Mongolia Monday Miscellany

The holidays are upon us and things are getting busy. The weather here in northern California has been unseasonably warm and sunny, with almost no rain. Very odd. On the other hand, winter has apparently arrived in Mongolia. There’s some nice photos here at AsianGypsy. Below is a picture of a pretty spring day (no wind!)  in UB, which brings me to the next topic:

Ger felt at the Narantuul Market, UB 2005
Ger felt at the Narantuul Market, UB 2005

One of the things that I noticed on my first trip to Mongolia was the number of shipping containers around town. I was told that when the economy collapsed, aid poured in and that a lot of it came in shipping containers. Lots of shipping containers. Really, really a lot of containers. Since Mongolia had nothing to send back out,  there they have stayed and been put to good use. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense. The Mongols are nothing if not resourceful, there were lots of containers and they are weather and theft-proof. So there is line of crates along one of the main roads where tires are sold, an area of them that house grocery sellers, etc.

Ger supplies, Narantuul Market, UB 2005
Ger supplies, Narantuul Market, UB 2005

These two photos are from the Narantuul (or, as some of you know it, the Black Market) Market in Ulaanbaatar. The containers line the outer edge of the parking lot. Since my interest was gers, my guide took me to the area where everything from complete gers to any and all the parts and furnishings were sold, all out of shipping containers. So, a few weeks ago, I saw this posting on Craig’s List, offering shipping containers for sale. We’ve ended up short on secure, clean storage at our now 3 year old house. I’ve needed somewhere to store extra frames for my paintings, older work, plus all my art festival gear and AirFloat shipping boxes, that is dry and bug-free. David needs to de-clutter the part of the garage he uses for his shop.  I also remembered a book I have that discusses how the Japanese traditionally had secure free-standing buildings in which to store their valuables and seasonal items that were not in use (that would be, for us, holiday decorations).

You can see where this is going, right? We’ve almost got the space cleared and the 20’x 8′ shipping container should arrive in a week or so. Mongolians would be shocked at what we are paying for it, but for what it is, on a per-square-foot basis, it’s a deal. It will, however, lack “style points”. I’m going to take a cue from Frank Lloyd Wright, who observed that doctors can bury their mistakes, but architects can only plant vines. We’re going to paint the thing a neutral green, put lattice up along the outboard wall and plant rambling roses and other big vines like a climbing hydranga (canes up to 80′ long). The inboard side will form a wall for a carport on which we can hang our ladders. The door will be the aesthetic challenge, but I’ll think of something. Environmentally it makes sense since we’re re-using something, not using resources for new construction. It may be a marker of where we are in life that both of us are really quite excited about all this. Sufficient storage, The Final Frontier! Thank you to the Mongols for a great inspiration!


On a cultural note, most of what is known about the early history of the Mongolian people is contained in the Secret History of the Mongols, which I plan to blog about in the future once I’ve read it. In the meantime, in Simon Wickham-Smith’s Mongolian poetry anthologies is this, from Chinggis Khan himself:

Statue of Chinggis Khan, Government House, Ulaanbaatar 2008
Statue of Chinggis Khan, Government House, Ulaanbaatar 2008


I don’t worry about my own humble body,
I do worry that my great state may weaken.
I don’t worry about my own constitution,
I do worry that my great country may be distressed.
Should my humble body be exhausted,
Still my great state shall not weaken.
Should my own constitution suffer,
Still my great country shall not be distressed.

Physical strength can see off one alone,
But mental strength can see off many.

One skilled in words becomes wise,
One skilled in swordsmanship becomes a hero.

Head for the mountain pass,
Head for a place to ford the river,
Don’t be overwhelmed by the distance,
Just keep going.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the weight,
You’ll lift it if you make the effort,
Immense river fords,
Don’t be faint-hearted because you’re far away-
If you go along, you will come out on top,
Don’t hesitate believing that is heavy-
If you exert yourself you will lift that up.

Words of Chinggis Khan were noted in decrees and books and called Chinggis’ advice.

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