MNMongolia

Mongolia

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MongoliaMongolia

Over Before It Starts

Bayan Ulgii is Mongolia's western-most province, set in the Altai mountains where Mongolia, China, and Russia converge. It is also the only province where Mongolians are not the majority: About 90 percent of the population is ethnically Kazakh. The Islamic Kazakh community has a higher birthrate than their Mongolian neighbors, ... read more

Andrew Cullen

MongoliaMongolia

I'll miss you, winter- but no one else will

  The days are short, the nights long. The river freezes and the land turns monochrome, rust brown and gray on the steppes and frozen blues in the mountains. The view from our apartment is an expressionist palette of muted colors and uncertain shapes through the quarter inch of ice ... read more

Andrew Cullen

MongoliaMongolia

I've Never Been More Afraid of Pigs

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Lindsay Myron

MongoliaMongolia

I Was There, but Don't Ask Me What It Looked Like

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Lindsay Myron

MongoliaMongolia

And Paula Would Say: Keep Practicing

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Lindsay Myron

MongoliaMongolia

The Mother Tree, Coconut Cookies and Not Santa Claus

My last day roaming Selenge province went a little like this: Duul, Boloroo and I were navigating the snow covered roads in search for Tumenjargal’s home, a farmer just outside of Shaamar.  Scratching the frost crystals from the inside of our car window all I could see was blinding white ... read more

Lindsay Myron

MongoliaMongolia

Swine Flu Changes Everything

November marks my last month with SIT in Mongolia and this month is devoted almost entirely to conducting free-roaming research on a topic of choice.  I was planning on traveling north to speak with vegetable farmers in Selenge province for a week.  I had hired my translator, mapped out my ... read more

Lindsay Myron

MongoliaMongolia

Knitting Factory - Ulaanbaatar

Across the steppes of Mongolia graze the bearers of one of the cuddliest fibers known to man: cashmere.  As Mongolia is the second largest producer of cashmere, second to China, the UB streets are stocked with the softest scarves, sweaters, shawls and socks.  I recently took a tour of the ... read more

Lindsay Myron

MongoliaMongolia

A Day at the Horse Branding

Five hundred meters from my ger in Khentii aimag lived Tsogzolmaa, a five-foot stalky Mongolian woman sans a few teeth.  She had invited me in for milk tea and baaw (or sweet biscuits) and I happily obliged.  I sat down on her elaborately decorated bed situated next to a five-foot ... read more

Lindsay Myron

MongoliaMongolia

Knives are for Cutting, Meat is for Eating

You can find some talented omnivores in the Mongolian countryside.  The meat from a goat can feed a family for a week or two and all parts are made into some pretty delicious meals.  One meal that I’m particularly fond of is the boiled bones.  For this dish, boiled meat ... read more

Lindsay Myron

MongoliaMongolia

Building a Home Before Sunset

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Lindsay Myron

MongoliaMongolia

Nomads Give New Meaning to the Cuckoo Clock

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Lindsay Myron

MongoliaMongolia

Fermented Mare's Milk? Top Seven Things I Just Can't Get Used To

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Lindsay Myron

MongoliaMongolia

Boots with the Fur at the Mongol Rummage Sale

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Lindsay Myron

MongoliaMongolia

Playing Footsie, Killing the Clutch and Home in Time for Buudz?

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Lindsay Myron

MongoliaMongolia

Greetings From Mongolia

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Mark Ayling

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Books

For Post-Soviet Mongolian Politics, Turn To...

Andrew Cullen

25 Jun 2010

Mongolia

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Andrew Cullen

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It's not a thrilling read, but Morris Rossabi's Modern Mongolia: From Khans to Commissars to Capitalists is the most complete description of post-Soviet Mongolian politics, economics, and development. To get a policy-side look at the hopes, dreams, and disappointments of Mongolia's first fifteen years of democracy, there's no better book.

