"...walking in circles for years in a desert you eventually enter a state of mind that makes you walk a straight line, towards the sun, towards the kingdom..."

14 October 2009

A Report from Genghis Mountain

So in the end, in retrospect, hindsight is 20/20. Turns out Peace Corps was just part of the continuous grand experiment in social engineering.

(I never got around to reading the complete report until recently.)

A potential substitute for the war-model of social control. A step in the direction of the sophisticated form of slavery as described by Aldous Huxley et al. One problem with the Peace Corps model is theoretically when peace and development were achieved, there would be little incentive for such a model and a new tool of social control would be required. You have to give people a false sense of fear to keep them in their place. You have to give them artificial reasons for motivation (i.e. vague notions of "democracy", "national security", etc.).

You see, in 1909 folks at the Carnegie Endowment for "Peace" discussed the best method of controlling people. War, was and at present still is, the ultimate form of control. They then discussed how to start a (world) war. This was discovered by congressional investigator Norman Dodd of the Reece Committee. The woman who he sent into the Carnegie library archives to gather such information literally went mad because, indeed, these things are quite unbelievable. Some people just cannot handle the truth.

In this regard, war is peace. In order to have a peaceful world order, a new world order, destructive world wars need to be fomented and a totalitarian "peaceful" social control system put in place. Is this the best we can do?

Efforts to suppress the report allude to its credibility. On the contrary, we played the part of fools, we were the hoax. See how highly they think of us:

"Most proposals that address themselves, explicitly or otherwise, to the postwar problem of controlling the socially alienated turn to some variant of the Peace Corps or the so-called Job Corps for a solution. The socially disaffected, the economically unprepared, the psychologically unconformable, the hard-core "delinquents," the incorrigible "subversives," and the rest of the unemployable are seen as somehow transformed by the disciplines of a service modeled on military precedent into more or less dedicated social service workers."

It is all "documented" in the Report from Iron Mountain (1967). Some say it is a hoax. I do not think so. Even if it is, many experts and government specialists wholly agree on its findings making the matter irrelevant. The essence of the writing has come and is coming to pass. They continue to push the idea of civilian national forces (Obama).

Watch out. Further artificial substitutes for social control were listed as the environment as a threat (to be artificially destroyed in order to promote their agenda), extraterrestrials and "fictitious alternate enemies." Can you say "global warming" er, "climate change?" How about the militarization of outer space? And those good 'ol "terrorists?" Peace Corps would be the economic substitute for war; a giant "social-welfare program." They actually wrote that it would serve as the model of a "sociological control function (sophisticated form of slavery)."

What does this have to do with you? What if you fall into the category of those deemed the "socially destructive segments of societies" necessitating control (read in some instances as eradication)?

An online version: Report from Iron Mountain

For further viewing:
Norman Dodd (1982)
Fall of the Republic

P.S. That is not to say, however, I did not have the time of my life out there while doing something useful. Like any "subversive-nonconforming-delinquent" knows how to do, I had a gay old time while lending a helping hand.

27 May 2009

Ariunaa Brings Mongolia to Switzerland (le projet continue)

A growing number of Mongolians are living up to their role of nomad in an updated version of the ancient globe trotter in the era of modernization and globalization. From tens of thousands that inhabit pockets of America and elsewhere across Europe, Asia and the Pacific, approximately 400-1000 live and work in Geneva, Switzerland. By informal estimates, 80 percent have overstayed their visas. They can be spotted everywhere, at the main station through to the outer skirts of town. The women are relegated to home care and such whilst the men, harder pressed, to the backsides of restaurants and whatever they can find. Of course, there are a number that work in offices and with some of the hundreds of international organizations. The Mongolian Permanent Mission to the United Nations made sporadic appearances to the 62nd World Health Assembly last week, but that is understandable, as small missions have a tough time filling their seats. A woman recently explained to me in a mix of French/English/Mongolian (nomadic even in language!) how Mongolians cannot stay in one place, that as nomads they possess a perpetual urge to motion. It is truly incredible how small the world is, as I talked with another young ambitious Mongolian who had just arrived in Geneva. She was from the little far away soum I had previously lived and worked in as a Peace Corps volunteer and knew many of the same people. It is difficult to describe the feeling of two strangers, from opposite ends of the earth, with certain commonalities, finding themselves reminiscing about the steppe over homemade food in a foreign land.

