Wednesday, June 29, 2011


I have not "enhanced colors" to improve the pictures below.

Sunset, picture taken from my window.

Terelj national park yesterday.

I said some time ago that UB isn't a green city. Well, now that summer is here and we have some rain from time to time, there are some very green areas. One example is this pedestrian walk that runs in the middle of the western part of Peace Avenue, one of the main streets in UB.

And these are some of the costumes used by the Tumen Ekh ensemble. For more colors and information their web site: Tumen Ekh

I'm off to Beijing early tomorrow morning, so don't be surprised if I don't post anything for a week of so. I will check my e-mail, but I'm not sure if I can blog.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Went to Terelj National Park today to film for the TV show with the Mongolian song. It was a great opportunity to get into close encounter with some animals.

This is a young animal. He has just lost his thick winter fur, so he is a little bald looking, poor thing.

On the way back we passed some stalls were airag was sold (the white liquid in the reused soft drink bottles). Airag is one of the national drinks, it's fermented mare's milk. I tried it only once, unfortunately when I was a little ill, and I didn't like it then. I will have a sip again some time and see if I have changed my mind. 

Monday, June 27, 2011


There are so many blowballs flying around that sometimes it looks as though it's snowing. In some places they form a thin cover, it looks slightly unreal.

I nearly stumbled over this well-camouflaged dog today.

Since all the three pictures above are in the same tonality, I will save the more colorful ones for another day in order not to disturb the harmony :-)

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A room with a view

One of Odnoo's relatives invited us for lunch today. She lives in a ger on the outskirts of UB, with a stunningly beautiful view in stunningly beautiful surroundings. Of course living in a ger means living without some of the things we usually take for granted, such as running water. Water has to be fetched and brought uphill. Walking without any load at all was difficult enough, I can tell you ...

Every time I visit a ger I'm impressed by the way the people living there organise all their belongings to fit into only two or three pieces of furniture. And they cook delicious meals on just one hotplate. But very often these days people have (semi-automatic) washing machines, TVs and computers in their gers. It's just a compact way of living.

Sunday afternoon walk.

The ger we visited.

The view.

You can never guess what there is in the bottle - it's Mongolian wine!! I didn't even know it existed. It was a dry type of dessert wine, very tasty, and it went well with the dried berries (delicious!) you can see on the table. Unfortunately it didn't say on the bottle which fruit it was made from, and no one knew.

The red thermos contains milk tea. Also on the table there are small fried dumplings (and tomatoes and cookies). The main course was a soup with dried meat and rice.

There are not only gers in the ger districts but also houses such as these.

Here lives someone with a sense of beauty.
Water being brought uphill.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


We have had big internet problems lately, I suppose due to the rain, so I have been a little out of touch the last couple of days. Now everything seems to be sorted out.

As I woke up this morning I heard some nice music from outside my window: there was a boy playing the horse-headed fiddle.

The children in the orphanage were playing outdoors in the sandpit the other day. They seemed to enjoy themselves immensely (and they became very dirty), but for some reason my camera only caught thoughtful faces:

A few days ago I got a very unexpected question indeed: would I like to learn a traditional Mongolian song and sing it together with another foreigner and a folk ensemble on television? Sometimes I'm just too spontaneous - I said yes. The filming started today and will take quite a lot of time the coming days. The song is difficult - this may end up embarrassing.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Baby marmot and giant radish

Sorry, I don't have a picture of a cute little baby marmot, but there is a special word in Mongolian for the baby animal in question, мөндөл (möndöl), and I just had to tell you that! There are special words for one year old camels, two year old ones, and mother camel. Not to mention all the words for horses of different ages and colors. To get a glimpse of a country's culture through the vocabulary of its language is fascinating.

Mongolians also use proverbs a lot, for instance:

Anger makes the body suffer
The mountain makes the horse suffer

Sweets isn't food
Gold isn't clothes

The heavy rain has finally stopped. Most roads and sidewalks were transformed into lakes and rivers. The picture, taken from inside a car, gives you just a faint idea of what it was like.

These carrot-looking vegetables aren't carrots at all but radishes. Odnoo was utterly surprised when I got my camera out and wanted to take a picture. This giant kind is very common here, she informed

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

This and that

Today it's pouring rain - the streets and sidewalks are flooded. I mean flooded. It's like walking in a (shallow) river and the cars splash water with no consideration. If this continues during the night I don't even know if I can go to work tomorrow.

