day i went with a few others to an orphanage, well its not really an orphanage but a police station where the police bring in street kids to sleep and eat. It was a sad place but kids being kids, they were fun and loveable and wanting cuddles. It was easy to see that there was a heireichy within the orphanage, the strong widdling out the weak, alot of fighting and stealing but also we discovered when we played Bingo, alot of discipline and honesty. Its a strange place where kids grow up fast and have not had alot of love but still crave it and for the most still innocent as kids should be. All the kids were able to read and write and loved to show off their few English words and to show off their games and tricks. The next day we went to another orphanage, an established, funded children’s home, most of the kids have family still but they are unable to look after them for the most part and so they end up at Lotus Children’s home. This place was different, all the kids were clean and helped each other out, the older kids looked after the younger ones as if they were their siblings, but at heart they were the same as the kids from the day before, wanting to play and cuddle. We stayed for lunch, vegi Butz as it is a vegi childrens home, obviously quite rare in Mongolia!!!!  I had brought with me a bunch of coloured paper to make paper chains with the kids but almost straight away they became bracelets and watches, all created by the kids themselves, i had nothing to do with it i just supplied the paper, scissors, pens and stickers and they did the rest. I will definetely be going back to both places during my stay as everyone needs a cuddle from time to time including me.

On the 2nd day of Tsaagan Sar i went to visit a fellow volunteer in Nalaikh, a town an hour outside of UB and as it was Tsaagan Sar and the whole country was moving around visiting relatives the bus was crammed packed. The driver and conductors on the buses earn the profit from the passengers they carry so they like to fit on as many as possible, more than a bus can carry; the windows are frozen, you cant see out and you can barely get both feet firmly on the floor. I arrived in Nalaikh at dusk and it was pretty grim in that light, but the following morning you see and appreciate what Nalaikh has to offer, surrounded by mountains without the brown UB haze and there was a new Buddhist temple on the hill, i love the temples here, they are a becon of light and joy in an otherwise grey ex-communist setting.

Saturday of Tsaagan Tsar a few of us were invited to our teachers house at 10am. It was a beautiful snowy day and a steaming -10 degrees, a perfect setting for White Month. To tell the truth we were a bit scared as we know by now that there will be vodka involved and it wasnt yet even midday. But the great feast we were presented with absorbed the vodka, just as it should be. The other guests were Korean and Japanese students, as tradition dictates there was singing, in Mongolian, Korean, Japanese and English, im always suprised how we are the least willing to sing and the other Nationalities cant get enough of it!!

So the scabby ankle, its not an interesting story but it is a mystery. I woke up last week with a massive, bulbous water blister on the front of my ankle, i had no idea where it came from, my boots dont rub there and i havent injured myself but there it was starring up at me. The following day it had burst, but it wasnt yet ready to, it then re-blistered then burst again then a couple of days ago it started to hurt alot, then it turned yellow and so it was time to visit the doctor. Somehow a mystery blister with no possible cause had gotten infected and is now thankfully recovering, the doctor had some magical gel she put on it after cleaning it thoroughly and within a few hours it felt great again. Thank you mystery gel for curing my mystey blister!!!

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Christmas & New Year

At the biginning of December i went back home for 12 days and it was my job to be the Christmas food mule, or at least the ingredients for a typical English Christmas. I bought back all the ingredients for christmas puddings, including the cheese cloths and a bottle of brandy. I cant imagine what my case looked like in the airport xray. So we had Christmas dinner planned throughout December, we worked out who was going to be in UB and who knew how to make what, it turned out there were 9 of us, a nice number for xmas dinner. An obstacle though that you dont usually have on xmas day is the amenities you have to make the dinner, we had one tiny oven and 2 stove rings on top, but if the oven is being used the rings cant be used, so we needed to bring in another portable oven and another set of hot rings. So we had an oven set up on the floor for the roast potatoes, a turkey, stuffed, in the main oven along with more vegis, a cauldron of pumpkin soup boiling on one of the spare cooking rings as well as more vegis. It was quite a feast, the pumpkin soup was my dish, a soup i usually make with squash which are slightly easier to work with. I had real problems getting the skin off 2 pumpkins, i still now almost 4 weeks later have a scar from the blister it gave me, a pumpkin peeling scar.

