The First Hurdle…… Continued

We still do not know if we can stay or not.  We exhausted all our ideas on Friday, leaving us feeling depleted.  Still cannot believe that seven year’s work has come to this!

We went to the school Friday afternoon and Tim told the manager that we cannot afford to pay the $6000 (actually the charge was $5, 700) so we must leave the country.  I was no help at all and spent the meeting holding back (unsuccessfully) tears of frustration and sadness that we gave everything up back home to spend two weeks in the capital of Mongolia.

The manager said she would talk to her boss to see if anything can be done and would call us Saturday.  We received no phone call yesterday so we are still in limbo but things do not look hopeful.

I felt better yesterday after a good night’s sleep.  On Friday I felt I was grieving for what could have been but now I think it is not the end of the world.  All our planning was not for nothing as we can transfer our skills to another project.  Tim is feeling numb and cannot really think far ahead; he is waiting for this to play out before making any decisions.

After a few beers Friday night we got as far as talking about and looking at maps on riding from Scotland to the south of England and then catching a ferry to France and riding there – nothing serious just an idea!

I have had one more idea this morning and that is to leave Mongolia in June, go to China, apply for a Mongolian tourist visa (30 days) and apply for an extension of 60 days; giving us 90 days in total.  I do not know if this is even possible so have emailed some companies in UB that might be able to help.

I guess the school will call us Monday.

It is now 8:30am and there is lots of snow on the ground and it is snowing heavily.  Tim is still sleeping (of course!).  He has discovered the MMA channel on the TV so stays up late watching it – see Anna we are still training, kind of.

This week we moved into a new apartment.  The price was good ($560 all in/month) and it is clean, warm and in a safe area.

We had to pay three months rent up front but the landlord said if we leave earlier than planned he will refund us so no stress there.  The landlord works at UB Guesthouse and is trustworthy and helpful.

Pictures to follow.

On a positive note, well done to my sister Andrea for getting one of her photos published in This is Derbyshireshire

http://www.thisisderbyshire.co.uk/Monochrome-beauty-captured-backdrop-winter-sky/story-18460219-detail/story.html#axzz2OP7JjoqK

Also, congratulations to my friend Kerry who is close to getting her children’s books published.

Finally, a big WELL DONE to all the Active Krav Maga guys who passed the last grading.  We were thinking of you all!

First Hurdle – Will We Fall?

Tim and I received some unwanted news yesterday.

The school we are studying at have registered us to stay in Mongolia until 1st June.  This means that we have to leave the country by this date.  We expressed our annoyance and disappointment at this to be told “Don’t worry. We can extend your visa.”

OK, we thought and asked “How much to do this?”

The reply? “$6000!”

We are feeling dejected right now but we are exploring all our options.  We have talked about cancelling the rest of our lessons and heading off to China/Thailand for a rethink.

I hate feeling trapped and being bullied into things and Tim is not one for being bullied!  We felt yesterday like the school controlled our future but after talking last night we both agree we control it and if we have to let go of this long ride, then so be it but we do not have to let go of doing a long ride somewhere else, some other time.

We have a 10am meeting this morning with two trusted Mongolians to see what our options are, if any.  Thank goodness we have not yet flown our saddles etc out.

Photos – Various

The Police control traffic flow at peak times.  This guy (tiny dot in a florescent jacket) is one of the lucky ones as he has a stand.  Normally they just wonder around with the traffic.  The majority of drivers take no notice whatsoever.Image

Sam & Odnoo.  This was on our way back from registering with Immigration. The office is situated  just outside of Ulaanbaatar. The white arch in the background, on the left is the city gate.

Don’t worry, I have not ballooned to twice my normal size. My PHD down jacket keeps me toasty warm but does nothing for my figure. Image

This is the front of Prime Bridge School where we are learning Mongolian.Image

The view from our bedroom.  The pink building opposite is School Number 5.Image

One regularly sees piles of old snow heaped up.  It is very dirty and I hate to think how wet it is going to be when it melts.

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One also sees large heaps of ice about the city. Image

Below are the bed covers we have.  Not great at -20.  Could be worse, our teacher Odnoo lives in a Ger and after an hour & a half bus ride home she has to light the fire for warmth.  She has an outside toilet and a shared shower.  Imagine trying to camp in -40 & hold down a full time office job?

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The Guesthouse entrance is the blue door. Lotus Guesthouse is in a good, family area.  The old Soviet buildings get battered by the severe weather.Image

Surviving Week One in Outer Mongolia

Well, we have been in Ulaanbaatar (UB) just over a week and I would say we are almost up to speed with how things are done in the city.  Here are some of our discoveries.