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Getting Around

I'll meet you between Russia and China for disco

Lindsay Myron

25 Sep 2009

Mongolia

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Lindsay Myron

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In Mongolia, street names are obsolete. In fact there are no street addresses and the mailing system in UB runs entirely through P.O. Boxes. To get around, Mongolians give directions by proximity: next to the British Embassy, across from Sukhbataar Square, or near the Ulaanbataar Hotel. So if you’re in the city and decide to grab a taxi to the Red Falcon Disco Bar you’ll need to know enough Mongolian to name a landmark near your intended dance hall, or else you’ll be dancing out directions to your driver. If you want to get around like a local, learn the city’s landmarks and try to keep the charades to a minimum.

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Festivals & Events

Nadaam Festival -- get pumped for some archery, horce racing, and wrestling

Lindsay Myron

13 Oct 2009

Mongolia

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Lindsay Myron

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Nadaam is an annual festival held all over Mongolia in mid-July. The celebration is said to have existed for centuries, but it now officially commemorates Mongolia's revolution in 1921. If you attend, you'll see young men competing in three sporting contests: archery, horse racing, and wrestling. The biggest celebration is held in the Ulaanbaatar from July 11-13, but there are smaller festivals held in all regions of the countryside at various times through the month.

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Culture Shock

Meet me in the hours of the mouse

Andrew Cullen

25 Jun 2010

Mongolia

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Andrew Cullen

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Before Mongolia was introduced to the clock, people told time by the movement of the sun, and broke the day into 12 roughly 2 hour chunks, which had names that correspond with the Chinese animal year cycle. So, a meeting in the hour of the mouse could take place anytime between, say, lunch and late afternoon. Although Mongolia now uses a 24 hour day like the rest of the world, the ambiguity of the old time system remains, and time and punctuation is flexible. Especially for events like concerts, "on time" is an hour or so after the advertised time. Other time words have alternate meanings: "margaash" (tomorrow) often means "probably never, and, perhaps most frustratingly, "odoo" (now) means "anytime between this very minute and tomorrow."

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Must Do

Can't-miss Monastery

Andrew Cullen

25 Jun 2010

Mongolia

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Andrew Cullen

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Amarbysgalant Khiid, one of Mongolia's three most important monasteries, is set in a secluded river valley in between Darkhan and Erdenet cities. More so than the other major monasteries (Gandan in Ulaanbaatar and Erdene Zuu in Kharkhorin), Amarbysgalant is full of an engaging energy, and a friendly community of monks. The monastery's architecture is gorgeous, and the beautiful surroundings certainly help. Grab a car from one of the nearby cities, spend a few hours wandering through the monastery, then hike through the valley towards the white stupas (Buddhist monuments) on the far side of the river. Try camping on the ridge above the stupas on a moonlit night without being awestruck by the beauty of the place.

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Contest

Ankle Bone Games

Andrew Cullen

28 Jun 2010

Mongolia

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Andrew Cullen

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Mongolia's version of board games is "shagai"- sheep ankle bones. There are dozens of games that can be played with the bones, which have 4 distinct sides: sheep, goat, horse, and camel. The most addictive game is a combination of dice and marbles. Playing with 20 bones or more, one player rolls the bones out on the floor. Then, you use your finger to flick a bone towards another resting with the same side face up. If you hit it, you pick up one bone to keep, if you miss, or hit another bone that doesn't match, your turn is over and the next player rolls. At the end of each round, the player who picked up the last bones takes a few from each player to start the rolling anew, keeping their own. Watch out- Mongolians are shagai sharpshooters.

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Etiquette

Give your seat to grandma

Lindsay Myron

13 Oct 2009

Mongolia

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Lindsay Myron

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If you're riding the UB bus system, at times you may feel like a sardine in a can. If you're lucky you can grab a seat and ride the rest of your way in comfort. But as is encouraged in the United States, if there's an elderly person standing, whether you just sat down or not, be sure to offer your seat to him or her.