Ariunaa brought back a piece of home when she turned up Saturday night at the Salle Centrale Madeleine in the Old Town. Hurd had played the week before with absolutely zero advertisement with many Mongolians unaware of their arrival. Being an admirer, I was disappointed at having missed it as a friend only rumored of their appearance. Hurd charged 70 CHF, Ariunaa 55 CHF and an additional 30 CHF for an after-party signing and hang out.

It was a treat to see her in a small theater with perhaps up to 300 attendees as opposed to her usual large-scale UB Palace gigs. Playing just under two hours with tape backup and high spirits, the satisfied crowd danced and sang with the token Mongolian man trying to start a fight, after having thrown back a couple, before realizing the futility, tearing his shirt off and singing in tears of joy. Copies of the new album were handed out to the best dressed as these people practiced their dignified culture and traditions. Ariunaa sang old and new, from “Nandin Uchral,” “Ankhni Haer” and “Bayartai Gej Helj Chadahgui” to new tunes. In between songs, the pop star went through a few heartfelt monologues before making everybody cry singing about aav, eej, haer and the homeland. Even I had gotten a little teary-eyed, the specially imported Chinggis beer being of great assistance. For the finale, flags waved and hands were placed on hearts for the national anthem. It felt like being back in Ulaanbaatar.

The problem for many Mongolians abroad is the lack of a holboo to connect through. Many are busy just trying to survive and find little time to actively seek each other out. Some prefer to assimilate and care less as much about their countrymen. There is no cultural center or meeting place and the fact that many are ‘underground’ makes them weary of too much contact. Thankfully, however, huushuur and other made-to-order food will be available at the Café du Lys in Geneva every Sunday from now on. The Chinggis vodka does not come cheap though, at 90 CHF a bottle. Opening day today saw a Mongol horde takeover as the aroma of suutei tsai and slew of shagai was tossed around. The café was filled with joy and laughter among nomads from all walks of life and Mongolians with their typical upbeat disposition. All of us are coming and going, connected more so than we think. One thing is for sure which Mongolians rightly have observed; we are perpetual wanderers and exiles in this life.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 - UB Post

28 August 2007

Disappearing Act

Seems as soon as I belong, its time I disappear. So ends a magical year on the high plains of southern Mongolia. The people were friendly, the food was intense, the experience something I can't quite yet begin to describe. I have nothing bad to say about Peace Corps or Mongolia. PC is an amazing organization supported by extraordinary people (well, more so than not). Too bad the government doesn't realize that terrorists would most likely not be exploding at every corner had they funneled gazillions of dollars into PC instead of weapons of mass destruction and their cronies bank accounts. I should stop 'fore I get started...

It isn't easy living in a far, distant kultura...like living on Mars or another planet. It wasn't amusing getting vodka shoved down my throat all the time and being stuck with the weekly menu of meat fat, flour and potatoes perhaps with some onions and carrots tossed in. But it was intensely entertaining and I wouldn't trade it for anything. Once the first year goes down, the rest is easy. However, another year wasn't showing up on my radar. Soul searching crept in again. It was time for this restless soul to move again. I went in search of nomads and discovered I am more nomadic than some of them.

No, I did not secretly get married nor do I plan to for at least another decade. A man must follow his heart. I feel like the lead character in "The Alchemist" when he is stuck in the palms for a time, awaiting the tribal feuds to subside. When they do, he goes in search of the key to his treasure and discovers it has forever resided in his backyard.

It saddens me to void my commitment, to leave my friends behind in Mongolia and all those beautiful, young, bright children. I know I will return someday...to visit and, who knows, perhaps even work and live again. That, in addition to the memories and stories I carry with me, will in a way continue the commitment. Praise to those who stay the two years and longer. Here's to good times and happiness...because life really is a short fuse.


"... There is a winner in every place
There is a heart that's beating in every page
The beginning of it starts at the end
When it's time to walk away and start over again..."

23 June 2007

Burden In My Hand

Travel in Mongolia SUCKS! It hurts, especially if you are tall. I came in straight from Ulaanbaatar some weeks ago to my village down in Dundgobi by way of 5-seater jeep. Guess how many people actually were in it? 16. It was supposed to be a ~12 hour ride.