1) Crossing Roads

Crossing the road in UB is pretty dangerous.  There are pelican crossings and green lights for pedestrians but, and here’s the catch, very few people take any notice of them.  Some drivers speed up when nearing people crossing,  some beep and/or flash you to notify you of your imminent death if you don’t move and others just drive like a bat out of hell the entire time.  When a rare but helpful driver stops to let one cross, often the driver behind swerves out and carries on along the road.

2) Food

The local food is meat pancake, meat dumpling, meat soup, meat noodles, meat noodle soup…… you get the picture.  In preparation for the countryside, where non meat eaters are met with “Really!  If I don’t eat meat every day I will die”, I decided to try some Buuz; a mutton filled dumpling ooozing mutton flavored grease.  Having not eaten meat for around seven years, I found this vile!  I managed to eat one & a half and then squeezed the mutton out of the remaining two & a half and ate the dumpling casing.

We have eaten Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian, Western  (a cheese roll), Korean and even at two vegan restaurants.  It is quite expensive to eat out so tomorrow we are heading off to a local market to buy supplies to cook with.

Mongolian lesson number four taught us foods.  Tim discovered the meat dumplings he’d been enjoying were camel dumplings.

3) The Weather

The temperature is very changeable during March & April.  We have had highs of 10°C and lows of -15°C, excluding windchill.  The nights are often super cold going down to -20°C at some points.  Our room is cold as although we have heating in it it is part of the central, central heating system.  The city heating has been turned down recently and will apparently get turned off in May – can’t wait!  The other thing with our room is that we have five very light sheets to cover us, thankfully we brought our down sleeping bags so we’re using these as a duvet.

For those of you, like me until now, who have never experienced weather this cold, let me try and give you an idea of how it feels.  When around -10°C downwards any moisture in ones nostril freezes and the spit (of which there is loads) on the pavement freezes.  This morning I went out with wet hair & it froze within two minuets.  I commented to Tim that it might snap off & he made me put my coat hood up.

Sounds horrible but although it does get very cold, the skies are clear blue and the air is dry and we even had snow yesterday.

4) Yoga and a Hangover

Hangover + Hatha Yoga = A bad idea.

Tim & I celebrated completing our first week of Mongolian language lessons at the Grand Khan Irish Pub and then had to get up for a 2 & a half hour yoga lesson starting at 10am this morning.

One move was designed to purify the blood.  I found it bloody painful; needless to say my blood was teaming with Chinggis beer.  I didn’t mention this to the teacher.  Tim got manipulated into a correct position and blew a Chakra.

The lesson was tough, but fun with meditation at the end.  When asked to find one’s inner being I saw a curled up wretch sobbing with shame.

5) Finding an Apartment

Add $200 – $400 to the actual rent and you have the foreigner’s price per month for an apartment.  We have viewed three apartments so far, nothing suitable found yet.  We are off to view one tomorrow and have a couple of leads in the pipeline.  The decor has been varied.  One was modern Mongolian, one old school soviet and the last was nice but reminiscent of the late 70’s early 80’s decor in the UK – remembered by those of us old enough!

6) Learning a New Language

Wow! What a steep learning curve this week has been.  We started at school on Monday and will have lessons five days a week for three hours plus homework for the next three months.  The class consists of me and Tim.  We have two teachers; Odnoo and Alta, both female and really good teachers.  Odnoo is quite serious but lovely and Alta is wacky!

The language is tough; not surprising when you consider it is full of vowel harmony and makes extensive use of agglutinated affixes.  Don’t worry, I have no idea what I have just written either.

We met another English lady at the school called Nikki who is also learning Mongolian as her boyfriend is Mongolian.  Nikki is a linguist, speaking French, Spanish and Mandarin.   Nikki has not been back to the UK for four years as she has been living in China and studying in Taiwan.  We went for a meal together on Thursday and she is interesting and good fun.

We were chatting about Mongolians and their nature and Nikki recollected a story about an American friend who, having just arrived in UB in mid winter (temperatures often get down to -30°C and -40°C during the day), found a new born puppy.  It was shivering badly so the American picked it up, wrapped it in her coat while she decided what to do next.  She wondered around the city for a while looking for a vet’s or an animal rescue center.  Finding none, she approached a Policeman to ask his advice.  They had a confused conversation of sorts about the puppy, with the Policeman  gesturing to her to just put the dog down.  The American expressed her fears of what will happen if she pops the puppy down and the conversation ended in him saying, in perfect English “Don’t worry.  It will die.”

