Saturday, November 8, 2014

Cold Weather and Food



               The ice man cometh or something like that.  It is now officially (for me anyway) cold.  I have broken out the sweatshirts and jackets.  I hear the screams calling for the Guinness Book of World Records, but you aren't the ones here in Mongolia.

High 36 (I don’t think it actually got this high)
Early Afternoon 19
Low 13


               Morning-  -3F and smoke.  You could see a dark blanket laying over the main part of the city and you might think it was raining a bit until you realize you’re in Mongolia.  I was advised not to run outside anymore and save my lungs.

Basically something like this

               Evening- Not much better

   Pre hike 7F
       Post hike 23F

               This off course means that the Cross Country kiddies are now inside running the hallways of the school.  Apparently the rule here is we have to go inside when the temperature drops below freezing, which I certainly agree with.  If only because I really don’t want to run when it’s that cold.  This of course led to an interesting discussion with one of my Mongolian coworkers who thought that it wasn't that cold out and the students should still be running outside to teach them perseverance.  Um maybe that would work if it wasn't me out there running with them.

               On a side note sunset 5:25am and sunrise 7:45am.  Sadly my students have informed me it is only going to get worse with light coming as late as 9am and darkness arriving as early as 4:15pm.  Dang it I really don’t want to teach in the dark, like last year.


               It was another adventurous week in food for me here in the deliciously exotic Ulaanbaatar.  The first item on the list is extremely tasty and delicious.  I’m sure you’ve heard of all lovely non-dairy milk alternatives.  As for the uninformed you have Soy, Almond, Coconut, Rice, Peanut, Hemp and Oat.  Yes you heard me right, Hemp milk, which I’ve never seen before, but I have to think it would sell well in certain areas of the country, cough Colorado, cough Alaska, cough Oregon, and cough Washington.  Now before anyone has a stroke, I didn’t have Hemp milk.

Oat Milk- It does a body good

Got Oats

               All kidding aside oat is milk is actually pretty tasty and only 130 cal per serving.  It has a consistency similar to 1% milk, and is a bit sweeter than regular milk.  It’s not overly sweet though and it goes well with cereal.  The only other thing worth noting is the color which is more of an off white tan.

Chris 0 Mongolian Bacon 1

               At the insistence of certain extended family members I purchased a unique food item during my last grocery shopping trip, Mongolian Bacon.  I don’t know if that’s an actual thing here in Mongolia or not, but the package was in Mongolian so its close enough for me.  At first glance it’s pretty obvious it’s not a particularly lean cut of meat.

               Now the plan was to cook the bacon, sauté the mushrooms in the bacon fat, then boil up some mushroom flavored pasta, before mixing everything together.  Sadly things did not go according to plan, as my bacon ended up looking like this.

               The few pieces that weren't burnt to a crisp tasted alright, but they were still a bit chewy.  I still went ahead with the plan cooking the mushrooms in the bacon fat.  Big mistake, everything ended up tasting like a burnt inedible mess.  So it was another cereal for dinner night.
Cereal so much more than a breakfast food.

Chris 1 Horse 0

               One thing I have learned during my travels in Japan and my short stint here in Mongolia so far is, when in doubt go with the picture on the package.  Since Yak meat is unavailable, I went with what I think is horse meat since it had a picture of a horse on the package.

               I sauteed the meat for 5-6 minutes, braised it for another 40min and then threw it in to cook with the pasta and peppers for another 10min.  In the end it was horse meat and red bell pepper carbonara.  Not the tastiest thing in the world but much better than my experiment with Mongolian bacon.  (Note- it stank up the apartment while I was braising it)  The meat itself is a bit tasteless and a little chewy, but not unpalatable.  I might try it again at a restaurant cooked by someone who actually knows what they are doing.

               Oh and Michael Kumis or Ariag (Fermented Mares Milk) is normally available in the spring and summer so it might be a while till I can get some.  I have also learned through the grapevine that it is either really good, or absolutely disgusting (if it’s watered down).

Electricity hates me

               I have had some issues with electricity in the past, electrical sockets, model trains, electric fences, space heaters, physics experiments, and gel electrophoresis.  However I thought I had put all of that behind me.  Sadly I was mistaken.

               Strike one was setting up one of my extra surge protectors because I only have one plug in one of the rooms.  As you can imagine it did not go well.  Several big sparks and a scorched surge protector later, left me with a blow circuit breaker for my apartment.  Needless to say I had to throw out the two surge protectors I was working with.

               Strike two happened a few days later when I finally set up my air filter, due to the winter smoke starting to build.  It’s now so cold that the gears have started using their stoves for heating.  It’s not bad yet, but you can smell it in the morning.  My trusty air filter that I lugged all the way from the states lasted all of about twenty seconds before popping and smoking.  I tried looking at it, however I doubt it’s worth taking apart as my whole place smells like burning.  On second thought, I might have my Ninth graders take it apart to look at fried circuit boards and such since we start the electricity unit on Monday.

Hiking the Ridge line behind the school

               Since it won’t be too much longer before the weather drops into the negative freeze your but off category, I went hiking out on the ridge line behind the school.  Distance wise the hike wasn't that long but height wise we climbed up pretty far.

8am in Mongolia

The first part of the climb

Solar Powered Ger

The school for reference- The yellow building on the right

No that’s not fog

Rest stop

Presidents House

Snow or Frost

View from 1800m- Yes the smog is getting worse.

A Magpie I think- (or as the Canadians call it a rat with wings)


               This is a Shamanistic or Tengriism shrine found on mountain tops or other high places.  These are used for mountain and or sky worship and may also have some Buddhist symbolism.  Now what you are supposed to do is stop and circle it three times add a rock to the pile and leave an offering of some kind.  Yeah I kinda didn’t do that….. Doh!!!

Mongolian Customs
If you step on some ones foot, you have to shake their hand.