Friday, June 22, 2012

In Which Kim Comes For a Holiday and Discovers The Adventure That is Mongolia


A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of embarking on a two week adventure with my niece, Kim.  She thought she was coming to Mongolia for a vacation, but ( and I think you'll agree after you see the following pictures!) I don't think this could be called a holiday....every single day was another leap into the unknown - almost always with a wonderful outcome.  And yes, if you come to Mongolia, I expect your visit will have more or less the same quality of stunning amazement and unbelievability.... mixed in with a whole lot of...." What the heck....???!!"

So, without further ado, here is the story of Kim's Adventure....the abridged version.

Ok...it's kitschy and tacky, but every adventure holiday has to start with the requisite  "Here I am!" photo....

Now, as a disclaimer, a large part of the reason why this adventure was so...well..adventurous is that Kim brought with her two huge suitcases stuffed with games, toys, arts & crafts supplies, pencils, socks, hats, clothes, stuffed animals and a whole multitude of very cool, fun things like glow sticks and solar powered flashlights.  The goal of her vacation was to find needy people and give it all away...and I was happy to help with that!

The vacation started like a regular vacation...eating traditional food - in this case, Khoshuur.....

...visiting local museums....That kind of stuff.
A phone call from the BBC ( yes...that BBC) asking for my help in getting them into the dump to do some filming about  the plight of the dump children for an upcoming t.v. show helped turn "the vacation" into "the adventure!"
Some of the families up "on the mountain"...the lyrical Mongolian description for the dump community.  

This is the toughest place I think to visit....and we would be back...but I digress!

Kim and the kids at Notre Dame Orphanage had a wonderful time with the pipe cleaners she had brought along...could do a whole blog on just that day!
Actually, I could do a whole blog for each day of her visit, but, alas, I don't have the time for that so you will just have to content yourself with the whirlwind tour....and maybe then come and see for yourself?

After visiting ( and playing with !!) the disadvantaged it was out to the countryside...the real Mongolia some people say.

Ahhh..the countryside.  Where you get to see colourful nomadic herders...

...meet the leader of the free world...of puppies..

...and get to stroke the fuzzy little nose of darling goats...

....and then help butcher them!!  Yes people...that is the same goat! She got the bonus experience of getting to know an animal and then seeing an it slaughtered and butchered in the traditional fashion!  The adventure continues....



It's not every adventure that includes the BBC, animal butchering and....meeting famous locals!!
Yes, indeed, Kim got to meet Andy, the man on the billboard....such fun!
Of course, if you are coming to Mongolia, there are a few things you will need to be ready for....like vodka shots...

...and horseback riding..
Although you won't all get the chance to go back country for 26 km with four of the loveliest (yes I said loveliest!!) Mongolian guides there are...ok, they don't look lovely, but they are!!  I promise!
..Then the next day, the humanitarian visits continued as  Kim gave out a whole bunch of baby clothes and stuffies she brought from Canada!  

....awwww....
Ok, I'm not sure that sitting in on my ESL lesson can count as adventurous, exactly....but, when one of the students is an astrophysicist it has the potential...more about that later!
Kim had a lot of hats to give out and some of them went to a community in the ger district that is really trying to help the homeless get clean and sober and get training for a real future career.
Zagdaa in the NHL...hmmmn bit of a stretch!   
They were really touched with her generosity and returned the favour by giving her a hand painted traditional scroll...right there on the spot.  Wonderful moment!
Ok...now for something completely different...(again, some day, some day, this show will get its own blog!!) The Tumen Enkh cultural show...
Music, singing, dancing....


...contortionists? 
 Awesome show in any case, and a real reflection of the culture and history of these wonderful people.

Some of the best and funnest shots in Mongolia happen in the grocery stores...shopping is its own adventure here!
...I really don't think that's ham..
...or that those are vegetables...
The real shopping adventure is the black market, the world's largest outdoor market, or so I'm told.  Kim scored about 8 hats ( seemed like!) and these very funky red curl toed Mongolian riding boots...and a couple of very lovely traditional deels ( long jackets) for her and her husband...they will be stylin!
Mongolia is a great place for your first taste of caviar..
..and she liked it!!

And what holiday doesn't include returning from the afternoon eating caviar and then staying up until one o'clock making personalized gift bags for 24 orphans so that the next day when you go there for Children's day, they will each get a gift??

A big hit!


Ok...so here's evidence of the disclaimer...some of these photos are mine and some are Kim's.  We shared my camera for the two weeks...which makes it kind of cool for me to get to see how she saw Mongolia.

Horses in Hustai...

And we were lucky enough to spot  the elusive wild Takhi ( horse) at sunset...
a sunset so spectacular it deserves its own picture!


...She wanted to eat sheep's head.  Seriously.  She did.  So Baira our driver boiled one up for her and brought it for breakfast!  Fortunately we had  already eaten...


...so she had it for lunch!
So who thinks they will ever say " Ok..I'll eat the eyeballs, but I draw the line at the optic nerve!!" Seriously Mongolian moment.

...as was playing with the kids at the Metropolitan Police Identification Centre later that day...


....and then there was Kim giving away more stuff....do you see a pattern yet?



The following day the adventure continued...as it does when you get to go with the astrophysicist you met at the ESL class to the observatory to watch Venus transit the sun...
Seriously?  Who gets vacations like this??
...and then, for good measure another afternoon hanging out with the kids at the orphange...It is amazing what pictures you get when you hand over the camera to them....I love this shot!

..and then, for Kim's last day here at the end of the earth, it was filming day for the BBC.  Weird and pretty wonderful to be there hanging out with the locals rather than the expats.  
..and really getting a chance to play with the kids..quite the little "hackey sack"er...if  you know what I mean.  And yes, I mean this was the home made hackey sack and not some weird flying insect...although from the picture it could go either way!
..kids and adults at work..
...and then out they come for some play time...
...both Kim and I made some friends that day.

...playing with the kids and the toys they found at the dump.
Later that day we had a party with the mountain top (dump) community kids to celebrate Children's Day.  That will be it's own blog one day soon, but here are a couple of pictures as a tease..




Isn't she gorgeous!  She was a really loving and kind little girl who clearly knows how to enjoy herself...kind of reminds me of Kim.  Although, I think Kim has one up on her with respect to neat eating!  

Well, that was the end of Kim's holiday and our mutual adventure exploring Mongolia together.  It was really wonderful and I am very grateful that I got the chance to show Kim the "real" Mongolia.  Hope you all reading this feel like you got a glimpse of it too...See you when you come over for your own adventure!!