One thing that has struck me here is that the bus drivers are very passenger-friendly: if someone comes running they always wait or even stop and open the doors again. Bus drivers in Brussels should come here and study this best practice.

Today's pictures have nothing at all to do with the above text - my apologies for this.

Here you can see you UB is growing: the ger districts are expanding up the surrounding hills. Click on the picture to enlarge it so that you can see the gers properly!

Just an urban sunset.

A door in need of being repainted can also be beautiful.

On the importance of numbers

Yesterday the hot water in our district was cut off. We will have it back again in two weeks. This had been announced beforehand and is something that is done regularly in all districts according to a schedule, but only in the summer, to repair pipes and to do maintenance. Two weeks without a nice hot shower. Back to basics.

Street addresses aren't much used in UB. Instead you say your address like this:

"I live in the 11th district, building 67, entrance 8, 4th floor, door 135." (Good exercise when you're learning the numbers). The buildings all have their numbers clearly exposed, but it's not obvious to a foreigner which district it is in. And often the doors are unnumbered, although they of course have a number so you can use your logic to figure out which is which. But do you start counting from left to right or from right to left on each floor ...?

Numbers are important in UB: the hospitals and schools are also numbered, remember?

Monday, June 20, 2011

It happened again!

It happened again today that my plans for the evening, and my plans for the blog, were drastically changed. Odnoo and me were suddenly and totally unexpectedly given free tickets to a concert with a famous opera singer. The music was mostly traditional Mongolian (which I like a lot, the tunes are often slightly melancholic) but Verdi and Strauss had also found their way in. Only one thing annoyed me immensely: the event was filmed, and quite often they filmed also the audience. While doing that a horrible spotlight was turned on which blinded me and most other people.

Gorgeous colors! This is a horse-headed fiddle orchestra, but as you can see two Western instruments are there too: the grand piano and the violoncello.

Note that this concert was not at all for tourists, in fact I saw no tourist-looking person at all.

The protagonist in action.

The conductor.

Saturday, June 18, 2011


Mongolia's population as of 10 November 2010 was 2,754,685 people. There are 713,780 households, of which 322,836 dwell in gers. 75 % of the population over 7 years old use cell phones, and "The number of women aged 20-25 with tertiary education are higher than that of men" (quote and facts from the Mongol Messenger, 17 June 2011). And in case you forgot I can also remind you that during the past week President Ts. Elbegdorj paid an official visit to the USA, where he met President Obama. He travels a lot, just two weeks ago he was in Moscow on an official visit.

Last night it was karaoke time again. Sayo wasn't there, so no near-professional performance this time, but almost everyone joined in in old favorites like "Build me up Buttercup", "The House of the Rising Sun", "Macarena", Mama Mia" and "Lady Marmalade". And I sang The Boxer again. It went better the first time.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


Yesterday I was invited to a wedding, a huge wedding in a hotel not far from UB, almost but not really in the countryside. It was not a traditional Mongolian wedding, but a modern one. Still some things were unmistakably Mongolian, such as the lighting of the first fire, the pouring of the first milk and the performance of a long song, a typically Mongolian song style.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Less and more

This week there are some visitors from United States who do activities with the orphanage kids, so I was supposed to change my schedule and teach in the afternoon instead of in the morning. But yesterday when I arrived after lunch, after hurrying through the most horrible traffic jams, the games & fun were still going on, and the kids were definitely not in the mood for a lesson with serious Annette :-)  The American ladies told me that they will play with the children until 3 pm, so it really isn't possible to have English lessons with them this week. I must admit that I was a little disappointed.

But even before this reduction in workload I had asked Projects Abroad for more work, so today I started at Golden Bridge Language Institute, where I will give individual tutoring and teach summer & intensive courses for a couple of weeks.

This is one of my students, a bright 18-year old who is already fluent in Chinese and very good at English too.

The other day Odnoo and me had an early evening beer on the terrace of a nice pub downtown. Just before leaving we went to wash our hands. The waiter thought we had run away from the bill, so he had rushed out in the street to catch us :-)))  There was much surprise and laughter among the staff as we appeared and asked to pay.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Beds and brooms

The Black market (Нарантуул - Narantuul) I have written about before. Here are some views.

How anyone can possibly choose a pair of jeans among the thousands on display I simply don't understand.
Also brooms can be beautiful!
Exhausted lady waiting for her transport. There are microbuses (as they are called) for all parts of Mongolia leaving from here.

You find all kinds of furniture here (traditional ger furniture, modern IKEA style furniture - you name it). I just hope this bed didn't fall off before reaching its destination.