Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Big Crush, A Small World

Ok lovely readers, uncross your legs and take off those Depends now. Here's the story. I apologize for the wait, but I had a bit of traveling and Thai jungle trekking and cobra- and tiger-avoiding to do. More on that later. It starts about a month ago, at a little place called Oasis. We went there frequently because the company owns it. It was kind of our hangout spot. One day we went and there was a new waitress there. She was very cute. I said "That new waitress is very cute." Little did I know what this innocent comment would get me into.

So my friend Lhagva said, "Let me handle this." And he wrote on a napkin (in Mongolian), "My friend thinks you're cute. He's the one with the glasses. Here's his number: ..." And gave it to her. Then Monday morning, I got a text message from her! It said (in Mongolian) "Hi, I'm the waitress from Oasis. My name's Otgo." And I was all like whoa! So I had my friend Matt who knows Mongolian text her back because she didn't know English and they went back and forth a few times and it was all good. So we went to Oasis again the next weekend, and my boss was making a big deal about it, so I went up and talked to her with a translator, and she said my texts were boring! And that angered me. So I sent her a more exciting text asking her to see a movie. And she said she'd love to! But then 15 minutes before we were supposed to meet, she canceled on me. Stood me up. So that was bogus, but probably for the best. It may have been an incredibly awkward date, considering we couldn't communicate with each other. Like, "Sain baina uu?" "Sain. Sain baina uu?" Point to movie you want to see. Go watch movie. "Bayartai." Bayartai." And leave. Like maybe the most awkward date ever. After that I figured she probably wasn't interested, and even if she was, we couldn't talk to each other, so I gave up. Yes, dear reader, I threw in the towel.

I saw her a few times after that and said hello and she gave me a radiant smile and I lamented my poor language abilities and all that, but that was about it. But here's the kicker, my wonderful reader, what you've been waiting for for a week, what's been keeping you awake all those long nights, what's been haunting your thoughts all this time. Do you remember that lovely family that I lived with for five days? Those 13 people that I ate and slurped and slept and peed with for five days? They were HER family. Those little kids that I pushed around in rusty hand carts and slid down gravel slides and threw cow dung around with? HER little cousins. Tsitsgee Ikhchee, the nice lady who cooked for me and made my bed? HER aunt. Those two guys listening to terrible pop music on their cellphones all the time? HER other cousins. That guy with the impeccable fashion sense (Adidas sweatpants + blazer) who laughed at me when he asked me if I spoke Mongolian and I replied in Mongolian: "I don't know." HER FATHER.

How did I find all this out? Well, some of my coworkers came to pick me up on their way home from that company picnic. And right as they were pulling up, Otgo came running up to the ger with a lovely smile, yelling "Johnny Johnny!" and jabbering away. And I had no idea what was going on, and thought she must have come with them on the way home, since she too was at the company picnic. So I was like hey and kind of confused. And I got in the car, but realized there was no space left, and the little kids grabbed her and pulled her into the ger. And my coworkers informed me that, no, she hadn't driven with them, that her father picked her up. And I realized that the guy with sweatpants and blazer had borrowed my phone earlier to make a call, and sure enough, I checked my phone and he had called her. So she must have been very confused answering my phone call and talking to her dad. And they said, yes, this was her family. So I laughed at what a small country it was.

Now how does this twisted story end? The next day, my last in Mongolia, I had a lot of business to take care of, including paying a visit to Gandan Temple to thank the sky gods for a successful journey and ask for a safe trip home. But just as I was about to head up to the temple, I got a call saying "Otgo has the evening off work. She wants to see you. Do you want to have dinner with her?" I think the little kids put in a good word for me. Those little kids loved me. But what could I say? The temple, or my waitress, finally arrived on my doorstep after all that time? I ditched the sky gods and went to dinner, a double date with Matt, who had texted for me earlier, and another Mongolian girl who didn't speak English. We went to a nice Indian restaurant. And they did most of the talking and I was kind of lost. She told me some of what her family said about me. I think I mad a good impression. Afterward we went to see my buddies The Lemons play. Odnoo came over and sat with us, and I think that impressed her. But alas, the sky gods were not pleased with my choice of some silly dinner over them, and they turned that very dinner against me in the worst way. I won't go into details, but let's just say multiple bodily functions were at work. Five days of eating food cooked over cow poop without washing my hands and I'm fine, but then I go to one of the nicer restaurants in UB and get deathly ill. It's quite clear to me there was some divine intervention going on there. So I took my leave from Otgo. We had a long and passionate farewell, and there was much wailing and gnashing of the teeth and rending of the clothes and tearing of the hair. She said "see ya" and I said "see ya." She promised to learn English and I Mongolian. And I went home and became closer acquaintances with my toilet on my last night in Mongolia. And that's the story of the waitress.