So we leave 05:30. The jeep busts two tires and the engine dies at the only [food] stop in the middle of nowhere. We eat and wait a few hours. We hire another driver and get on our way late afternoon. This jeep gets a flat. Then the driver gets lost. The compass and map have yet to be invented. So it's midnight and we should have been there already. You can't navigate in the dark so we all pile into a herder's ger and spend the night. We find our way home the next morning. Being like a sardine in a can killed my back the next day. All the while, I am sitting next to a presumably gay teenager who won't stop trying to put his hand on my genitals. I was infuriated. I have no problem being friends with gay people and hanging out, just don't be fondling me.

And now this trip to the 3 day music festival. It actually wasn't so bad because it was "only" 9 of us and it was great company which meant great fun and laughs. An axle or something broke two hours out and luckily we had a piece of wood (initially for the tent) we sawed and used to uphold the vehicle until we made it to the next village. Then we borrowed a friend's axle and went on our way. Mongolians are very good at MacGyverism, they can widdle their way out of so many things. On our trip back, the car kept choking and our driver kept hammering away at the thing and somehow we managed to get home after many stops. Oh, and occasionally somebody has a bottle of vodka...so yeah, that part about drowning yourself in alcohol in the desert...'tis true.

"...follow me into the desert as thirsty as you are,
crack a smile and cut your mouth and drown in alcohol,
'cause down below the truth is lying beneath the riverbed,
so quench yourself and drink the water that flows below her head..."

22 June 2007

The Roar of the Horse's Hooves

No its not the four horsemen...its a music festival. It has been going on for some time now and consists of Mongolian and non-Mongolian performers. It was held at их газрийн чулуу (Great Rocks) this year. The stage was built last year and resembles Colorado's Red Rocks. There was also a long song наадам (celebration). UNESCO has declared the long song and throat song as world heritage events.

'Twas 3 days of hangin' out. A dozen or so foreign musicians/academics were present. Two Swiss women played the bass flute and tiny keyboard-thing, a German with wild hair and no shoes played the tuba, a dude from Taiwan played some percussion and a Lithuanian played some flute-type thing amongst others. Mongols played the horse fiddle, sang the long song and danced. 9 of us from our village came in by 5-seater jeep (9 is a low number). The event was covered by TV & radio. I listened to the long song from 05:00 to 01:00 every day, as people practiced in their tents. I don't think I can listen to the long song again until next year.

At sunrise (04:30), we gathered at the top of a hill where a rock and white space-like thing stands to commemorate a famous singer from around these here parts. The musicians played 2 songs and then we went over to a pile of rocks called an овоо where a shaman performed a ceremony. Mongolia's main religion is Buddhism but some still practice shamanism.

A friend recently made a horse fiddle for me and my goal is to play at the event next year. I met a fiddler (above center) who is in the theater group in my province's capital so I can pick up a few pointers. All in all; good company, good music and good times.

11 June 2007

The Mongolia Effect

So I lied, the storms remain. Sandblasted I was while socializing in the town center. Couldn’t see a thing in the sand shower. One year has passed since I went into exile. How many people actually know what “Mongolia” is? Certainly not my Chicago 8th graders I visited prior to departure. Nor doth Newsweek, having mentioned in its May 14th “travel issue” Tuva as being located on the Russian-Chinese border. No surprise. Actually, the place seems to be doing quite well for itself. UB, at least. There is some type of boom or growth coming along. Tourists are flooding the place. I’ve even hosted the French and Germans in my ger. The city is a mix of people.

I’ve lived along the same line of latitude all my life (39?), making a giant step east each time: Chicago, Zadar (2000 year old Croat peninsula) and the Gobi (Mongolia). It’s definitely a good day to be alive. But what have I learned?

  • One can have padded city pockets and be unhappy.

  • One can have Bohemian desert pockets and be in love with life.

  • It’s ok to say no when a Mongol offers you vodka. But then you’re not really experiencing the culture.

  • Too much airag, milk tea, camel milk, vodka, homemade vodka, beer, homemade fruit beer, mutton, mutton fat, candy and cookies digested simultaneously are not a good thing.

  • People are not radically different around the world. The landscape is, the food is, the music is…but not the essential content of that music.

In two weeks I head for a long summer on the majestic coastline of Croatia. I feel like that song, where I can make my way home blindfolded. Some have joked that I may not return. I’ve had doubts myself. Maybe the fever will go away. Yet I’m never one to quit something that has been started.

