Wednesday, April 27, 2011

We had an amazing weekend in the South Gobi. Rick and I flew to Dalanzadgad and then took a 5K drive to our ger camp.

As we explored, we discovered these critters - they were very fast, but also curious, so posed quite well!

After a fabulous lunch (all the meals were excellent), we drove to a national park where the Yul Valley and the Glacier were.

This is an ovoo. The story is that when the Mongols went off to fight the Russians, each soldier added a stone to a pile. When they returned, victorious, each soldier took away a stone. The pile left was testament to those who lost their lives - they then, one adds to the pile and then circles the ovoo, clockwise, three times. There is a new twist, if you are driving past, instead of getting out and walking, you can honk three times.

We're walking on ice! This will melt soon, but farther in, there is an ice floe that does not melt even in the summer heat of 100 degrees! The mountains create a natural freezer....this spot was so beautiful, and it is in the desert

The next day, we went to the Dunes and played a while! Then, off to the Flaming Cliffs where Roy Andrew Chapman discovered many dinosaur skeletons. We looked hard for bones, there are still many uncovered by wind and rain, but we didn't find any.

Then we lunched with a herder family. They are nomads, and will soon dismantle their beautiful ger and move with their camels to higher ground. This family has won many medals for having the fastest camels around! They have three mamas and babies near the ger, but the herd of about 50 are 2K away...we went and found our guys!

Our guide, Tuugsuu, is second from left, and the others are the owners of the ger camp. The gentleman is the chef - he's good! They were so kind and friendly....loved the whole weekend, even the huge sandstorm one night and the seven hour delay getting home!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A few pics that disappeared from the following post, but were too cute to leave out! Children in the kindergarten - see the end of the following post.....

Thursday was an amazing day. First thing in the morning we (Rick and I) got a call that Enkhe wanted to take us to the Children's Camp...OK! Well, what a surprise. It is officially the International Children's Centre, and it is fabulous. The building on the left is the winter dormitory and it looks like a ship. The "camp" was set up in the late 70s by the Russians, and it continues to this day. Enkhe was one of the first directors and he has a clear fondness for the camp and the work it does. In the winter, Mongolian students come as classes, have their studies with their own teachers in the mornings, and then have "camp" activities - sports, academics, team building - whatever their school has requested in the afternoons. In the summer, students live in the smaller houses (below) that are in pods and built in the traditional architecture of homes around the world. The summer is international in flavor, and in fact....about 600 students, aged 6 - 18, pass through each summer. I'd love to go! In fact, there are two special events this summer and I'll be here! I plan to go.

Enkhe with a bust of the woman who really got the whole program started. Odgerel in front of a mural in one of the school rooms.

Sweden, Cuba, Vietnam and other architecture is evident in the pods.

Walking up the "hill" to the school, which is then filled with steps! We got quite a workout. The Centre is nestled in the mountains and is so beautiful - and huge!

Students in residence participating in a special program put on by WorldVision.

Meeting the Director of the Centre - she worked with Enkhe way back when! She is busy, and dedicated. Then, we were treated to lunch which was excellent.

Enkhe's memories include the planting of all the trees on the campus - including this one!

Then, we headed to the Mongolian Education Alliance for a tour of just a few of their many and important programs. The first stop was the Book Ger - one of three in the city where children who do not have access to books can come and read, take out books, listen to stories, and their parents can come and get materials on parenting. A fabulous and much needed resource. Nara's dream, she was our guide, is to open a Book Ger in the rest of the districts in UB. It would cost $7,000 a pop - well worth the price....anyone want to sponsor one?

Books galore, including home-made Big Books and very small child-made books.

An extra treat - a child read to me.

This is the librarian at the Book Ger....she is a volunteer and has a huge heart - she puts all her time, energy and some pocket change, too into this project

Then, off to School 102...we popped in on a second grade class that became convinced that Rick was Santa Claus. Next we visited a fourth grade class, and do note the school uniforms for the middle grades!

Last stop was a kindergarten in a very poor part of town. These children are two, three, four and five, and there are a lot of them! It was tea time when we were there, but some classes took time to sing to us! Cute, cute, cute....imagine working with 40 two-year-olds from 8 - 6!

Monday, April 18, 2011

As I post this blog, it is 72 degrees outside (6:30pm)! Wonderful weather lately. Rick (husband) has arrived, so a good bit of time has been spent taking him places. We did see the Fine Art Museum and the Choijin Lama Monastery - no pics allowed. We also attended the Morin Khuur (horse head fiddle) Orchestra - amazingly beautiful instruments - artistically and musically. This was a real treat. On Sunday, a whole group from my department plus friends and children, went to Zaisan - a hill south of UB with a monument built by the Russians at the top. We climbed 292 steps to get to the top and the views are worth every step. BTW...I have a huge bag under my coat...I'm not gaining weight! Then we went out to the Chinggis Khan monument - I have been there, but no one else had...He is still very big and very shiny! We ended the day at a Korean restaurant.

And then, on Monday afternoon, our friend Nara arranged for us to go to Gandan Monastery, where her cousin is a monk. We had a guided tour of the large and active hilltop monastery - got to go "behind the scenes" in a few temples.

UB continues to be full of surprises and wonderful people.