Community of Democracies and Gandantegchinlen Monastery

The Seventh Ministerial meeting of the Community of Democracies took place during the weekend of April 27-29 in Ulaanbaatar. The biennial meeting is the world’s premier global gathering devoted to strengthening democracy and civil society. Representatives from approximately 110 countries including heads of government, foreign ministers, parliamentarians, civil society leaders, and Nobel laureates Aung San Suu Kyi and Tawakkol Karman were present.

All over the city painting, fixing and cleaning took place in the lead up to the big event. School children were out in force picking up litter. We were told this happens every year and was not connected to the meeting – just a coincidence. Hmmmmmmm.

At key road crossings around Sükhbaatar Square there were between 7 – 8 policemen and ‘helpers’ to get pedestrians across the road. Away from the Square and the Parliament building there were no ‘helpers’.

The ‘helpers’ were teenagers who either had very little authority and desire to help anyone cross the road or took their position extremely seriously and when we crossed without their help (as we regularally did) they shouted at us!

We strolled up to the Gandan Monastery last Sunday. We went into one of the buildings where Tim and I spun every prayer wheel we saw; there were over 40 and asked for our luck to turn.

The Gandantegchinlen Monastery is a Tibetan-style monastery in the capital that has been restored since 1990. The Tibetan name translates to the “Great Place of Complete Joy.” It currently has over 150 monks in residence. It features a 26.5-meter-high statue of Migjid Janraisig, a Buddhist bodhisattva also known as Avalokitesvara. It came under state protection in 1994.

The Mongolian spring has brought warmer weather and temperatures have been in the twenties for the last few days. Unfortunately the central, central heating is not turned off by the city until the 14th May so we have to open all windows and the balcony door to stop ourselves melting.

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