Monday, November 9, 2015

A Trip to UB

Last week, Sally’s and my schools were off for fall break. I went to work a couple of days to see what was happening, but it turned out to be mostly a holiday for teachers as well. The only result of me going to work was a conversation with a slightly inebriated teacher in which I may have agreed to coach a hockey team. After some demonstrations of what I would look like on ice, we agreed that I had two years to get better at hockey. Is there even a hockey team in Alabama?
Sally and I enjoyed the much needed R & R after our busy Halloween schedule and spent the week reading, lounging about, exercising, and finishing Parks and Recreation (a rather hilarious show staring Amy Poehler). Toward the end of the week we prepared for a much anticipated trip to Ulaanbaatar (UB for short), the capital city of Mongolia located about 330 km west of us.
Friday morning found us boarding the bus in Chinggis Town for the 6 hour journey. Travel outside of our Aimag is prohibited in the first three months of service. However, we received permission to travel for the purpose of buying winter clothing which is not as easy to find in our small city. The bus ride was uneventful and freezing. It seems the bus we were on did not have heat, so the inside air was not much warmer than the outside zero degrees.

Upon arriving at UB, we headed directly to Narantuul which is the Capital city’s black market. (While it is a little shady and you can find everything, it is in no way illegal.) Narantuul is a Asian style market; a literal maze of venders and shop stands. Aisles are created through shipping containers full of goods. People are everywhere. Cars are parked so close you can barely walk between them. The air is full of smells: carnival like fried food, rotten vegetables, coal smoke.

Deep in the clothing section of the market, Sally and I found some nice winter coats. Haggling the price was insanely easy. For my coat the man started at 80 thousand and then said that because we were friends he would give it to me for 60 thousand. How could I argue a price like that for a winter parka with a fur lined hood? It seemed like roughly 30 dollars was a steal. Sally also found a coat that was more fashionable with that started at 120 thousand. We explained that we only had a 100, and that became the price of the coat. In another stand we found some nice gloves.

After an hour of searching for the exit from Narantuul, we walked to the downtown region of the city where we had booked a room at a Peace Corps friendly hostel. With most of our winter shopping completed, we could look forward to a day of sight-seeing and good food.  

First Mongolian Geocache!!!
The next morning, Sally and I went to the Monastery. It was there that we found our first geocache in Mongolia. The rest of the day, we spent walking all over the city and shopping in some popular markets. We were able to find a bag of Doritos, a large jar of crunchy peanut butter, and a large container of Hidden Valley ranch seasoning.  We also were hugely successful in finding casserole dishes that fit our small oven. I cannot convey to you how much this will change our way of life.  
UB has many amazing places to eat. On one main street is a German Doener place that is incredible. Dinner found us at an Indian restaurant that PCV speak of in reverence. It was the best meal I have had in Mongolia. The spiciness and flavor of the food is making my stomach rumble as I write this.
This is what the inside of this amazing monastery looks like. It does not feel reverent to take pictures, so this is a picture from the internet. 
After a successful weekend of shopping and good food, we returned to our small city in the middle of the steppe. Disembarking from the bus, we relished the quiet sounds of our city where only a few cars go down the roads. While it was nice to visit the teeming metropolis of 1.5 million people, it was better to return home.


1 comment:

  1. Great post Caleb!! I am super excited..and a little jealous..that you got a geocache on the other side of the world! Fun! Glad you two got some warm jackets/gloves. I hope you were able to purchase a few other warm things also. Sally looks beautiful as always. But Caleb..that pose you did in the first photo...well Project Runway has nothing on you!!! Loved it and glad you two had a safe fun trip and ate some good food. Miss you guys!