31.10.2013 -5 °C
…My dad and Annette were standing in front of my apartment at 7.30 a.m.! :-) Really great! Also strange of course, to have them here, in ‘my’ neighbourhood. I believe my dad said to Annette: “This can’t be it... right?” and I believe Annette responded: “Ehm, well, I think so Eric.” Hihi. We had such a great and special one and a half weeks together, it was great to do things together and just to be together :-) We visited Bert’s Ger-camp in Terelj (of course they had to sleep in a Ger), went a few times to Ulaanbaatar, drank coffee in Café Amsterdam and had great Chinese and Korean dinners, visited one of the big markets in UB, travelled in probably the most crowded bus EVER (our estimation is at 120 people in one city bus), saw some of Ada’s work at the Federation of the Blind (where the felt slippers and Gers are being made, and where Annette and I got a ‘best massage’ from the blind) and the Federation of the Wheelchair users and experienced a part of the Trans-Mongolia express by travelling from UB to Zamiin-Ud (just before the border with China) and Erlian / Erenhot in China by train.
While they stayed in Zamiin-Ud, of all places, I crossed the border in an old Russian Jeep together with and on top of about 5 crazy Mongolian women that were about to ‘shop till they drop’ in Erlian and 3 Mongolian men. Luckily I speak eight words Mongolian and one of the women spoke three words English and so I could arrange that I was being brought to the train station (from which I thought I knew how to find the Mongolian consulate) while they were getting out of the taxi at the market in Erlian. Well, from the train station I walked and walked and walked and finally reached the consulate.
While I was waiting I got to speak to a Mongolian girl who was talking Italian and because of which I was completely surprised: standing in China, at the Mongolian consulate, hearing two Mongolians and one European looking guy talking Italian with each other?! But they were really great people, working for an Italian company in UB, and after we left the consulate because we couldn’t do any visa applications that day because the internet wasn’t working, and asked me to have Chinese lunch with them. So nice :-) great food (hot pot!) and great company. After lunch I went to check in at my hotel, had a look at that huge market where all Mongolians go to shop, and at night I had ‘dinner’ with them at the KFC haha; that’s what you get when you’re travelling with two guys I guess. Then we had a beer together in their hotel room which was also really nice.
The next morning I was the first one at the consulate, standing outside from 7.30 a.m. while the consulate was only opening at 9 / 9.30. But, it was a good decision, because at the time they opened there were about 20 people waiting. We did our visa application and I could come with them to their hotel as I already checked out that morning. We spent the rest of the day with talking, having lunch, picking up our new tourist visas (jeeej!), I read something and they slept, and then we left for the train that would bring us back to Zamiin-Ud.
In the train they do the passport and visa control which takes about one and a half hours; they come to check your tickets and passports, then the next official comes to pick up the passports, takes them out of the train to an office, the train is locked and you as passenger has to wait all the time till they come back and give your passport back. Then everybody really wants to get out of the train to go to the bathroom or eat something. I said goodbye to my new Mongolian and Romanian friends and met up with my dad and Annette again :-) we had dinner in Zamiin-Ud and could share our stories and at 9.25 p.m. we took back the night train to UB. The next morning was great because snow had fallen that night so the whole country was beautifully white; we could see a lot of the country from the train :-)
Back in Mongolia we had a few days together, in which they visited the Gandan monastery in UB and did some shopping, I worked a few days at the health centre and that Friday we went with Ada to see some of her work. Unfortunately they left already again last Saturday morning very early but it was really really great to have them here and bringing them to the airport was fun because Ada had been able to arrange one of the hospital ambulances and driver to drive us to the airport :-)
And now I am back to work of course! Slowly I and Ankhaa are able to contact all Xoroos and get back a huge number of questionnaires and some stories which is really nice! So this weekend will be “data analysis weekend” so that I can discuss preliminary results with some of my team members and stakeholders next week. I am wondering what comes out of all the questionnaires!
Well, and because pictures say more than a thousand words, I will try to upload a lot of photos from the past weeks ;-)