18 May 2007

Sand & Wind

In the Говь, spring showers do not bring May flowers. They just bring элс (sand). The storms are subsiding and it's nice to get rid of the sand in my ger, pants and ears. Two weeks and I've been in Mongolia a year. 'Tis been at times a lovely and bone-smashing ride. Meat, flour, potatoes and (ugh) vodka have been the staple. I've gotten the shopkeepers to get me Heineken, cheese (pizza!) and European wine, so things aren't so bad after all. The Internet arrived last fall, a mobile network is set to come up within a year or two and the bank just got a Visa machine and Western Union. And I came here with a solar backpack expecting the worst. How far does one have to go to escape?

Culture is so very interesting. There really is no pure culture left in the world. The Mongols always are telling me how they dislike the Chinese, but love 'dem chopsticks. You can tell the way some Mongols suck on vodka that it's a Soviet hangover; there are not just a few drunk herders roamin' the streets (and wandering into my ger).

The capital is still called "Red Hero." Socialist behavior is still evident on the periphery; long-winded monotonous speeches and the way people stick to their party lines. A vote was cast (in a non-governmental institution) to oust a higher-up that hasn't been doing their job very well, and the employees were divided on basis of political party. The accused is a member of the current ruling party and all those who didn't sign the petition are current party members. Politics shan't have nothing to do with work. If they aren't doing their job: next. Maybe they still think they'll get fired for speaking up or taken to the Gulag.

Another year to look forward to, not before I head off to the Balkans for 48 days. It'll be a nice sort of homecoming, which will make another year in the desert tough. But I still have my friends Heineken, Snickers and the Economist to get me through. The people and kids, of course, are what keep and entertain me here. "It's about havin' those good times, baby..."

No idea really what I'll do when I'm done here next summer. I want to stay, I want to go. Life is too short and the planet too fascinating to sit still for too long. There are places to see, people to meet and language to be learned.

16 April 2007

Spring Break 2007...Mongolia

Mongolia doesn't first come to mind when you think of Spring Break. It was up to UB for a few days of fair weather, yet still icy. Met a friend en route to the 'ol guesthouse. He'd just returned from Phillipino waters. Things here often work out by chance, luck turns quickly. You have to keep your eyes open, you don't know when opportunity will come a knockin'. You may run out of a gas in the countryside and whadda ya know, there's a ger up ahead in the distance, he's sure to have some petrol. I'm interested in traditional instruments and as I was fixin' up a neighbors computer, I mentioned it and turns out his friend manages a music store. Anyhow, my sunbaked friend and I hit some bars and restaurants the next few days.

Off it was to Khentii for the weekend to roast a few pigs and throw back some brew. Someone must've brought a curse with them for what seemed the "100 year storm" enveloped us as we entered the aimag center. Visibility was zero. There was sumo. And drinking games. There were disoriented night raids in search of open delguurs (shops) in knee deep snow. We'd spend a good half hour in distress until we realized there was a shop five strides in front of the apartment. Needless to say, we made the same mistake the following day.

All said and done, back to UB and straight up to Selenge Aimag. I visited my Mongolian mom and pops. They came in past midnight a little tipsy. Tony Danza (he's half-Russian and is the Italian's spitting image) pulls out a hunk of meat to fry and a bottle of vodka we duly finish. Such is Mongol hospitality. Hit up Darkhan next few days, the second biggest city of MNG, with say 100,000. A Malaysian man opened up a food court above the Nomin's (Mongolian Walmart). It was bizarre, being in a foodcourt above a Mongolian superstore, eating tasty cheap Malaysian food prepared by a Malaysian family that spoke perfect English and Mongol. Small is the world. Back at the apartment, some folks were recording songs for an English CD. Some fine stuff I might add "...we are the people of the world, you know it we liiive in...this world together..."

One thing bugs me here is how natives try and rip you off. It ain't much, a few bucks, and it's mostly drivers and sometimes shopkeepers, but on this salary it can hurt. Sometime's they try to double the taxi rate but I know better muchacho. I almost left the Peace Corps. That week I had been thinking much about leaving for UB after the school year. Somehow I managed to rediscover the romance of the semi-desert and am giving the second year a go. Time is relentless. I've got two months on the Adriatic to tide me over.

20 March 2007

монгол хэл давтаж байн...

