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

September 5, 2009 @ 8:30 AM | Permalink

My first day riding Ulaanbaatar’s (UB) bus system was an utter failure. 

My turquoise tiled apartment building is about 10 kilometers from my school and in a city of just over a million the two are essentially on opposite sides of UB.  I was told that I could take the number five bus to get to and from class.  A loop system, I thought, sounded simple.  So when I dashed out of my favorite wi-fi café near Sukhbaatar Square to catch a ride home, I jumped on the first bus that had the number five pasted on its window. 

My Mongolian family was expecting me home at five o’clock for my favorite Mongolian dinner: buudz or lamb filled dumplings.  I had timed my morning commute to take about thirty minutes and had assumed it would take the same to return.  Mongols are relatively late risers so the mornings generally yield little traffic.  But as soon as the sun’s warmth reaches the streets and faces of UB traffic becomes unbelievably congested.  I learned this the hard way. 

Thirty minutes had passed, my stomach grumbling and shoved towards the front of our aged green Hyundai bus, I started counting the minutes till my delicious buudz.  Mongolian pop, Paula Abdul and that one hamster dance song were blasting over the bus’ speakers and when the moment was right the passengers’ sway from driver’s false starts was in sync with driver’s tunes.  Much like the streets, UB buses can become extremely crowded and at sudden stops I found myself playing footsie with the eighty year-old Mongolian woman to my right. 

Forty minutes had passed.  I sunk my six foot self down to see out the five foot Mongol sized window, but I didn’t recognize any landmarks.  Perhaps this wasn’t the five, I thought.

When fifty minutes came and went we were stopped dead in traffic.  A number of Mongols had opted out of the full ride and had stepped off to walk.  I’d have joined them if I’d known where I was.  Sixty minutes had passed and still no buudz!

Despite the grinding gears as the driver accelerated through the bustling street I felt slightly relieved when I saw my apartment complex up the hill.  I gazed at those beautiful blue towers in famishment envisioning the hearty meal that awaited me.  I dazedly watched my towers pass and then frantically realized my route suspicions were true—it was not the five.

As the passing buildings were getting shorter I abandoned the so-called number five.  Seventy minutes had passed.  I had managed to squeeze my 300 Tugrik for all it was worth and made it to the first district a few kilometers from my neighborhood.  Rather than try another bus and possibly miss buudz altogether, I gave up on UB public transport for the day and flagged down a taxi.

Fifty minutes after five I was in my familiar turquoise tiled complex, up eight floors in the rank smelling elevator, and arrived not too tardy dinner.  “You’re late,” said my Mongol father.  “Come, sit and eat.”


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Lindsay, Enjoyed the woven threads of humanity in the family lesson on telling time. Thanks for sharing. TIm

Tim Matthews on Nomads Give New Meaning to the Cuckoo Clock 2009-11-03

Ouch. Not a fun way to finish off the semester. Get well soon and safe travels; look forward to seeing you back on the hill next month!

Matthew Hintsa on I've Never Been More Afraid of Pigs 2009-12-06

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