I figured it was a bad idea to have the sky gods angry with me before flying through their domain, so I paid an early morning visit to a little shrine and apologized to the sky gods for choosing some trampy woman over them, and promised to go to a proper temple in Thailand, if only they'd heal me and grant me a safe journey. And with the combined forces of the sky gods and some powerful antibiotics, I dried up, and got on the plane to meet my lovely sister and her charming boyfriend in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where I am now, having more adventures and culture shock. It's hot and colorful and my diet contains vitamins and there are plants in the city. I visited a temple my first day here, and a few more since, and I think the sky gods are appeased. I'll spare you the details of how I know that. I'll probably write some more stuff, but you can also follow Phil and Julia's blog at and they'll probably cover most things we're doing.

Until next time, dear reader.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Herding, Slurping, Living.

So I'm back from my little countryside adventure. It was sweet, and a fitting way to end my trip here. On Wednesday we drove out to Terelj. It's about an hour from the city and is possibly the most beautiful place on earth. The scenery is stunning. In a few days I'm gonna try to upload a ton of pictures. But for now, maybe Google will aid your mental picture. So we drove out there, stopping at gers every now and then to ask where this family was. We found them, right by Ayanchin, a fairly nice resort that Mr. Ambassador likes to frequent. But that's neither here nor there.

The family consisted of a mother and father, three sons aged 20, 14, and 10, and an adorable little 5-year-old girl. And it made me wish that I too had an adorable little sister. Oh well. They spoke no English. So that was fun. And even though they repeated their names to me like 5000 times, I still only know the mother's name, Tsetsgee Ikhchee or something like that, and the youngest son, Purbaatar. That's because they were always yelling at him. Even when the mom was going over their names, she introduced him as the one whose name they were always yelling "Purbaatar! Hey Purbaatra!" Not that he was causing trouble, but just because he'd run off and wander around and generally not listen. But he was hilarious. The little kids liked playing with my camera and phone, so they took hundreds of pictures and went through every single one I'd taken, and play snake on my phone. And they'd accidentally call people every now and then and then hang up, which must have annoyed a few people. The 2 younger kids were crawling all over me within 5 minutes, and the rest of the family warmed up in short order.

The standard day was quite relaxing. I'd hang out with the kids and amuse ourselves while the two older sons rode off somewhere, I think to tend the herd. They had about 20 cows and maybe 10 calves. The kids' favorite activities, aside from the aforementioned snake and camera, included running around, sliding down a gravel pile, throwing rocks at the windows of an old abandoned shack, and pushing each other around in some old rusty hand carts. There'd be some chores, we'd clean the gers (they had 2), chop some firewood, and collect dried cow dung for the fire. The kids quite enjoyed standing on top of the dung pile and throwing chunks at me for me to catch and put in the bag. And I'd never have thought that getting cow manure thrown at me could be fun. And there'd certainly be a nap at some point, and I'd hike around and explore the beautiful park, and take tons of pictures. And food. The food was simple, hearty, and plentiful. Mostly milk products from their cows: yogurt, bread and butter, buuz, soup with meat and noodles or rice, and copious amounts of milk tea. I didn't have anything else to drink for those 5 days, not even water. Milk tea is a miracle drink. It's warming on cold days, surprisingly refreshing on hot days, thirst-quenching, stomach-soothing, and a universal dipping substance, for buuz, bread, anything. Milk tea is always drunk from a bowl, and always slurped aggressively. Our dad was a pretty good slurper, but the best was the grandma next door, I suppose because she's had 70 years to fine-tune her slurping technique. My favorite meal was when we all sat on the ground around a leg of meat, and the dad would cut off chunks and hand them to us. My favorite part of the day was in the evening when the cows would come home and we'd head out to milk them. The mom would milk while Purbaatar and I would wrangle the thirsty little calves away from their mothers. The doorless outhouse was out back, but I used the neighbors' doored model out of modesty. And the sanitation system consisted of a jar, which when filled with water served as a sink, shower, bathtub, anything. It was a remarkably versatile little jar.

On Friday, some relatives from the city arrived and stayed the rest of the weekend. And these city dwellers brought cigarettes and potato chips and cheap plastic toys to this pristine environment. Sort of indicative of how the city has corrupted the Mongolian people. In UB, they smoke and drink and rob and cheat and lie and fight. And in the countryside they slurp their milk tea and tend their animals. So there were 14 of us between two gers, and that slept us all. 2 to a bed (except for mine), roll out some blankets on the floor, and voila. And we all ate together in one ger, covering every surface and slurping away. It was remarkable how such a simple lifestyle worked so well. They had few material possessions, mostly just necessities, and housed 6 people in 2 rooms, but they were well-fed, healthy, and happy. And very loving towards each other. It made me miss my own family quite a bit (do you like that one Mom? That was for you).

They were very warm in general, and we got along remarkably well considering we couldn't communicate. But I understood the hand signals for eat and sleep and pee, and I picked up a few Mongolian words. Like when it was raining, they talked about boroond a lot. I learned that one from Fire. And I got used to "tsai uu?" which means "tea?" That's not to say they didn't talk to me a lot and try to teach me things. But Mongolian is a very difficult language, and I think I was there for the perfect amount of time, because any longer without communication would get awkward.