За. Энд ямар сонин байна? Их байхгуй. Амьдрал удаан явж байна. Би сая сургууль дээр сагсан бомбогийн "клуб" байгуулсан, учраас "Nike" бидэнд магадгуй бомбог, пуз, цамц огоч. "Al-Jazeera" соваг одоо байгаа, ямар гоё юмбэ. Сургуулийн амралт удахгуй болох, би хотруу, сэлэнгэ, хэнтий явах учраас би дараа зураг энд тавина. пока.

Чингис бас би...

24 February 2007

Happy New Year!

Tsagaan Sar [White Month] is THE Mongolian holiday celebration of the year. It is the Mongolian New Year. It lasts for 3 days (at least) over many servings of vodka. White is the featured color, signifying purity, good and cleanliness, I suppose, among other things. For example, the night before, neighbors exchange buuz (steamed dumplings) accompanied with aruul (a hard cheese). Even though the buuz is wrapped in "white" dough, I suppose it still ain't enough to counter the "black" meat so the "white" cheese is thrown in and wa-la: equilibrium is created!

Bituun [New Year's Eve, last day before full moon]

I set up my pastries, meat, candy, vodka and things according to tradition. Tasted buuz and (abominable) vodka with my neighbors. That was pretty much it.

Day 1
Started off friendly. I visited a friend and then went to the countryside. You don't give gifts visiting someone else, they give you gifts when you visit their home. Gifts are usually given only to children or close friends/relatives. So we must have done about a dozen herder gers during the day (because my neighbor has literally a dozen siblings). It was fun. I received some things yes, exchanged traditional greetings and even exchanged snuff bottles (I got one too!). I ate buuz, huushur (fried dumplings), all sorts of cheese, meat and pickles in abundant quantities. I drank milk tea, camel milk tea, beer, homemade "fruit" beer, airag, vodka and homemade yogurt-distilled vodka. In abundant quantities. The dumbest decision of my life. However, MNG hospitality is such that they won't let you be without stuffing you silly with food and drink. I also think it a double-edged sword, not very hospitable either to force upon your guests. It's hard to say no. I learn everything the hard way.

So it's midnight, time to be heading back. I feel like I want to leave Mongolia and never come back, my intestines are about to explode. We finally head out and are a few clicks from home when the petrol runs out. This is a common moronic occurrence. So the two guys decide to walk the windy, frozen tundra for petrol. I stay with the wife and kids. The guys start and stop. What are they doing? Oh, the driver is puking. (Turns out, he actually couldn't go on, so he fell asleep on the ground for a few hours while the other came back with a friend on motorbike, picked him up, and brought us petrol.) Meanwhile, I'm freezing my ass off which wouldn't be so bad if I didn't feel like I was going to die. I proceed to litter the countryside with vomit. We spend basically the night waiting for them to come back. I hear a cow moo-ing and exclaim the fact to my neighbor. What the hell you talking about? Oh wait, it's just the kid snoring. I see a light, they're coming. The light disappears and reappears. They finally arrive hours later. UFO? I've been hallucinating. It's 07:00, I light a fire and go to bed...

Day 2
...10:00, kids banging on my door. Another tradition, the school children visit you and you give them candy and some cash. Some school supplies if you like them. So I give unknown children candy and a 50 togrik note. Some up to 500 togriks and a fistful of candy if they've been good students. Some come two, three or four times. I give them one piece of candy. Bad mannered, greedy children! An old, retired music teacher visits me. I'm feeling better. I do some rounds with him and that's how the day is spent. I ate/drank less than the previous day, but still too much. It's past midnight, I head home, puke and go to bed...

Day 3
...01:55, two men banging on my door. I let them in, turns out they're not drunks, they're two friends. Time is relative and the custom allows for visitation at all hours. So we talk for a while. My neighbor busts in, fearing the worst. They finally leave, I puke (again) and go to bed (again). I then lock my door for the rest of the day and do not put anything into my mouth.

I've survived, but I still wake up nauseous a week after the fact. I might have caught something. I think next year I may head to "the city" to avoid all this. Besides, there they have yummy Arabic and Mexican food among other things as well as delicious pizza!

15 February 2007

Bilo Jednom u Mongoliji...