So before i went to Farrahs home where we were gosting christmas i woke up pretty late and it was very strange to open my presents on my own, the presents i had brought back from England on my trip and i had been looking at for 2 weeks on my sofa, i had some how resisted. So after the presents i packed up the pumpkins and gat a bus to the other side of the city, Mongolians dont celebrate Christmas so it was a typical Saturday in town. Once we all arrived the mulled wine was cooked up and games began as i attacked the pumpkins with a hack-saw, well i needed a hack saw but i only had a meat cleaver. Each of us took it in turns to cook our dish and by the time we ate lunch we were all a bit drunk. We even had crackers and a bottle of Jack Daniels which i have to say is to blame for the games we played later in the evening where we all confessed our secrets. The whole day was a lot of fun and we had a great time, unfortunately i forgot my camera so i dont have any photos, i was too busy trying to remember the food, but anyway you get the picture, it was a typical Christmas day, we all ate and then drank too much, made a fool of ourselves, a traditional Christmas day.

Well New Years was also quite traditional and unfortunately i did remember my camera, i wasnt aware i had taken and photos until i woke on New Years day and looked through my camera and saw the most appauling photos, and as it turned out i didnt take the photos as i was in most of them. The evening began at my place for a couple of hours and we headed to a party around 10.30, when we arrived things were quite civilised but we soon changed that, for some reason we were on form and even when most of the party left just before midnight to head to the city square to watch the fireworks we all stayed and kept the party going. Im not even sure if we celebrated at midnight we were too busy being idiots. Some of us just couldnt stop dancings, others were busy taking photos of all that happened and i spent at least at hour wrestling on the floor, in fact i spent most of the evening on the floor, ive never felt like wrestling before but that was how i brought in the new year. Here are a few photos that can be shown on the blog, others will never leave my computer unless a high price is payed!!!!

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2 months overdue -trips to the countryside

As the crazy, coal brown smog of UB enters our apartments as we sleep you feel the need to get out of the city more than usual, however you leave behing the comfort of the central heating and mobile phone usage. In the last few months we have been away twice, not including a hike outside of the city that made me sweat immensely as we ascended and then turned to ice as we descended. Anyway back in October we got a bus down to Zulmod to stay in a Ger camp for the weekend, we managed to fill 3 gers, bringing with us our own entertainment in the form of Chinggis vodka and Sengur beer. On arrival we dumped our bags and went on a hike up Bogd Khan sacred mountain. There was a pretty easy track to follow with stop off points for lunch, rests and photo opportunity. As we climbed we did however loose a few of the others at each pit stop but i stuck with it and made it to the top where i saw the biggest Ovoo i have ever seen, there seemed it was a special place for Mongolians to climb to and make offerings to the gods. From the top you could see UB in the far distance, the wind really picked up up there and as you realise as soon as you stop you get cold straight away, so we began our long descent, much quicker of course but all you want is to be back in the warm Ger tucking into a plate of Sweevan. As we climbed down we crossed a couple of rivers, very frozen rivers that i insisted on having my photo taken on, as shown below, unfortunately there is no photo of my feet flying above my head and landing on my bum. Arse-over-tit i believe it’s called.

Back at camp we warmed up by the stove and opened up the beers awaiting our dinner of Mongolian noodles, never a delight unless you are in the countryside and thats all there is. After dinner we all gathered in one of the Gers and began a bunch of games, all of which inevitably get us drunk and embarassing ourselves. At bedtime as the temperatures dropped i really regretted forgetting my sleeping bag, there was a blanket as well as a couple of very, very thin 1inch thick matresses under the blankets, i had to sleep with 2 of the 3 mattresses on-top of me as well as wearing all of my clothes and hat, in the middle of the night when the stove had gone out i reallly suffered, it was icey, icey cold, so much that when you get up in the morning you discover that your deodorant and creams have  frozen. This i have to state was October.

The next trip out to the countryside was a few weeks ago, we had our VSO Christmas party in Terelj, just for the day. Just over an hour out of the city you can find a variety of Ger camps where you can stay or just spend the day. So the majority of the VSO volunteers and some of the staff headed out there to enjoy the blue sky and sun. We rented 2 gers and as usual there was booze involved, mulled wine was heated on the stove and although i dont like red wine i did have a couple as they are very warming. Once we had warmed up with the wine we divided into a couple of teams and had a couple of improvised tug-of-war games, the rope that wasnt a rope snapped a few times and we thought that was that, however it was doubled-up and the games began. Now its very difficult to play tug of war on snow, as its icey snow, it is inevitable that someone will fall over and we all did everytime as well as being dragged down the hill. We couldnt find a perfectly flat piece of land so one team was always a bit downhill giving them the advantage or as i said being dragged on your bum down the snowy hill.

