Thursday, June 9, 2016

You leave town for a couple of years and they change everything

After my long day (about 48 hours) of travel yesterday, I made my first foray into Ulaanbaatar, which I haven't seen in almost two years.  

I got on the bus, all savvy and ready to hand the proper change to the conductor, as Mongolians do.  Or did.  Instead, I found there was no cash-collecting conductor at all.  Instead, these smart little boxes were posted beside every door.  No one cared to explain to me how to pay to these little robots, nor did they insist I get off if I didn't have a 'Smart Card', probably because they assumed I wouldn't understand a word of it all.  I did eventually get a smart card, though.  For 500 MNT (.25 USD) you can ride to any point in the city, transfers included!  Compare this to the lovely Provo buses, which charge exactly 10 times that amount.  Buses in Ulaanbaatar are also faster and more plentiful.

Throughout the day, I noticed little changes here and there.  This building near the mission office went out of business while I was in Mongolia.  I had never even gone in, but it seemed a little sad to see the place in such a state of disrepair.
Some of the changes were quite welcome.  Look at this amazing double KFC-Pizza Hut!  For the most part, I'd say the changes were ambivalent or good.  The bus card readers do make things easier, even though it threw me for a loop.

But so many things don't change.  I walked up to this nearby bus station and I was struck by how familiar it was.  It reminded me of people I had met there and the places I went so often.
Side note, for those of you who don't think this looks like a bus station, the actual stations are hidden from the picture, I'm referring to the area by the bus station name, as Mongolians sometimes do.  I admit I didn't consider that discrepancy when I took the picture.

A plate of tsuivan is still tsuivan, oily, savory and delicious as ever.

I randomly encountered a dozen people today that I knew from my mission.  They all asked, "When did you get here," and I always said, "Yesterday," we chatted and that was it.  I had thought I would be surprised to see the city again after so long, but aside for encountering the odd difference, I really wasn't.  The strangest thing about being back is how strange it isn't.

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