September 5, 2008

9/5/08 Ulaanbaatar Mongolia

The plane to UB (short for Ulaanbaatar) was full but I might have been the only westerner. The 3-hour flight seemed to take forever to me. I think I just wanted to be finished with all the sitting. [smile] Even for such a short flight, we still got a snack, then a meal plus the inflight movie.

Went through airport immigration quickly and I was very happy when I saw that my bags did arrive with me in Mongolia. Grabbed a baggage cart and wheeled it out into the huge crowd waiting for the arrivals. And low and behold, there is someone with a sign that says 'Jim Damico'. I'm already embarrassed that I can't remember everyone's name but I was picked up by Tsitgeng who is the other English teacher at the center. As the driver negotiated the heavy traffic back into the center of the city, Tsitgeng and I chatted for a bit.

Traffic was an 'interesting' experience. Can you say traffic jam in Mongolian? There were policemen directing traffic but I didn't see where they could go, it was that crowded. Tsitgeng pointed out many of the city landmarks as we got near the FPMT center which is almost in the heart of the city.

Once at the center, I finally got to meet Ueli Minder, the director of FPMT Mongolia, with whom I had been corresponding with for the last six months preparing to come to UB. I was instantly put at ease with his open welcome. I will do my best for him and the center. And I can't even begin to name all the Mongolians I met who work at the center but everyone was excited to see the new English teacher. And once I got a chance to sit down, I got acquainted with the center's cat, Bodhichitta.

My room is on the third floor of the center and I couldn't be happier with it. It was wonderfully prepared for my arrival by the center's manager. She even made up a small Buddhist shrine/alter for me. I have everything I need here, a desk, an armoire, dresser and bed. I have my own private bath but right now it doesn't have hot water. Usually the hot water comes from the central heating system (which isn't on yet) but they have plans to convert all the rooms to individual heaters. So, cold showers for a bit, but that sure wakes you up. [smile]

Nice firm mattress, just the way I like it

Even though I was tired, I didn't really feel like going to bed so I spent the evening unpacking. Later the women at the center invited me down to the dinning room to join them in having a piece of birthday cake. Looks like I am again in a work environment surrounded by women (like my years at the hospital). Listening to them talk, I realize learning Mongolian is going to be tough, but I so want to be able to listen and join in the discussions. Most everyone speaks wonderful English here at the center so I shouldn't be too lost, but learning even a bit of Mongolian will go a long way.

Once I was done, I started to write in my journal but by 8pm, my body finally said enough. One minute I was fine, the next decided I needed to go to bed right now. The end of a good day and the first of a whole new adventure to come in the next year.

PS: My plan isn't to post entries every day but maybe once every week or two. But when there is a lot happening, like now, I will try and post more often.