So after the games ended and we were all exhausted a few of us went out on a horse ride. Now i have never been around horses in my life but this was my second ride in Mongolia and i have to say i really love it, it seems like the only way to travel despite the bum pain. We rode for about an hour and it was clear that the Mongolians as truely at home on a horse, they ride effortlessly and full of joy. I was full of joy but it was not effortless, my horse had a thing for one of the other horses and did whatever he did, so whether i tried to giddi-up the horse or not he didnt care and just copied the other. He also forgot i was there i think, he would go between trees with very low branches and under things, i had to duck alot, my feet were bashed against tree trunks and against other horses. Despite all of this i really loved it, the country is so beautiful and as i said travelling by horse seems to me to be the purest way to travel.

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2 months overdue-Beijing

Well it really has been a long time, partly due to pure laziness and partly due to being very busy. Since last time i wrote here we accomplished a complete, well almost complete collection for Cashmere World in Beijing which was very successful. Ive also been out to the countryside a few times, including a great horseride in the snow. Oh and of course since my last post the temperature has dropped about 20 degrees, tough to deal with but strangely it is possible. I also spent almost 2 weeks back home in England, which was tough as although it was lovely to see everyone you realise you have to say goodbye again and then deal with the terrible jetlag that follows. And how could i forget we had Christmas!!!

So starting at the beginning in November we took our new collection to Cashmere World, the weeks leading up to the tradeshow, especially the last few days were manic, but we made it. i went to Beijing 3 days early to visit my cousin who has been living there for a few years now and so i had time to see the city before the work began. I got to see a few sights including Pan Jia Yuan market, the 798 Art district and a district i forget the name of that has the traditional courtyards. Oh and how could i forget the Forbidden City.

I was very surprised by Beijing, it was truly massive and impressive, as i was driving in the taxi from the airport to the city centre i was in awe of the size of the city, especially after having lived in UB for 3 months, the sky scrapers, the shopping malls and the amount of people in the city. But by far the best thing about Beijing was food and eating, i was greatly in need of some variety of food and i got it, from Chinese hot pot to Japanese sushi, and of course the famous Peking Duck. I started my trip with the Hot Pot, my first experience of cooking my own food at the table and it allows you to eat endlessly as you get to rest and then cook some more, my favourite kind of eating, the kind that never ends. The following morning i awoke and had a fab breakfast and coffee, then we headed to the Market where i spent most of my money of the trip, i do love a flea market, you never know what you will find or what to expect and the haggling makes it all the more appealing. It was also a great opportunity for taking photographs as you can see below.

Later that afternoon we headed to the 798 District which i was very excited about as i had heard so much about it and i was quite blown away by the place. It was much more established than i expected and much busier, but then again it was a Saturday. Once again there was so much to see and do, my camera got worn out from so much use. It was great to see Beijing having an area dedicated to it’s artists even though they do not have full license to create as they please as we all know….

So later on it was mealtime again, fish and bamboo and chillis oh my…how i love to eat. Sunday we went down to the Forbidden city, the site you are meant to see when you go to Beijing and it was impressive but there is only so much Chinese History i can take in one day, half-an-hour was more than enough for me, but of course i had to visit it.

I much prefer to just wonder around which we did in the afternoon in an older part of town, the first area i had actually seen so far in Beijing that was old Beijing, everywhere else had been new and modern. My final night of freedom before the work began was all about sushi, my lack of fish consumption over the previous 3 months was bumped up for sure in one weekend in beijing.

So Monday morning i moved from my cousin’s apartment to my hotel in the North, right next to the bird’s nest Olympic stadium, i managed to miss all of the Beijing olympics as that summer of 2008 i was telly-less in Barcelona, but i got to see the stadium every morning and afternoon of the week as the trade show location was on the other side of the stadium, thus a picturesque walk twice a day.

