Friday, January 2, 2015

Catching Up


            As I stated in the previous post, I will be getting you caught up on all of the goings on here in Mongolia over the past month.  There wasn't a whole lot, but there were a few interesting things, parties quiz nights, and such.  However, before I begin with all of that lets remember that this is the time of year where you get a number of year in review stories and here is what is coming reports.  I’ll pass on the year in review stories as you can get those back in the states in all of their gory detail.  The only one I’m going to mention is a news report stating that Malaysia airlines may be going the way of the Dodo during the next year.  This of course makes sense given their track record, but what about Asiana Airlines with their recent spate of accidents, several during my trip to Thailand.  Note to self never fly Air Malaysia or Asiana Airlines.

            Now the real reason I am mentioning this is because of the press releases about upcoming anime releases for 2015.  Anyone that knows me, knows of my love of Japanese animation (yes cartoons are not just for kids) and I was excited to hear about a new release for the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha franchise (known to fans as magical girl gundam).  Saying I was bit excited would be an understatement, and I was expecting something great after A’s and Strikers.  Sadly I was mistaken.

What I was expecting

What I would have settled for

What I got

            I’ll reserve final judgment until after it is released but I am not impressed by the trailer.  Just in case you’re wondering why I don’t like, it’s all loli bait and it’s associated… well you get the idea, and the music is terrible.

Moving On

            Alright, time for what everyone has been waiting for, my life in Mongolia from the end of November to the beginning of December.  First off the Ballet as mentioned in the post back in November was interesting for the lack of a better term.

Giselle (Spoilers ahead)

            The dancing was excellent, not that I could tell if it wasn't, and the music was good, ditto again as I’m not a musician.  For the most part I couldn't really tell what the hell was going on.  These two guys, one who I think is a noble, and one commoner, are fighting over a local girl, Giselle I think.  This leads to a big fight between them and upsets the girl because she is at least friendly with them.  Giselle then kills herself with the noble’s sword.  Sometime later they are grieving over her grave when she returns from the dead and dances with one of them, which I think might have saved his life, but I’m not sure.  It unto until after that I’m told, I was supposed to read the summary of the Ballet ahead of time.  I didn't do this because I didn't want any spoilers, cue the Librarian smacking me with the brochure.  The only other highlight was talking to the music teacher during intermission.  I asked him how he liked the Ballet so far, and his response was that the Oboe player was out of tune, and several other instruments were out of whack, and they never seem to get those instruments right.  He is the music teacher so I guess he would know.

            The anime convention I mentioned about presenting at didn't happen because of technical difficulties, which were not on my end.  Can you believe that the internet connection at the hotel in Pittsburgh cannot handle Skype?  That is quite frankly surprising, as I am able to Skype from Mongolia without too much trouble.  The internet is better in Ulaanbaatar than Pittsburgh, the world must be ending or something.

Quiz Night number 2

            Given how much fun the first quiz night was my team decided to have another go, and this time Kelvin brought his wife along.  The bus ride there was more of the same, but not quite as bad since I had a snack beforehand.  It was a smaller turnout this time, but we had just as much fun, although some of the music questions were nigh impossible since they were about Mongolian music.  Here are the ones I can remember at this point.

1- A liquor tasting section.  Um yeah I was worse than useless at that point.

2- What is a Bombay Duck- I took a shot in the dark figuring it was about Bombay India, and the British colonized India?  This led me to think it was some kind of flying fish which do live in the region.  Turns out I was right

3- What is the largest muscle in the body?  The word largest assumes mass, so the correct answer would be the Gluteus Maximus.  Well the answer came back wrong, with the Sartorius, long longest muscle in the body, as the correct answer.  I of course challenged this stating that largest assumes mass hence Gluteus Maximus, thus the reason for my early clarification question before my team shushed me.  For the Sartorius to be correct he needed to make the question say the longest muscle.  The quiz master agreed with me and game my team the points back.

            The debate over the last question led to me making a few new friends with the other expat team made up of teachers and scientists from the Mongolian Medical School and Department of Health.  They are a nice bunch, and I made a new friend.  It did take a little help from my teammates, ok it was more like a 2x4 to the head, but I’m not complaining.  The food was pretty good, and we did win the trophy, but I don’t consider that to be all that important.

The food

French Fries with cheese and bacon

Cheese Burger and Fries

Ice cream

The Trophy

The Important part

            The important part from quiz night was making a connection with another expat, and going hiking with her the following weekend.  It was a bit nippy and I had been to that park before but a good time was had by all.

You can see why people want to get out of the city

This was before he came over to us looking for food

Me in the snowy forest

Mongolian gym????