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The city has changed in many ways since we visited in 2006.  There are more shops, people are richer and there are loads more cars.  Last November a law was put in place to help traffic management.   One day a week people can’t use their car to cut back on traffic.  Each person has a different day they cannot drive on.  To get round this, people buy a second car.

Tim & I have felt homesick this week and to combat this we listened to The Archers Omnibus.  I had a bad day on Thursday – there were tears, but the day ended well; we went for a meal with Nikki and CuChullaine (The Long Rider’s Guild Co Founder) asked us to undertake a research project to understand how prolific Laminitis/Founder is in Mongolian horses.  We are both really excited about this opportunity and being able to provide helpful information to The Long Rider’s Guild.

To end this entry I will share with you an item that can be purchased in our local mini mart.  A lime green, toweling Korean toilet seat warmer. The packaging advertises the fact it will keep you warm, but ask yourself “Will it keep you dry?”

Ulaanbaatar

Out and about in UB.

Sükhbaatar Square.  The building below was being constructed when we where here in 2006.  It is named after a Mongolian hero;  Damdin Sukhbaatar who was one of the leaders of the 1921 revolution.  Sukh means Axe & Baatar means Hero.  The building shown is very impressive and is Government House.  The statue in the middle is of Chinggis Khan.

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This is of a river (still frozen in part) on the way to our school – our first Mongolian lesson will start tomorrow (Monday) at 14:40 for three hours.

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The massive red building in the background is the Sky Shopping Mall.  Not been yet but it is near school.  I am curious about what is in the yellow Ger.

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Sukhbaatar Square.  Mongolian is know as the land of the blue skies and this photo doesn’t do anything to dispel that.  It is quite warm on this day too – 3 degrees.

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The Top Gear Adventure – Sam and Tim’s Version

We nearly did not make it to the airport in the Polo.  We got most of the way down the M4 towards Heathrow before we heard a loud clunk as if something was caught up underneath the car.

I checked the wing mirror and saw a large metal thing bouncing away from underneath the Polo across the lanes of the motorway.  I asked Tim if he had seen anything ahead of him to which he answered “No” leading us to conclude that the metal ‘thing’ came off the car. Ooops.  At this point we felt like we were taking part in a Top Gear challenge except there was no rubbish car to switch to in the event our cheap buy fail.

We carried on driving towards Heathrow with no black smoke and no warning lights.  We both assumed we had escaped any major damage.  Pulled in to refuel and the Polo would not restart.  Ah.  The battery warning light was red and we had to push the car (I say “we” I mean Tim) and attempt to bump start it.  This worked on the third attempt & we were back on our way to Heathrow.

We decided against a stop at a saddlery to buy me the riding gloves I had forgotten and went straight to the Crowne Plaza, Heathrow where we had booked one night’s stay.  Made it OK and Tim parked in the car park with the engine running while I checked in.  The guy who was coming to collect the car for scrap didn’t turn up – who can blame him?!  Tim rang round & managed to find a scrap yard nearby and set off to get rid of the Polo.

Tim broke down 5 minutes up the road and thankfully still had his AA membership so waited an hour in the car in the lovely cold weather for them to restart the car & set him on his way to the scrap yard.

All worked out well in the end and as the previous entry shows we have made it back to Outer Mongolia.  Much has changed since our last visit here in 2006. There are veggie restaurants for a start, which is where we had our first meal. Nice for me (had a lovely meal of seitan and mashed potato; really I enjoyed it), not so good for Tim so agreed to take turns in choosing where we eat.

Lotus Guesthouse is clean, warmish (our room is chilly but we have down sleeping bags to use as extra covers).  The bathroom has two loos & two showers and is a mixed bathroom.  The showers are super fancy with all sorts of different jets (none of which work) and an inbuilt entertainment system (a radio that doesn’t work).  The toilets are unusual in that they are so far forward you cannot sit on them normally and shut the door.  One has to turn sideways.

Pictures to follow of the guesthouse once Tim wakes up & helps me.  It is 15:15 here and he is still sleeping.

We have found out there is a place one can go to drive a tank, shoot a few rounds from an AK47 and fire rockets.  Prices are reasonable and it sounds fun.  It isn’t open until May so will keep you posted.

Photo of Sam practising her horse riding technique.

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Touchdown

Well, we finally landed in Ulaanbaatar after a million hours on board various Turkish Airlines torture wagons.  UB is just as sunny as we remember it and ironically, probably slightly warmer than UK right now at at a crisp 0 degrees Celsius.  We have checked into Lotus Guesthouse and right now we’re enjoying an intriguingly blue (?) glass of lemonade.  Next stop is some much needed sleep.

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