Archive for March, 2009

slight touch of homesickness

In the cherry blossom's shade
there's no such thing
as a stranger.
-   Issa

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too ambitious

I tried to eat pork fat today.  Too much too soon, at least for my brain.  It mulled over in my mind all afternoon, making me feel vaguely sick.  Half a bottle of wine after work made me feel a lot better though.

I will say – it tasted quite good.  I think it was a whole shoulder (or back?) that had been marinated for an hour or so, and then roasted.  The pork was delicious (and I don’t even like pork).  The fat tasted pretty good too, but the consistency was too much for my brain to handle.  I gagged on maybe the 4th piece, and just gave up.

I need to ease into it a bit more… Next time perhaps?

still looking….

I’m still trying to find an apartment here.  It’s really amazing how many I’ve seen, but haven’t seemed right, and it’s hard to tell if I’m being picky or just listening to my gut. One thing for sure – I’m definitely lost on what I’m looking for.  All my usual cues are useless here, so I’m basically flying blind.  I’ve definitely asked around for opinions, but everyone has a different idea of what they like, much of which is based on experiences (or lack thereof).  Which, really, isn’t all that different from DC.

In other news, I’m settled in the office nicely.  The whole office cooks lunch during the week, so I think I’ll join up with that, since it’s cheap and relatively healthy (at least I know what’s going in the food!).   I have a desk. And a phone. And even an email address.   I’ve talked to the executive director a bit about what I’ll be doing, and also how I can help them.   I’m currently editing a document on HIV/AIDS prevention and education, which I think is a good way to ease in.  It’s a topic area I’m familiar with, and it gives me some sense of how research is conducted here.

Oh, and I’ve been asked to teach yoga.  I miss yoga, so I am very seriously considering this.  I am not sure about teaching ,but I can certainly demo!  Should be fun.

I’ve met most of the other Fulbrighters here, and seen most of the central part of the city.   Today, randomly, I met the ambassador from India.  He’s really tall.  Everyone notices this.  His wife is very nice, and I kind of hinted that I would love if they invited me over for dinner.  I was told that the embassy holds events for holidays (Independence Day, Republic Day, Diwali, etc), so I am excited for that!

UB city sights

Just a few sights from my walk into work this morning.

Sukhbaatar Square

Small Park

Parliament

Russian Circus

National Library

apartment hunting

I hate apartment hunting. I hate it in the US, and I hate it in Mongolia.  Everything has something wrong with it, and nothing is “just right”.   But I’m also tired of going around and looking at everything and would like to get this settled imminently.

Part of the problem is that I don’t know the city and can’t gauge what is safe and what isn’t.   Frankly, everything looks undeveloped and shady, but I’m used to a city built like a grid.  The other part is that my budget is miniscule, and the “nice” and “safe” place are out of my range.  So, I either compromise on “nice” and “safe”… or I stretch the budget a bit.  Neither sound all that appealing.

UB is growing on me, though.  It’s not the prettiest city, but the buildings are low (like DC), so it’s very bright.   Traffic is the usual nightmare, but I already have a habit of walking into the street boldly, so no problem here.

I am surprisingly ok with the food too.  Fatty meat is not my favorite, but mixed up with steamed doughy noodles and it’s really not too bad.    The expat  community is very prominent too – I run into foreigners everywhere.  Frontier, indeed.

I’m settling into the office too – I have a desk, and an email address, and a new cell phone number (and even a local bank account).  I’m reviewing background documents now, and trying to figure out what I’m going to do while I’m here.  OSF is excited to have me, and I’m excited to help them out.

first day in UB

No jet lag yet, but I am expecting it to kick in momentarily.  One day here, and I’ve already met some really cool people, both in a personal and professional sense.  Also enjoyed a rousing game of Pictionary.   And most importantly, had an excellent lunch. Filipino food.  Not what I was expecting for my first meal in Mongolia!

The party was for a guy who is leaving to go to China for a gig with his band.   At the party, I also met a Filipino who works for ADRA doing some awesome work with desertification and livelihood issues in the Gobi, a Kiwi who is building permanent housing for the people in the ger districts, and a Ukrainian doing research with anti-clotting medications.  I also met a woman from the International Women’s Association in Mongolia, and whose husband works for ADB (funding urb development projects in the ger districts).

And we played Pictionary.

Tonight is girls’ night.  Tacos, I think.

The city looks a lot like what I was expecting, and with winter ending, it’s still not very green.

arrival

It is by no means as cold as I expected it would be in UB.  And if the weather continues to get warmer, then we’re in good shape.

I arrived tonight, and was met by an OSF driver, who whisked me off to a friend’s apartment.  She is graciously letting me stay with her for a few days until I find my own place.   I am a little disappointed in Korean Airlines, but I might have high standards.  Certainly Cathay, Singapore, Malaysia and other Asian carriers have set the bar high.   I sadly did not get a seatback TV, but at least I had the row to myself for the 10 hour flight from Honolulu to Seoul.

Speaking of Hawaii – amazing place.   I would like to go back and further explore Oahu, and even some of the other islands.  I spent the first day (more like evening) walking around Waikiki with my friend.  The second day I was working, but it was cloudy and I was on my friend’s balcony so it was ok.  I spent the next day hiking Mt Olympus in the morning, and then hit the North Shore in the afternoon/evening (Mokuleia, the beach where Lost was filmed, Haleiwa).  And my last day was spent at Diamondhead and the USS Arizona.  Diamondhead was mediocre, but the Pearl Harbor memorial is really well done.   Oahu is beautiful!