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Food

Stone Soup

Andrew Cullen

26 Jun 2010

Mongolia

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Andrew Cullen

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Horhog, Mongolia's summer picnic delicacy of choice, is no fairy tale. Fire-heated rocks are placed in a metal barrel with the meat of a freshly killed sheep or goat, whole potatoes, and carrots, then placed on the embers to cook. When it's ready to eat, Mongolians remove the stones and pass the piping hot rocks from one hand to the other, which they claim is good for health. After that, the meat and vegetables goes in a large bowl and everyone dives in to share the tender meat and salty broth it was cooked in- a real stone soup worth trying.

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Film

"Half Blood Prince" is your new holiday flick

Lindsay Myron

23 Nov 2009

Mongolia

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Lindsay Myron

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Missed the latest blockbuster in the States? No worries! You can probably catch it in Mongolia a few months later. There are several great theaters in Ulaanbaatar that screen Mongolian, Hollywood, and a few beloved Korean films. The multiplex Tengis Cinema next to Liberty Square is a comfortable theater to watch the latest Mongolian film or catch up on missed American flicks (in English!). You can get an assigned seat for 2500 tugrug, but if it's a hit film it's a good idea to get your ticket early. If the screen time doesn’t fit your schedule, you can also check out Urgoo Cinema in the fourth district; it usually screens similar films at alternate times.

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Packing

Don't leave home without tp!

Andrew Cullen

28 Jun 2010

Mongolia

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Andrew Cullen

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In the capital, many restaurants and even some guesthouses don't provide toilet paper. On long trips In the countryside, you may not even find an outhouse, never mind a fluffy roll of Charmin. Since digestive tract disaster can strike at any time, keeping a roll of tp in your bag at all times is highly, highly recommended.

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Religion

Revitalizing, Diversifying

Andrew Cullen

28 Jun 2010

Mongolia

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Andrew Cullen

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When I stopped in for a meal at the sole restaurant in the small village where I used to live, the owner would often sit at my table to chat for a few minutes. Sometimes, she would ask if I was Christian, and even my negative answer wouldn't stop her from continuing on about the bible, and how her family was the only Christian one in town. I could understand her desire to talk to a kindred spirit. But in larger cities and in villages across Mongolia, religion is increasingly becoming a subject of interest, as Mongolians in the wake of officially atheist communism feel out both their spiritual roots in Buddhism and Shamanism- most homes have small shrines to Buddhist deities- and explore new religions like Christianity.

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Politics

Stable with a chance of protests

Andrew Cullen

28 Jun 2010

Mongolia

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Andrew Cullen

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For the most part, Mongolia is a safe and stable fledgling democracy. Now, in 2010, the Parliament is dominated by representatives from the Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP)- the former communist party, which enjoys widespread support from rural herders, and has controlled the country for most of the last 20 years. The President is from the Democratic Party and won the last election with an Obama-like "Let's change!" slogan. Although the government is in little danger of falling apart, its tendency to talk more than it acts (and it's tendency to act in favor of a few "oligarchs") occasionally leads to protest from the people, most of which end peacefully, but without much visible success.

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Music

How to communicate with animals

Lindsay Myron

21 Nov 2009

Mongolia

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Lindsay Myron

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The "morin khuur," or horse-head fiddle, is the most famous instrument of Mongolia and is considered a symbol of its culture and heritage. The instrument was traditionally made in honor of a herder’s best horse, with the two strings made of the horse’s tail hair and the scroll carved in the shape of its head. Played with a bow, the sounds can communicate with a herder’s animals or the Mongolian homeland, or they can simply accompany a folk tale on a winter’s night. If you have the chance, try to see the Mongolian Morin Khuur Ensemble perform at the Cultural Palace in Ulaanbaatar. The group of some 35 musicians is world-renowned and is worth seeing.

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Sports

Instant Friends

Andrew Cullen

25 Jun 2010

Mongolia

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Andrew Cullen

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There's no better way to make friends in Mongolia than joining some students in an impromptu gave of basketball, volleyball, or soccer. It's almost always possible to join in, and you don't really even need to speak the same language to have a great time. Deflated volleyballs and soccerballs from home can make great gifts too- they don't weigh much or take up a lot of space in your pack, but they make kids happy, and are of better quality than what is generally available at Mongolian markets.

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TV

Dispassion, good of? Fun with subtitles.