I got to the tradeshow to find my colleagues setting up the stand already, they had managed to bring many a tree from Ulaanbaatar via train, bus and jeep all the way to Beijing and then built shelves and rails for our beautiful yak and cashmere shawls/throws etc to hang from. We had by far the most inviting stand of Cashmere World, and that is not a bias opinion. The following days we met many interesting, surprising and not so surprising people who took a great interest in our products. I took a great delight and scence of pride for myself and my colleagues when hermes and maxmara took interest in our products, and not so much when others wanted thousands of X product to sell in department stores around China. I also remembered how bad i am with people, i am a designer not a public relations person, we are not meant to talk to clients, they are very demanding and i got wound-up a few times when they wanted this, that and the kitchen sink, now, 10minutes ago blah blah. But anyway, the show was a success we made many connections that i hope the company can maintain after my departure and we also made a bunch of more personal contacts such as a lovely italian vet who had his own co-op in Tibet making yak hair products. The most surprising thing infact was the interest in Yak hair, something my company specialises in. It seems there is a decline in cashmere demand as it has become very mainstream and accessible to all that the luxury market are looking for new fibres to work with, such as Yak, our sustainable, environment loving long haired beast.

So to round up Beijing, we accomplished our aim, to promote Mongolian cashmere, spread the love of yak and to make contacts in the industry. Secondly i ate my heart out, thirdly i got to see a bit of Beijing and some new inspiration, oh did i mention my love of the mops????Oh and the strict pooping rules!!!!!

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Work and weddings, weddings and work

It’s been a while since my last blog, which may be due to me settling into a normal life and not being off doing fun and exciting things, but just working and working.

I have been doing my job now for about 6weeks maybe, ive lost count, and it is great and a wonderful opportunity to facilitate a designer team and it’s definitely an opportunity I would not have been able to get back home, so I cherish that everyday.  But all that we learnt in training, and by training I mean here our ICT as well as the 4 training courses back in Blighty, all is slowly but surely coming true. We were told we would go through this process of arriving, excitement, enthusiasm, followed by a big slump and this repeated thought of what am I doing here? and immense frustration. I recently hit this phase, it’s been hard but I always remember that it is not the last phase but that once you hit this point you inevitably go back up and you learn from it and work out a new way to achieve what you came to do. I could not have imagined how difficult this was going to be, maybe my imagination is not as great as I thought or maybe if I had imagined how difficult it would be I wouldn’t have come. But me being me, I take on a challenge and I keep going till the end.

So last week was a bad week, without going into too many details as obviously there has to be some confidentiality but work got hard, I witnessed first hand what I was up against and the size of the challenge, I became very frustrated at the lack of organisation and came up against someone who was not willing to listen to any of my advice, not just that they wouldn’t take on the advice but that they wouldn’t even listen. This I have learnt has been partly due to having to communicate using an interpreter, its difficult to communicate when you speak through someone else, if you speak to your interpreter the person you are talking to may not even know you are speaking to them and you then get frustrated. Also I can see that I am this Westerner who has come into a company where people have been working for years, doing their job the way they know how and why on earth would they listen to you, the outsider, what do you know? This was hard as I have so far been very lucky in my job and everyone has been very welcoming and patient with me. So I decided that I had to distance myself from my job, take a step back, look at the situation from afar and then re-enter on Monday morning, open to all and ready for anything and everything. It really worked, I let off my steam away from work, not to say that this week was fine and dandy, it definitely wasn’t but I had realised that I had no control or power, as I can be a control freak and I like things to be the way I like them. I remembered again that I was the new outsider and it was my job to adapt to my surroundings. I had thought I was already doing this but as they say practice makes perfect so I will keep practising. I think I grew up and grew within in the last 2 weeks more than I ever have had to and when I think of how I will be at the end of the year placement, well I cant even imagine, I just hope it doesn’t age me on the outside, I mean grey hairs and wrinkles!!!

I have added a few photos of the wonderful things i am learning at work like the journey of a throw from raw wool to product, for some reason i was only allowed to take photos of the weaving rpocess not of the wool carding and yarn spinning booo!!!

Warping threads

Warping threads

1766 thread making up the warp (width) of a throw

1766 thread making up the warp (width) of a throw

1766 threads individually threaded onto warping frame

1766 threads individually threaded onto warping frame

Warping Frame

Warping Frame

Complete warp on a role

Complete warp on a role

Weaving

Weaving

Weaving/woven

Weaving/woven

Weft

Weft

But it hasn’t been all bad, following the first bad week I had a wedding, my colleague got married, as many people from work went, so the universal catalyst for mending friction was used, vodka, alot of, I thought Brits could drink but we wouldn’t stand up against a Mongolian when it comes to vodka. There were many toasts at the wedding and vodka was the toast of choice.