Hrvat u srcu Čingisov carstva. Barem što je ostalo od toga. Samo-izgnanstven u pustinji, u potrazi za nešto, neka rješenja. Odgovore na neka pitanja pronađe, ali sasvim novi problemi uskoče, tako da se krug nikad ne zatvori. Tko bi mogao zamislit da bi se našao tu, kraj ovog kamena...oduševljen? Ali ovaj medeni mjesec sigurno neće beskrajno trajati.

Tu sam, s jedan od mnogih poslova, kao da razmjenim Američku kulturu, ali uz to jasno vidim da sam čistog Hrvatskog plema i da mi fali puno te Američke kulture. Zanimljivo je vidjeti kako smo svi različiti ali i isti. Čitam nešto od povjesničara Šišića i ne mislim da su užasni Mongolski ratnici stigli do naših krajeva. Koliko su bili jaki, a sada ni traga te snage. Nije loša ova zemlja samo što nema izvora vode! Hladno piće u jednoj šaci, komad u drugu i noge u Jadranskom...ne mogu pitati za boljeg vremena.

23 January 2007

48 Hours

Camel polo...fire...suicide.

The day began well. I awoke early with vigor and my water was timely delivered. You see, I would rather support the local economy instead of hauling water myself. As the job situation is scarce, I pay the going rate of a dime a barrel 3 times a week for water to the waterman. He makes $30 a month perhaps, roughly calculated...I don't know. So it was off to the camel races followed by camel polo. Interesting stuff, they played much better than I would've thought. Its tough to whack a ball with a long stick whilst atop a camel. Of course you can't go to an event without being hassled by a drunk. So...camel polo.

On to the flames. I head back to the good 'ol ger and am distressed to find my smoke alarm going off. I pretty much have the forsight to envision exactly what is going on behind that door...I foolishly had lit a fire before going off to the races. So a den of smoke is my ger, as I put out the fire in my dung box. Apparently it caught fire from the stove. And so now everything smells terrible. Had I arrived later, there would've been nothing. I was angry with myself more than anything. C'est la vie, eh?

Finally, I sit down to use the 'Net, and the policeman has me assist him in printing photos, as evidence. Simple. However, the photos are of a man who has just committed suicide by tying himself to a fence, while he was drunk. Great way to end the day, eh?

That's 48 hours for you in Mongolia...camel polo, fire and suicide...

04 January 2007

Into the Fray

Peace Corps is like the Marine Corps, except that the pen is mightier than the sword. Building bridges has always been better than burning them. We are dropped into the thick of the forest, the center of an ocean and the top of a mountain (or in my case, next to one). We’re told to find our own way and the Mikr rolls on leaving me in dust with my temporary Mongolian family and the two words of Mongolian that I know. I was born in Chicago, re-born Croatian by spending a number of years on that beautiful coast and finally, to the East, I’m re-born Mongolian in Bayangol (Rich River). After seven months, I believe I’ve made it down here in the Kingdom of the Middle-Gobi.

I came here with a fistful of expectations only to have them scattered by the brutal wind of Chinggis. It’s a tough life, one immeasurably unpredictable (a ger burned down just last month). Predictability and the routine are fine and dandy, but I like to fly by the seat of my pants. Life here is spontaneous; I just made my debut concert performance playing some tunes on guitar due to the insistence of community members…and whatever! Despite many “what on Earth are they thinking?!” moments I have with Mongolians, some things are to be learned from them. Think of the big picture but don’t plan too far ahead. Live for the moment (you never know when your ger will burn down). Never hold anything back, give all you got. I’ve never had such a hospitable neighborly experience in America (unless they were immigrants) as I have here, where they make you eat and drink ‘til you can’t stand up! Much is to be learned crossing the time and space of history and culture.

I drive “home” hours in a general direction, for there are no roads. The terrain can be rough and things break down. There is no flipping out; it’s called patience. There is no rush to life, no running to stand still. The children here are beautiful, hard-working and can play volleyball eight hours straight without getting bored. I see my breath in the morning and my water bottle is frozen solid. It’s a wonderful life. I’ve eaten all kinds of meat (camel, marmot, horse, etc.) and the fat...ugh. I’ve done dairy and vodka in all manifestations. What was it the Westerner turned nomad (W. Siegfried?) once said, “[the harder a man’s life, the better his character].”

“Life is calling…” the brochure says. The kingdom has been calling me for a long time.