Lindsay Myron

23 Nov 2009

Mongolia

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Lindsay Myron

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Mongolian television is a language treasure chest of feature films, news broadcasts, sporting events, and talk shows. Nearly half the channels are Russian. There are also several Mongolian broadcasting networks, an Australian network, British broadcasting, and several channels of dubbed movies. Korean films are especially popular. But if you’re looking for some entertainment on a cold winter's day, find an American movie channel with English subtitles. Often times a set of subtitles will be used for more than one film, and they’re rarely coherent.

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Fashion

Deell Me

Andrew Cullen

26 Jun 2010

Mongolia

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Andrew Cullen

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Mongolians know how to fight the frigid winter weather better than anyone. Wearing a traditional deell, a long, sometimes wool-lined robe tied at the waste with a sash of silk, and a pair of shin-high Mongol riding boots, should keep the cold at bay. Plus, the whole front of the deell above the sash serves as a kangaroo-like pocket! A deell is a must have for winter parties like Tsagaan Sar, the lunar new year, when people spend all day going from house to house visiting friends and relatives. Hosting families give gifts like candy, playing cards, and sometimes even cloths to each visitor- throw them into your deell pouch and you're ready to go!

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Dating

Sitting surprise

Andrew Cullen

28 Jun 2010

Mongolia

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Andrew Cullen

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Expressing clear expectations is key when dating in Mongolia. People here are often very realistic about sex, but the dating-before-marriage period tends to be much briefer. It might seem nice at first when that girl you've started seeing recently starts coming over and cooking you dinner. But pretty soon, she'll be living at your place, and the two of you will be "sitting together"- effectively married by Mongolian cultural standards. That's a tricky situation to get out of if you weren't looking for such a serious relationship.

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Health

Avoid breathing the black cloud

Lindsay Myron

13 Oct 2009

Mongolia

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Lindsay Myron

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/tips/country/MN/

Air pollution in Ulaanbaatar is like most major cities, but in the winter, things get ugly. UB has had an influx of families from the countryside in recent years and ger districts are growing on the outskirts. Most of these gers burn coal to keep warm and when temperatures drop in the winter you can see the result. A black cloud will linger till spring. If you're in the city during winter, you may want to use a mask or something else that covers your mouth to breathe.

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Slang

More or less a "yeah"

Lindsay Myron

13 Oct 2009

Mongolia

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Lindsay Myron

/tips/topic/slang/

/tips/country/MN/

The word for "yes" in Mongolian is "tiim" and the word for no is "ugui," but if you're speaking casually with a Mongolian you probably won't hear those words. Instead your conversation partner may make a subtle breathing noise to answer your "yes" or "no" questions. To say "yes," you pronounce the "t" sound and breathe in, and to say "no" you make a "ku" sound and breathe out. It's difficult to describe, but it's commonplace and perfectly acceptable to use in friendly dialogue.

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Nightlife

Learn to Twirl

Andrew Cullen

28 Jun 2010

Mongolia

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Andrew Cullen

/tips/topic/nightlife/

/tips/country/MN/

I have been to countless work parties and community dances in Mongolia, and one thing has always kept me from being the most popular man in the room: I can't waltz. Mongolian dances alternate between random western dance songs and Russian style waltz numbers, invariably played with a programmed beat and a Casio keyboard. Although Mongolians enjoy the disco music- and dance to it in a big circle, so that you can see everyone as they rock out- they're more comfortable with the waltz. My fumbling attempts to spin the fair lady in my arms are so embarrassing, it only takes a number or two before the invitations stop coming. To avoid being left out of the fun, better to practice your steps and spins. It's harder than it looks!

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Being an American

Smile!

Andrew Cullen

28 Jun 2010

Mongolia

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Andrew Cullen

/tips/topic/being-an-american/

/tips/country/MN/

Mongolia is large, and much of it is remote. Foreigners are a rare sight in many places, and your mere presence will attract attention nearly anywhere you go. For the most part, the stares are harmless, but if things start to feel awkward, a smile and a wave can go a long way.

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