Bride & Groom

Bride & Groom

So the night before a few of us went to do karaoke, Japanese style when you hire out a room and pay per hour, I hat karaoke but it just has a strange effect on you and you cant help but find yourself grabbing the microphone from others and singing you tone deaf heart out!!! Yes there was vodka consumed, and yes there was beer, what else, so when I went to bed at 1am I was not a pretty site and my alarm clock went off at 8.30 on the Sunday which allowed me 2 hours of wandering around the house looking for my brain and trying to make myself wedding presentable. It was tough but I did it and even found my own way to the wedding some how! So with a stinking hang over I arrived at the wedding at 11am and the 1st toast was at about 11.30, there is no way to say no in Mongolia and once again “when in Rome” I participated in my first vodka toast.

Presenting of the gifts

Presenting of the gifts

The wedding was surprisingly similar to a British wedding, the bride wears a white dress and we eat many a course but random people are asked to stand up and sing a song, which everyone knows, but me, then the toast.

Yep it,s a sheeps butt

Yep it,s a sheeps butt

Also halfway through the meal the bride changes into traditional dress and the dancing begins, there was a horse head fiddle player, a long song and some modern sort of singer.

Im 2 to the left of the bride

Im 2 to the left of the bride

I was passed around the dance floor from one dance partner to another, I think I am going to see the videos on Monday so I will see just how silly I look.

Cutting of the cake

Cutting of the cake

Then at some point the cake was cut and the bride and groom stand on the stage and accept the gifts from the guests, including many a prayer scarf as it was a buddhist-ish wedding. All of this is not necessarily in order, I wasn’t taking notes I just know that this is what I remember. The reception finished at 4pm and I thought I could take my drunk-self back home and begin recovering but I wasn’t allowed and we went onto a bar somewhere NW  and drank some more, but I only made it till6 then I had to go home I was falling a sleep. I did last later in the week that they kept going until midnight, not that I wouldn’t have been able to manage.

We & some work colleagues

We & some work colleagues

Now this wedding has held on the 10th October in our calendar but in the Tibetan lunar calendar it was a positive day to get married which is why it was chosen, but a few weeks back was THE day to get married in the lunar calendar at the wedding palace in UB so a few of us headed down there to see such an event.

Lunar wedding day

Lunar wedding day

There were back to back weddings for 24hours on this day, and it was a cold day, the 1st day I have seen snow, since then we’ve seen much more snow, its now old news, but anyway there were great big white dresses and guests in deels, hummers covered in balloons, the lot, a great site to have seen.

Is that a hummer under all that?

Is that a hummer under all that?

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Goat’s yoghurt on my face

Well what a whopper of a weekend, and it all began on Friday afternoon when i was at work and i was wondering what it was i was going to do this weekend, should i go out, stay in and get stuff done, go horse riding what? Then i was called to the director’s office and told that i could leave work at 3.30 to go home and pack a bag as we were going to the countryside, just past Terelj i was told, apparently my boss has a tourist company too and they have a Ger camp somewhere and we were going there it seemed. So that was my decision made, im off to the countryside somewhere….