09 November 2006

DY 49-37

Right. The Mongolia Project. What does it consist of? A basketball court without boards or a rim. A volleyball net fret with so many holes it becomes difficult to discern the validity of a play on occasion (volleyball being the nation's #1 sport sans downing vodka). Miraculously, a computer room. With actual computers! But they're all virus infested. Some of the students chairs lack the proper screws thus every so often a "thump" will occur during lesson. Most kids don't have textbooks and high school is only 3 years. Looking on the bright side, things could be worse. I could be working inner-city Chicago, with kids that deal, pack and perform sexual favors for $5 a pop. They also throw pennies at you. Note: These are isolated incidents and not meant to paint a bleak picture of my hometown. The kids here are just the darn cutest things!

Let's see, who else has passed through these dusty plains...a South African and a Tennessee man. The coffee and wine are out. It's gonna be a long winter but time is passing quickly. My conscience is clean and I've lost everything I don't need. It's nice to boil life down to it's essence.

Black Riders

Though I enjoy cooking, I usually would rather let someone else do it so I can spend more time...say philosophizing. Thus, I'm a regular at the student dorms, which harbors excellent cooks, when someone doesn't invite me for food or in the rare instance I decide to fend for myself. One cold night I'm making my way to the food stop when two (likely drunk) men on a cheap Russian motorbike continuously circle me in the dark. Close enough for me to give 'em a shove and laugh as they tumble to the ground. But I choose the high road and keep walking. They continue to rally around the dorm as I dine. Some students worried about my welfare decide to escort me home even after I decline the invitation, insisting I can "boks". They negate. Then I remember I'm in the "Peace" Corps. If only certain people took the high road and realized that peace is the only means of progress.

04 October 2006

Devils & Dust

I left behind cities of blinding lights for lands where the stars shine bright. With it all the trappings of city life including Internet. How it managed to track me down through all these twists, turns and many miles I don't want to know. It's here now, in this frontier town of few thousand. As the old adage goes, if you can't beat 'em...

White people also won't leave me be. Italians at the post, German Bikers appearing out of thin air trading booze for lodging, French
vegetarians on a world tour...adds color to my already colorful life.

This is the Peace Corps experience. Always vague and ambiguous as you're left to your own devices. English lessons take over. The children on the street won't quit with the "hellos" and "goodbyes" even after you've acknowledged them. Sometimes I just want to throw...something...at them (Black Balkan humor?). Mare's milk. All sorts of meat. Tough and sour cheese. Rubbing alcohol is the staple vodka...drink of choice. Brides thrown at your feet. Drunkards like zombies on the street. Devils and dust. I wouldn't have it any other way. I recommend it to anyone who knows what's up and enjoys living life to the fullest...

17 August 2006


Ok, so I'm headed out to a ger, with no Internet and no cell phone access...I love it. Though, I will probably find a way to post once a month from somewhere.

There are really only 3 big cities in Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar which may soon become "Chinghis City", Darkhan and Erdenet. UB has 1 million or so, the others about 100,000. The most sparsely populated country on the planet!

They are behind with some aspects of Western culture. For example, six year old Linkin' Park and hip-hop videos play on the TV and Britney Spears t-shirts are abundant. It's not that they have bad taste, it's just that they don't have any exposure to the good stuff. I let my little Mongolian sister listen to some U2 or Jeff Martin (of the Tea Party) and she really dug it. If only I had the time to strip Mongolia of terrible Western pop and give 'em some good stuff.

14 August 2006

Where the Streets Have No Name

The summer has come and gone in the blink of an eye. In one week, I will be posted at site, alone really for the first time in my life. I still don't know where that is. The summer was rough, intense at times but rewarding. I'd bumped my head a few times real good, sliced open my hand enough to peer into it, suffered the worst hangover of my life to a day of vomiting my heart out as a consequence of eating bad buuz (I filled up like three plastic grocery bags). I did survive consumption of marmot (the Black Death carrying rodent) though! We'd had an incident where the Mikr' axle caught fire, leaving us stranded well into the night, in the middle of nowhere with thousands of mosquitoes attacking us. I had 16 bites on one hand alone. It was like something out of Greek mythology, definitely on par with Tantalus or that guy who was fated to forever push the boulder up the hill. Then the wolves began howling, but we made it fine in the end. It is amazing how the natives can fix things here, very efficient. What would have cost hundreds if not thousands in the States and taken days cost peanuts here and done within a 1/3 of a day. This is Mongolia man, you don't ask questions, you just roll with the punches.

