Monday, February 17, 2014

Colder, if that's possible

It was a lot colder her this week than last, but we survived.  The -45°F wind chills aren't great. They say it will get warmer soon....

It was transfer week, but my companion and I stayed the same.  That's good because we have a nice area and work well together.  I'm still zone leader, and another zone leader is now also in the area.  He's Mongolian, from the first group of missionaries I trained.  

My brother is doing a report on Mongolia in school, so he asked me to tell him about life in the city.  Here are some tidbits:

Ulaanbaatar has about 1,000,000 inhabitants. The center of the city is Sukhbaatar Square (now Chinggis Khaan square), an old communist-style public square with a big memorial to Chinggis Khaan. (It looks like the 
Lincoln memorial but bigger and with Chinggis Khaan instead of Abe.) The center of the town has lots of big buildings and malls and stores, and many hundreds of thousands of people lives in appartments in the city. Surrounding the city are miles and miles of Ger Horoolols where people live in smaller houses and also traditional Ger (yurt) dwellings. These Ger Horoolols have unpaved roads and simple fences. Lots of people live in these places, and in the far reaches of them some people build pretty nice houses even. 
Around the city and to major points in the Ger Horoolol you can take busses. A ticket is 500 tugriks, about 35 cents. 

In the Ger Horoolols and outer parts of the big city you can also ride a Miker, which is a big 12-person van that sits 20 and will give you a ride for 500 or 600 tugriks. The miker drivers pull up at the busstop and just shout their stops out loud and wait for people to get on, then go. You can also take a taxi; hold out your hand on the side of the road and anyone who wants money can give you a ride. The price is 800 tugriks for a kilometer--so less than a dollar a mile.

Mongolia likes corner stores, just small local foods stores that sell bread, milk, eggs, candy, ice cream, all kinds of things. You just walk down the street to the corner store and can get plenty of stuff, also meat and potatoes to make your food. People that live in the middle of the city tend to be more Westernized, the ger horoolols are sometimes more traditional, but traditional Mongolian culture remains the most in the khuduu or countryside. 
Half of the stores in the city have their names and signs in English; it's funny. Mongolians have started to like Western food, and you can find Western pizza and KFC in the city. But they still prefer Mongolian food; most homes eat potato and meat soup for food most nights, even in the city, really. They also still like Mongolian traditional dairy products, made from various stages of curdled milk. You can even get butter-flavored ice cream here.

It's really smoggy here, and we wear masks some days. Other days it clears up, though, but only when it gets really cold or snows!  There aren't very many foreigners at all here. There are more in the summer, but in the winter you only see a few who are teachers or mining executives. 

I teach right next to the biggest school, MUIS - Mongol Ulsiin Ikh Surguul, Mongolian National University. It is a school with a lot of students. In Mongolian you don't say acronyms letter by letter, you pronounce it like it looks, so MUIS is said like "moise."

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