Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The Road to Darkhan

We arrived in Darkhan yesterday, on Tuesday afternoon. Our route took us through UB (Ulaanbaator, the Capitol city), so we got a chance to see it in the daylight. UB is quite large with a population of about 1.4 million. Walking and driving seem to be equally popular modes of transportation. Most of the city-goers we passed were wearing clothing that any of us would wear - jeans, t-shirts, dresses, slacks, suits, etc. There were only a few Mongolians dressed in the traditional dress, which I will describe at another time when I know more about it.

The road to Darkhan was bumpy but relatively flat. We saw beautiful mountains and wide open grasslands cut to the perfect length courtesy of the cows, horses, sheep, and goats. We learned that goats and sheep generally hang together, so their herds were always fully integrated. Apparently, if a mother sheep dies, a goat will adopt the lambs, and vice versa. We also saw several men riding horses, either herding or just riding somewhere. One of these men, I saw, was texting while horseback riding. Oh, the dangers of technology!

We stopped about halfway to Darkhan for lunch, which was a Mongolian version of enchiladas. Up until this point, my stomach had not been reacting well to any food. The day before we left for Darkhan, I only had eaten some rice, a small salad, and a piece of bread. I was feeling nausea anytime I even thought of food. Yesterday, however, I was able to eat a bit of the enchiladas without feeling sick, and I've been feeling much better since then.

During this stop, I also had the opportunity to use a squat toilet for the first time. It actually flushed and wasn't just a hole in the floor. It wasn't bad. It actually felt quite natural! I'm sure that this was one of the nicer squat toilets out there. I'll keep everyone updated.

The second half of the trip had two sections of road with construction work. These were marked by large piles of dirt going across the road. The detour went off road, up a  huge hill will uneven terrain. It was quite bumpy for our buses. Many laughed. Some feared for their lives.

After about 5 hours on the bus, we arrived at our hotel. We went on a walking tour of Darkhan, which is the second largest city in Mongolia at a population of about 100,000. We ate out in small groups, and Caleb and I ended up with a group at a very fancy hotel restaurant that had menus in English and "western" food. We split a chicken quesidilla.  I can already tell that I will miss chicken and other fowl as a regular food item. There is beef, mutton, and unidentified darkish brown meat everywhere, but chicken, I think, will be rare.

Here's a Mongolian word I learned yesterday. When I share Mongolian words, I won't write it in cyrillic, but I'll try to write how it sounds using the English alphabet. It is "dza." This means "okay" and is often used as a filler in conversation as we use "uh" or "okay."

Sorry about the lack of pictures. I'm posting from my phone. I don't know when I'll be able to post with pictures again. I am somewhat limited. Until later!


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