Sunday, August 14, 2011

Lost in Mongolia

The following excepts are from an email I received from Bruno who now has no Internet access at all, but managed to borrow a cell modem to send this to me. He is not able to download photos at this time but assures me that when he can, they will be fantastic

Aug 9th to the Country side
Our day started at 9am and four of us got into a mini SUV. After we loaded the bags we barely fit into the car. Then off to the market for water and snacks. Not sure where we would put that??
Our ride was mainly on pavement for the first 6 hours and that was the half way mark. Only 200 km in 6 hours. Then onto a dirt road for the next 6 and half hours. The amazing driving skills of our host Nassa took us through the gigantic potholes and gullies with great safety. We arrived in Binder Soum in darkness and checked into our one room hotel. We had dumplings and settled in. Our room has four beds and Ken, Mongo (our young female interpreter), and me all went to sleep. My internal clock has still not been reset so in the middle of the night I had to get up and find the outdoor toilet. Our plank style toilet was not a great site… more about that another time.

Aug 10th Binder Soum
We got up to an amazing sunny hot day and attempted to get ready. No towels and a small basin with a trickle of water was all we had to work with. No problem, we made it work and still dressed up in our near best work duty clothes. I was told that later in the day Nassa will take us men to the river for a bath..maybe we did’t do as well as we thought in cleaning ourselves up. I have resorted to using my t shirts as a towel so hopefully he can supply one or I’m going to run out of clothes fast. Interesting how we take the simple things in life for granted.

It is blistering hot outside all day and we basically worked most of the day in a small office space with 7 people. No fan, no air conditioning, just a small window circulating the hot air. I was really looking forward to the river. It takes a long time to get the history of the credit union and to clarify the financial statements. Every question we ask has to be repeated back through our interpreter. Then a discussion occurs between the employees and then our interpreter responds. This went on until about 2pm. We stopped for lunch and I was looking forward to getting outside. No chance, our lunch was served in our room. Interestingly the hotel and credit union are in the same building so we never have to go very far. On the back side is the kitchen and small Bar. No running water!!!

Lunch was good but plain, probably not a bad thing as I was avoiding the “PLANK and Hole”. I asked to have a tour of Binder Soum after lunch. Many of the Gers are not in town at this time of year, so the village looks a bit sparse with wooden huts and large left over Soviet concrete box buildings. The horses and cows roam freely through town and roads are made by driving through any passable area. It looks like a small organized town center is developing in the area of the credit union. Some new structures are getting built. The village acts as an outpost for supplies for the surrounding country side and in winter the herders come in with their Gers and fill up the village.

We end our day around 6ish and go to the river. The Onon shores are now filled with people swimming, washing clothes and just socializing. We find our spot and go in for a cool swim. The current actually moves pretty well so you have to try to keep yourself from drifting down steam. I tractor pulls trucks across the river as no bridge has ever been build on the river in any direction. It costs about $3 to get your motorbike across and $15 for your car. It’s deep enough to make a small truck float away so it’s quite the site to see the river driving in action.

Nassa later takes us into the grasslands to see the monument identifying the place where Temuujin becomes Chinggis Kahn. We also go and see another monument close by that is said to be Chinggis’s his birth place. It’s still undetermined where that location is as other locations in Mongolia also make claim to it. We drink vodka and toast Chingis. The photographing is amazing. The big wide expanse, horses running past us and another spectacular sunset. By the time we get back our small local pub has turned into a nightclub so we had to join the fun. The herdsmen are all decked out in their best disco attire and glued to their cells and blackberry’s. The women are all dressed up and drinking like no tomorrow. I’m still in my swimming shorts so we only make a short visit…. The custom here is beer and vodka. Just a few shots and I can’t remember the rest of the night or how I got back to our room. Lesson learned !!

Aug 11th
I get up at 8 with the worst head pounding pain I have ever had. For breakfast we get oatmeal with lamb… more meat. I ate some of it and it helped my headache. I’m getting a bit sick of the food now and I really need a change. It’s always meat….Today was all about work as I took them through a SWOT analysis and worked towards setting four specific goals. There was a lot of silent time as I think they wanted me to come up with the goals. I asked my interpreter, Mongo, what was happening and she said they are thinking. I had challenged them to make decisions and choices. In the end we did it, four goals assigned to specific individuals or committees, identified what success would look like for each and set a measurement to determine when they would be achieved. The group thought the exercise was very helpful and they were pleased with the direction they took. A coaching day complete! Now off to the river for a bath and then more meat.

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