Thanksgiving in Mongolia

            Being a member of the Social Committee, I assisted in the Thanksgiving celebration that we held in the school cafeteria.  While the event was mainly for the expats, (I know Americans and Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving, but I’m not sure about the rest), we took the step of inviting the Mongolian staff.  Each person had to volunteer to bring a dish of some sort or some kind of drink.  I was in an over achieving mode and brought the following.

Mushroom Ragu

            Everyone told me it was quite tasty, and was better than it looked.

Chocolate Chip Cookies and Peanut Butter Cookies

            The problem I ran into here was that my oven kept burning the cookies.  It was later that I realized that the temperature on the oven 300, was in Celsius and not Fahrenheit so I wasn’t baking at 300 F, but 572 F.  No wonder I kept burning them, and I’m supposed to be the science teacher.  Now I also brought the remains of the bottle of wine I used for the ragu.

            There were a number of tasty dishes at the event, and no one went home hungry.

Turkey                                                                Leg of Lamb
Macaroni Salad                                                  Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Potatoes                                                   Fruit
Pasta Salad                                                         Scalloped Potatoes
Some kind of Broccoli Salad                             Some other Broccoli dish
Butz- Chinese meat bun                                     Khuushur- Mongolian meat bun
Some kind of Coleslaw                                      Brownies
Mushroom Ragu                                                Cookies
Lots of Wine

            Being a member of the social committee I took the initiative and sat with the Mongolian staff and while I did need a fair bit of translation a good time was had by all.  They were surprised by the array of food and enjoyed a good portion of it.  In turn I surprised them with my love of meat buns.  This seems be a constant source of interest for them, particularly when I tell them that as long as it tastes good, it’s all good.  Famous last words that will most likely bite me in the ass one day, but it’s served me well so far. Now let it be said I’ve only been exposed to a small sampling of Mongolian cuisine, Butz, Khuushur, and Khor khog (not sure I spelled that right). My explanation for this comes from my experience with my fellow teachers, who range from ambivalence to dislike of Mongolian cuisine.  There is also the one book I read about Mongolia, Wild East, by Jill Lawless, 2000.  Mrs. Lawless clearly enjoyed her stay and travels in Mongolia, but was not a fan of the food, and she quite clear about her dislike.  Personally I think they are wrong and I have enjoyed the food I have had in Mongolia and look forward to trying some more, just don’t ask me to cook it.  FYI I do benefit from my coworkers dislike of food in Mongolia.  Kelvin, who is a major foodie since he is always talking about it comes into my room at the beginning of third period, complaining about a croissant he bought at the grocery store.  The reason it has chocolate in it, this confuses me since he loves chocolate, but not in pastries, who doesn’t like a good pons chocolate.  Either way I got a nice little snack and a declaration that if he buys anything he doesn’t like he is giving it to me.  Woohoo free food.

If you can’t figure it out that’s me on the left and Kelvin on the right.

            Before I jump to the Christmas party there are some other little tidbits to cover.  The big one is the field trip I took my students on to a local Wind Power Generation Station.  The Salkhit wind farm is located on Salkhit Uul (windy mountain) 75 km from Ulaanbaatar.  Now this little trip was not my stroke of genius, but Joanne the Physics teacher.  She was already taking her class to it and asked if my 9th grade class wanted to come along.  Now my 9th grade class was finishing up a unit on electricity and had just covered power plants, I would be a fool to say no.  After several bouts of poor communication on all sides 9 of my 14 students came along which I felt was a pretty good turnout.  It took a bit of time to get to the general area and after a few turn U turns we were on our way again.  Now we weren't completely lost since we could actually see it, we just couldn't figure out how to get there.

            You would think there would be a road to power station right.  Wrong very wrong, the next thing I know we are bouncing across a dirt road through the countryside. 

            A few more U turns later and we finally arrive at the power station.  Dang these are much bigger in person.  The turbines are a pretty impressive sight, but the cold that day was also very impressive, -35 F with the wind chill.  Due to the cold it was certainly understandable that my students were not completely focused on the station, and I can’t really say that I blame them.  After mulling around at the turbines for a bit we managed to find the main station, which is more difficult that you would think.  Once there we got a brief presentation and a chance to get warm.  The presentation was in Mongolian, so yeah I couldn’t get the full scope of the project, but there were a few bits in English.  The main gist of it is that the Mongolian government wants 25% of their energy to be renewable by 202 and this is a big part of it.  Trust me the air in Uluunbaatar could use it.

Salkhit Wind Farm

Opened in June 2013
First in Mongolia
Produce- 49.6 Megawatts
Number of Turbines- 31
Cost- 122 Million USD
Distance from Ulaanbaatar- 75km
Coal Savings- 122 thousand tons
Fresh Water savings- 1.6 Million tons
The Turbines are made by GE and had to be trucked in from China, which took 6 weeks for each one.

Promotional Video

Longer documentary if you’re interested


I’m not entirely sure but I think that’s Ulaanbaatar in the distance