Particularly since Mongolia made one of its rare appearances in international news last week, I thought I would start to post a photo or two of my travels there on Monday mornings, along with new paintings and drawings with Mongolian subjects. My husband and I and another artist are currently set to go back ( my third trip, his first) on August 24. My hope is to blog while on the trip when I can.
In the meantime, I know that Mongolia is still a mysterious, exotic place to most Americans who only know the country from stories about Chinggis Khan (the more correct spelling of Genghis Khan). I think the riot caught everyone off-guard and, I would venture to guess, that most Mongolians did not approve of, and are quite possibly embarrassed by, what happened.
Alcohol abuse (coupled with poverty and hardship) has been a problem in the country for a long time, partly due to the introduction of vodka by the Russians many years ago when Mongolia was tied very closely to the Soviet Union. I have read that the younger generation is moving away from hard liquor and choosing beer instead, but, in any case, booze appears to be a factor in what happened, as at least one news report I read stated that 600 mostly young men had been taken away to the Mongolian equivalent of a “drunk tank”.
Mongolia is sitting on huge deposits of valuable mineral resources like copper and uranium. How the income is handled from the mining, which involves foreign companies, appears to be a point of serious internal political disagreement. This is a young democracy, less than twenty years old, but the citizens have expressed their views forcefully and in public many times before now. This time, for whatever reason, it got completely out of hand.
So, here are some photos of Ulaanbaatar that are typical of the city and the people, who go about their business day to day just like the rest of us. They catch the bus, talk on cell phones, go grocery shopping and vacation in the countryside. They can eat out in restaurants serving a variety of cuisines, including American, Korean, German, Japanese, Italian, Chinese and, of course, Mongolian (I adore buuz, the steamed meat turnovers), although many can’t afford that yet. And an increasing number speak at least a little English. I did love the fact that one often sees people dressed in “del”, the national garment.
(There are lots more photos from both my trips on my website)
Street Scene on Peace Avenue
The famous State Department Store, which has an entire floor dedicated to Mongolian crafts, music, art, books, etc. A must-go if you’re in Ulaanbaatar for the first time
Sukhbaatar Square, with the Palace of Culture on the left, one of my all-time favorite buildings
Gandan Monastery in the background with the Shaman Center and a small ger “district” in the foreground
Couple at Gandan Monastery taking a break
Another family at Gandan Monastery