Quilted Picker-upper: 10 July 2006 (Monday)

Today was another day of walking around UB. The central Sukhbaatar Square in UB has been under heavy renovation by the looks of things. It turns out that 2006 is the 800th anniversary of Chinggis (Genghis) Khan creation of the Mongolian Empire. Giant statues of the Chinggis and his famous generals were to be unveiled during the Naadam festival which officially opens today. For those forgetting their high school history you might recall that Chinggis Khan united all the Mongol tribes in 1206 and subsequently rampaged across Europe creating the world’s largest land-based empire.

Wilting in the hot sun, Derek and I headed for coffee and then to the State Department Store. Ostensibly the trip to the store was to purchase a hat and some cheap plastic plates for the trek. I ended up buying a cup with the “Family of Little Bunnies” which had the weird Asian-English phrase printed upon it:

“We are going there with beans. My siblings are waiting for me in the forest”

Explain that and I will send you a bottle of wine.

We also popped in to see a quilt show in the store. Someone had raved about it to Derek during his extra day in UB. The show turned out to be the work of a NGO Shin Zamnal (New Way Life) Mongolian Quilting Centre. Its mission was to improve the lives of women in Mongolia, teaching them new skills in handicrafts and creating a livelihood for themselves. It was also support for those with abusive husbands. The centre was being run by a Mongolian woman and attorney who now devoted her time solely to the project.

There were also some western women volunteering their time and resources to make this project a success. One of them, Maggie Ball, was an expert quiltmaker from Washington and was especially involved n the project and related to me how much it had grown and done in the past couple of years. The quilts made by the Mongolian women, while simpler in design than those of the likes of Maggie, were nevertheless of an incredibly high quality. So much so that I bought one in aid of the organization. I also thought that this was one of those independent NGOs that was doing some good work in Mongolia and I promised Maggie I would drop her a line on my return and see what I could do to help from Canada.

You ask, how the hell am I going to get a giant quilt back in my cramped backpack? we worked out a plan. The quilt I wanted had already been purchased by some US Embassy official, so they were going to specially make me one and send it to me in Canada. Considering postal services in this part of the world, I wonder if I will ever see it!

Derek convinced me to try some mutton in preparation for probably having to eat meat in rural Mongolia. For those that know me, I’m mostly a vegetarian these days; well fish are vegetables. It all arises from my unhappiness with farmed meat. I figure sheep were happy here. The meat tasted nice though I must admit I am no longer a fan of the texture of meat or its lingering taste.

Supposedly my train ticket to Beijing has not been bought yet but the travel agency assured me that it will be fine and have given me a cell phone number to call on my return from rural Mongolia in a couple of weeks. Right now, I’m waiting for the 6:30pm meeting of the Intrepid crew.


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