So i hurried home and packed warm clothes as i was told and waited for a phone call, which came and i was told a driver was going to come and pick me up in 10mins, so i went downstairs and waited for this driver???? who arrived in a 4×4 said the company name and i got in. This is how things work here, its random and strange but it is so frequent that strange has become normal and expected, but it did get stranger, he drove me to the tour company office Nomadic Journeys and met my Director’s wife, i was offered Hoshur (mutton pasties) and a tea, which i didnt really have time to eat or drink as i had to go again. I was ushered into a Korean bus owned by the company with the staff from the tour company 9 of us in total and a baby, then the wife left and the bus departed, oh and telling me it takes over 3hours to get there not the 1ish hour i previously thought. So off we drove me on a bus with 8 strangers no boss and no wife, was i being kidnapped? well maybe i thought but i feel fine so it must be ok. We began to get out of the city and stopped off at a shop for water and then further down the road we picked up a guy too then a bag full of more hoshurs and off we went. About an hour into the drive we stopped again and it was time to eat the hoshurs and crack open the beers that were pulled out from under one of the seats. Also it was a good opportunity to pee, and as i may have said before this is difficult when you are on steppes, there is nothing to hide behind so distance is all you have. Later down the road we passed the great Chinggis Khan monument and not far after we swooped left and onto a dirt track heading North, no more tarmac and in a Korean bus, we were frequently thrown from our seats as we drove what was more than 2 hours, in the dark along dirt tracks, how the driver knew what was and wasnt the track i will never know, we did also narrowly avoid at one point a cow and then later a horse, both of which couldnt really have cared less and we had to go round them oh and of cause we stopped at an Ovo. We did eventually arrive at somewhere i didnt know where as it was dark but we were welcomed by 2 people with torches so i grabbed my bag and i was led off to a Ger with the others and we had Milky tea and curd, the soft kind thankfully that i like, then the wife appears as if by magic and says i must be hungery come to the dining room ger, its the big ger, well big or small in the dark its just a ger but i found it and in there i found my boss and his business partner a Swedish man who had been working in Mongolia and tourism for an impressive 30 years and his family including his father who’s birthday it was 80years old and one of the few times he had left Sweden and his 1st time in Mongolia. I also met my bosses wife’s friends a group of 5 woman all of whome she went to school with and who she had invited up for the weekend as it was the last weekend before the camp was going to be dismantled until next spring. Now i have been used to being offered either beer or vodka but this evening it was red wine or baileys, where was i??!! Baileys it was a wine glass full, then another follwed by a bowl of goat’s yoghurt, not for eating but out came the cottonwool pads and the yoghurt was smeared all over our faces, apparently an organic face cleanser and it really was great, soft as a babies bottom we were. So a tad drunk on baileys and with goats yoghurt on my face i was showed to my ger #5, my own ger, it was beautiful orange furniture and with hand painting and pink wall fabric, there was also a ready lit stove fire so it was toasty, thankfully as out in the countryside and apparently just South of the Russian Siberian border!!! it was more than nippy, it was biting. I very happily got into my bed threw off the 2 thick sheep wool blankets, thinking what am i going to need them for with this Ger heat and fell asleep, a few hours later i awoke freeezzzing grabbing for the thick sheep’s wool blankets as obviously the fire had gone out and i was literally in a bed just South of siberia.

The next morning i was awoken by a lady coming into the Ger to light the fire and pull back the roof cover, although it was early i couldnt possibly have stayed in bed not, not knowing what was outside so i hurried to get dressed, opened the door and was blinded by sunlight and saw we were surrounded by hills and endless land, Mongolia is just endless land.

Morning view

Morning view

Ger Camp

Ger Camp

My own Ger for 2 nights

My own Ger for 2 nights

Later that morning after a walk down to the river before breakfast (everyone was still fast asleep, i was the only excited foreigner) i took a walk up one of the hills and then i was told we were going to have the whole sheep tradtional lunch as it was for the father’s 80th birthday, now ive had this pleasure before but never had i seen the whole process, by which i mean seeing the sheep alive and killed in a very peaceful way by making a small incision in the chest, the herder then put his arm in the live sheep and squeezed/detatched the aorta, this means the sheep dies calmly and doesnt struggle at all, but more remakably there was absolutely no blood spilt. The sheep was then skinned and gutted which was too much for me and i had to leave it there, the next time i saw it it was presented in a big bowl (just the innerds) for an appertiser before lunch. The meat is cooked in a large milk urn with potatoes, carrots and hot stones, which later are juggled between your hands for good health. The lunch was very special as it was for a birthday and we made vodka toasts of course and songs were sung in Mongolian and Swedish. A very special experience.

Now the afternoon was not what i expected, as i said before the Ger camp is owned by Mongolians and a Swede so combine the 2 what do you get? Well a sauna/ger down by the river, it wasnt just sitting there it had to be built and heated so a few hours later i found myself with the ladies heading down to the sauna, me without a swimming costume, i didn’t pack one for Mongolia, why would I? So i had to make do with what i had and into the sauna we went with beers i may add, it was surreal and spectacular and very girly as when 7 women go to the spa, we chated and drank and after a while when we had been in for a while we ran out jumped in the cold river screaming and then back in the ger, 5 times over the course of a few hours followed by washing our hair with the fresh river water, which was more painful than jumping in the river brain freeze!!!!

Building Ger/Sauna stage1

Building Ger/Sauna stage1

Building Ger/Sauna stage2

Building Ger/Sauna stage2

Building Ger/Sauna stage3

Building Ger/Sauna stage3

Functioning Ger/Sauna

Functioning Ger/Sauna

So that was pretty much the weekend, except for dinner later, got a bit drunk, girly chat, learnt alot, got up the next day and left after breakfast, this time in the 4×4, it made all the difference xx

List of things i learnt over the weekend.

