Monday, May 29, 2006

Homeward bound

I am leaving for home tommorow (30th). The drive to UB wil be 8-10 hours. The next day I fly to Seoul, overnight, then on to Vancouver and finally Fredericton late on the third. Looking forward to seeing everyone again!

Thanks everyone for reading and commenting on this blog! I'll keep posting on my next rotation in Mongolia starting in late June.



Friday, May 26, 2006


Some picture of the local horses.

They are much smaller than the camels, but are still the bosses of the gobi. At a watering hole, the horses drink first, then camels, goats, and finally sheep.

A favorite local beverage is airag, which is fermented mare's milk. They also occasionally eat the horses.

Horse racing here is huge. Most of the jockey's however, are 9 or 10 years old. Apparentley there is a movement to ban chlid-horse racing because the kids occasionally get hurt.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


These are all the nice people I work with.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


This is all that left of an old monastery near camp. Apparently the Russian army destroyed it in the 1920’s. There is not much left now, just bits of the foundations and some miscellaneous junk. Several dug pits suggest that whatever was there was looted long ago. It is kind of a sad place….

Friday, May 19, 2006


We had a "disco" last night, Mongolian style. The audio was provided by one speaker, hardwired to a jeep stereo, which was just outside the ger door (idling the whole time so the battery wouldn’t die). The disco light was my headlamp in flashing-mode, hanging from the ceiling.

For the first hour, everyone sat around the outside, girls on one side, guys on the other; just like junior high. As the beer went down, people got brave and the dancing started. A bizarre mix of Korean techno, Mongolian and American rap and lots of Madonna was on the play list.

Everyone got dressed up for the occasion. The girls spend hours putting on make-up. The guys wore their best checkered shirts and camel-hair vests. A few people wore their sun-glasses for added coolness. The Canadians, lacking formal disco-wear, made-due with substandard jeans and T-shirts.

A good time was had by all. It was definitely more fun than any North American bar I have been to in a while!


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Things you can't get in Fredericton

Haven't tried the chips, but the aloe juice is really good.


Sunday, May 14, 2006


These little guys dropped in on us today for a quick snack.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Mongolian BBQ

Try this nifty Mongolia recipe at your next soiree.

1)Acquire fat, healthy goat from local nomad for around 30$.
2)Slaughter goat.
3)Use a plumber’s blow torch to burn all the hair off goat.
4)Remove head, nether regions and entrails. Leave hoofs attached.
5)Store goat overnight on the floor of a common store room where any squeamish Canadian geologists you might know can trip over it at breakfast.
6)Stuff belly of goat with rocks.
7)Stuff goat (with rocks inside) into large, goat-sized pot.
8)Cook over open fire for a couple of hours.
9)Use a blunt axe to hack goat apart into individual servings, include rocks.
10)Serve hunks of goat meat, including any attached bone splinters, cartilage, viscera etc… to happy, admiring guests.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Beer Out Here

Half-litre of Korean beer, 1$, and yes, you can guess what it tastes like.

Monday, May 08, 2006


This is Gana, the young Mongolian geologist I work with most days. He is a great guy and very keen to learn both geology and english. His full name is Gansaikhan, which means "Beautifull ferrous metal". Some things just don't translate...


Friday, May 05, 2006

The Dogs

We have two puppies here in camp. I would gladly take them home, but they would probably find apartment life depressing. Dogs and people here coexist in the traditional fashion. The dogs roam freely around camp living off random food scraps, the odd leg of mutton (hoof attached), and whatever they can catch in the desert. There are no obedience classes, special foods, choke-collars etc.. They don't even have names. The dogs pretty much do as they please. The downside to this otherwise perfect dog-life is that meals and water are fairly irregular.

I try to top up their water dish daily and they usually get my bacon. I'd like to play with them more, but they undoubtedly have fleas, worms, ticks and every other conceivable parasite. On my next rotation, I am bringing a box of milkbones.


Thursday, May 04, 2006

The snake

I committed a bit of a Mongolian faux-pas yesterday. The days a getting warmer here which means our time of snake-free enjoyment of the Gobi has come to an end. I walked into the office ger in the afternoon to find a lethargic and probably confused snake, recently emerged from hibernation, coiled up on the linoleum.

Let me say at this point that I have nothing against snakes in general, as long as they stay outside. Garter snakes in New Brunswick inspire curiosity and are even kind of cute. A Siberian pit viper in my place of work, however, is another mater. I take a rather dim view of cold-blooded, mindlessly aggressive things with neuro-toxin filled fangs; call me prejudiced…

For lack of a better, immediate option (honestly) I acquainted the problematic little serpent with the business-end of my rock hammer. In my defense, let me also state that these are not endangered animals in Mongolia. I sort of thought of it like a mouse; a pest to be eradicated. I wouldn’t bludgeon-to-death the last dodo or anything.

As it happens snakes are revered in Mongolia as powerful entities. Apparently killing them brings bad luck (I would argue however, that if you find a Siberian pit viper on your floor, that the bad luck has already arrived…). I was told in no uncertain terms, not to kill anymore snakes, but to relocate them outside. They failed to provide any helpful hints as to how I might accomplish this however. In the future I will endeavor to abide by local custom and simply coax the venomous little fellow back to his desert home, using praise and gentle cooing noises.


Monday, May 01, 2006


My ger is definitely one of the more comfortable field accommodations I have had over the years. The basic frame is a collapsible wooden lattice which expands to form the walls. From there, many thin beams join the edge of the lattice to a round window with a wooden frame at the top. Two uprights support the roof inside. A heavy rock is suspended from the middle of the roof, to hold the whole thing together under tension. The frame is covered with heavy felt and canvas and weighed down with rocks and sandbags. The colorfully painted door is always about three inched lower than I think it is.

There is a charcoal burning woodstove in the middle, which is tended to by a fellow name Bockli. He stokes up the fire before bed, and again around 5:30 am so that it is warm in the morning. Occasionally Bockli goes overboard with the coal and turns the ger into a sauna.

Ger etiquette is interesting. Mongolians just walk right into other people’s ger without ever knocking (surprise!). Men sit on the right, women on the left. Seniority is correlated with position in the ger. Elder’s, bosses etc.. sit at the far side, opposite the door. The lower your rank, the closer you sit to the door.