Spent a few days in Ulaanbaatar, a nice little place. Coming from big cities the likes of Chicago and having spent time in places like Rome or Toronto, UB isn't that big a place. The women are good looking. Some of the customs are difficult to live with, such as the eating of one "meal" a day (dinner), or at least that's how my nutty host family does it. I also dislike the vodka, but I sometimes drink a little when invited to do so. There is also a huge lack of privacy, everything is social. These definitely may not apply all across the board, but just things I've witnessed. From people changing clothes in front of people they barely know to never enjoying alcohol by yourself (as in some wine or beer complimenting your dinner).

This really is a place where the streets have no name. Sometimes there are no streets. Even if there are, nobody knows their names. I'll put a few photos up later, I don't know how often I'll have Internet access where I'm headed. It's been good times here in Mongolia, in a foreign land. I keep thinking about the future and if I'll stay in Mongolia after service or not but I realize you have to take it day by day. I'm also afraid I'd lose my sense of self and identity if I stayed here too long. I'll tell you though, I'm not missing much in the States. You could live an excellent and healthy life here a lot easier than you could in the U.S. Less stress, less unimportant things to think about, healthier landscape and the food is naturally organic.

04 July 2006

I'm all airag-ed out

One month in and we're going strong, though it has been rough along the way. Mongolia is a rough place and I keep seeming to get banged up pretty good. First I ran into a metal door frame (which I have to get accustomed to) and then I sliced my hand pretty good on a mountain. But that's life.

Naadam came and went...it started with the horses and ended in the outhouse. I'll sign up for wrestling next year. I'm gearing to kill my first sheep or goat one of these days if they let me. Was out in the country one night and we cooked a sheep in a metal can with hot rocks...pretty good stuff. Can't write too much as it's blistering hot and my hand hurts.

07 June 2006

Cold Cold Ground

Well...here I am in Darkhan, Mongolia. It's been an amazing couple days, we've been traveling quite a bit. We spent two nights in a ger which was cold, but the country is beautiful. I took photos of course but don't know when I'll be able to share them. We had a crazy welcome at the airport from current PCVs. It is really an amazing place and things are looking very good. I am extremely happy to have chosen to join the Peace Corps and even happier to be in Mongolia! A lot of things are happening as we are getting into training and settling down. I'm giddy as a school boy!

19 May 2006

Wild Horses

A little about Mongolia…it has a population of close to 3 million. Under Soviet rule from 1924-1991, it became a democracy the same year Croatia proclaimed its independence. About a third of the people live in the capital Ulaanbaatar, which is the coldest capital in the world. The lowest recorded temperature was roughly -40F, but it usually hits -20F in January. Good thing I have my wool socks and “under armor.” The landscape includes the Gobi Desert, mountains, steppes and green fields. Mongolian is the official language, with Russian spoken by some of the older generation and very little Mandarin.

The nomads still roam with their herds and their gers. I think it of utmost importance that they continue this way of life, and a good way of life it is, for the sake of cultural preservation. Tendencies of Western civilization, capitalism and corporations pose a dangerous threat to this pristine land. It is a place where some of the last wild horses of Earth roam. What do we do when our last wild horses are no longer free to roam? It is an unthinkable notion. What usually happens, foreign investors and corporations enter a country, basically make loads of money off the land and its people and then high-tail it out of there leaving behind ashes and toxicity. The world is already overpopulated with concrete and industry. Mongolia is gaining greater appeal and I fear for its integrity. Politicians will be politicians, but hope is for ever around the corner. Some Western ideas and practices can certainly be beneficial to the land, however much of it can be detrimental.

On a side not, I am ecstatic as I have just purchased a Voltaic Solar Backpack (http://www.voltaicsystems.com/). Using solely the sun (though you can plug it into an outlet), it charges mp3 players, cameras, cell phones, GPS, electric shavers, etc. I have never been so truly amazed. I can be stuck in the Gobi Desert with no water and yet still be able to listen to music and have an electrical shave! Free and clean energy is here. Now. Use it. We have the technology to run cars on various oils (vegetable to name one), to power homes and electronics using the sun and also to create energy using the wind. Go solar, go biodiesel. Lift this veil of ignorance enforced upon us ever since Rudolf Diesel was thrown into the English Channel for even thinking of running his engines on vegetable and peanut oil.

T-Minus 2 weeks.