-25th September this year falls on the lunar calender annual day for getting married, so 24hour weddings at the wedding palace.

-The river/lake/sea is sacred you must never pee in it, drop blood or milk!!

-Mongolian women do not take their husbands surname.

And a few more pictures of Jalman Meadows

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1st week at work

 

 This blog is actually being posted a after completed my 2nd week at work, but anyhow.

It’s Saturday night and I am pooped, I was longing for this weekend after my 1st week at work, there were no negatives as such, I am positive but many things we were told to expect happened but also generally things so far seem pretty organised, everyone seems to be running around working hard. I spent my 1st day meeting everyone, making notes of everyone’s names on paper so I remember; there are many names and many engineers. I was placed in an office with the marketing/trading team and I met the designers too, thankfully one of them speaks alright English so she has been my saviour as I have had bad luck with my interpreter situation. There were quite a few meeting on the 1st day about the new brochure layout for the season as well as about a trade show in Russia next week and how to layout the stand etc. Back home I would be used to there being a job for each of these decisions but here they are all made by design and marketing, it seems a lot of work for 2 people for also a nice change from designing all day. The following day I met the 2nd director and brother, he showed me to an office next door which had been cleared out for me, it had a big, big desk and leather chair, um pressure!!!! I was then asked what it was I was going to do, PRESSURE, I said that I wanted to understand the structure and workings of the company first which seems a good way to start, he then left and closed the door, which I then opened, just so I can see people walking past while I am alone in my room, this happens a lot, someone shuts the door, then I open it, I don’t want to seem overly important shut away and id prefer to be visible and accessible to the other members of staff, however when the door is shut people are always opening it, sticking their head in to see who’s there and shutting it again, then I open it, again!!!! This was pretty much all I did on Tuesday, open the door as well as write out lists of questions I hope to ask at some point, and of course practise my verb tenses, then all of a sudden in the afternoon, 2 men appeared in the office carrying big boxes, which they proceeded to open and assemble, 2 desks, 2 chairs and 2 sets of draws, all in silence and in record time, I had no idea what was going on but I presumed I was going to be joined by someone. Later I left early with the accountant and the driver and we set off for the guesthouse to collect by luggage, from the South to the North then to the West, with UB traffic this was not a quick procedure plus the van broke down at one point and we had to give it a push start, I do love how these minor problems are accompanied always by laughter and ease.

So I moved into my own little apartment, it is so cute and cosy, it has everything I need and much more, things I never expected such as a hoover/twin tub washing machine/ kettle and iron, wow luxury items. I used the twin tub last night, it is quite easy to work but you have to be there to add/drain/rinse. Spin etc, it takes an evening but I quite enjoyed it, especially the aloneness, after a month of not being alone it was much needed.

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So I have a lovely studio apartment with a balcony, a lot of pattern, a lovely bathroom and a kitchen, it has a lot of character and even a double sofa bed for guests.

After I had moved in I had to rush off to a farewell dinner for the countryside volunteers who were departing the next morning, at our new favourite restaurant, an Indian behind the wrestling palace, the food was superb and it was lovely for us all to be together, we have literally lived in each others pockets for over 3 weeks and gotten to know each other well so it’s a shame we are going to be separated, this of course was followed by Big Chinggis beer at Ij Mongol one of our haunts and then back to my cosy apartment able to sleep at last on my back snoring to my hearts content.

The rest of the week at work I was busy, busy, being shown around the various factories, learning a lot about the different weaving machines, warps wefts, jacquards, it looks very complicated and it was beautiful to see the amount of work that goes into a length of fabric, I hope I will always appreciate this craft and the people that put the hard work in. My favourite by far thought has to be the spinning factory, the machines are monsters and they somehow turn goat and yak hair into yarns, I could watch them all day, who came up wit these machines and discovered you could turn animal hair into yarn? I want to know. I have so much to learn and I’m excited by how much I will know by the time the year is up, the people I work with especially my counterpart the production engineer/manager know everything, however due to the lack of interpreter I cannot get answers to some of my more complicated questions, but I will give it time it is only week one and given the circumstances I think we all did pretty well.

The whole time I have been writing this entry on my bed there have been these 2 flies buzzing around my head, they have the whole apartment to fly around yet they insist on being within cms of my face, that’s it their time is up.

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