On Saturday, the company had a picnic in Terelj, so I met them up that afternoon. Most of the people were staying at a ger camp up the road a ways, but the boss and our advisory board members were staying at Ayanchin, about 50 meters from my little ger. So I had quite a bizarre experience when I washed up with the jar, said goodbye to the grubby little kids and walked 5 minutes to meet 4 guys sitting on a deck talking about hedge funds and real estate and high net worth individuals. That's kind of what Mongolia has been for me. Weird transitions between things like this. Then we drove out to the ger camp, where most of the company's employees were hanging out, and we played some bball and ate some hurhog, which is meat and veggies in a big pot cooked by hot rocks. It was delicious. A lot of times, they just cut open the animal and put the hot rocks inside and sew it up again and let it cook. But this time was less exciting. After about 2 hours of being away from my family, I began to miss them. That was strange. And then I returned home that night to my little ger and all was well.

I returned to the city the next afternoon. Most of the family was gone, I have no idea where, so I didn't get to say goodbye to them, which was pretty disappointing. And right as I left came the surprise of all surprises! I discovered a very funny coincidence, but something that you will have to wait until next time for, dear reader, because my fingers are tired and it's a long story. Try not to wet yourself in your anticipation. But all in all, it was a fantastic experience. I lived the way half the country lives, and met some wonderful people. And frankly, I was happier to have made their acquaintance than that of Odnoo or Asashoryu or Agiimaa (I didn't tell you about Agiimaa, reader, but youtube her if interested). They were simple, lovely, welcoming, and very generous.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Lemons / Broin' Out / Playtime / Taxis / Nazis / Going to Herd Some Sheep...

Ok. So. One night over a month ago, my fellow intern and I were at a restaurant and this band came on and played a few songs. And they were quite good. They played a few songs in Mongolian and a nice Coldplay cover. We took notice because the lead singer was very distinctive looking, he was kind of small, and had a beard and sunglasses and a hat, very non-Mongolian. And the bass player looked like Attila the Hun. The next day, we found out that these guys were the Lemons, the most popular band in Mongolia. So we thought that was cool. That weekend, we saw the singer at a club, and our Mongolian coworker knew him and asked him to come over and sit with us. So we hung out with him for a while. His name's Odnoo. He didn't speak too much English, but was super friendly, and still wearing his sunglasses. And it was quite dark. So I don't think he saw us at all. But from that moment on, we were bros.

We've seen more of their concerts and hung out with Odnoo a few times since then, and he's always been friendly and approachable, which is cool because this guy's like the biggest rockstar in Mongolia, and our brolationship has really blossomed. And he's always wearing his sunglasses. Apparently he never takes them off. Some say it's because he was weird looking eyes, but most say it's because he's really flipping cool. I think it's the latter. Here's my favorite one of their songs, partly because it's sweet and partly because I can understand the chorus (it means "hello, hello-o"). You can see my bro. He's the one with the sunglasses.

So this weekend was this big 2-day outdoor music festival called Playtime, kind of like the Bonnaroo of Mongolia, but with maybe a thousandth the amount of people. It's at a hotel about 25 minutes outside the city, set on the banks of a river at the foot of the mountains. It was a gorgeous day and the scenery was absolutely stunning. And people camp out there and hang out and eat khuushuur, and there's 37 bands playing between 2 days. Which must be every single band in Mongolia. I don't know where they scrape all these guys up. Some of them were terrible, but most were pretty good. And The Lemons were headlining it, and they put on the show of a lifetime. They were rocking and the whole crowd was singing along and jumping around and it was all good fun. The bands that followed them were pretty terrible, so we left and found some tea and khuushuur.

I left that night, and took the most terrifying taxi ride of my life back to the city. While the trip out took 25 minutes, we got back in a flat 10, tearing down little country roads, weaving between cars in the city, and blaring Russian techno-pop. I was hanging on for dear life the entire time. The only English my driver knew were a few choice curses he yelled when we hit a speed bump at 70 mph. And then after all that, he overcharged me. But he had a meter, so I couldn't argue. Taxi drivers here are sharks, and taxi service in general is pretty sketchy. Probably 5% of taxis here are actually marked as such, and have meters. The rest are just unmarked cars that stop and pick you up when you hold out your hand. But those might actually be better, because you can't argue with a metered fair, though they are all rigged. One taxi driver I had was actually an artist who gets in his car when it rains and drives people around to make an extra buck. So I avoid taxis whenever possible and never ride them alone because they are sketchy.

Oh, and a little while ago my coworker showed me this article from Time Magazine about neo-Nazis in Mongolia, and we were quite scared. Whenever we've walked around since then, we've wondered which establishment could be the fabled "far-right hangout." We think we have it pegged, an unassuming little place across from the Masterfoods, but we don't have the guts to see if it's "adorned with Nazi paraphernalia." But I finally ran into my first Mongolian Nazis this weekend. They were just two guys chilling at a club, but one of them had a Luftwaffe t-shirt with a big swastika on it, and another had the Parteiadler on his hat (thank you wikipedia for the word). And it was really disturbing. I wouldn't be surprised, and you can mark me on this, if Mongolia is overrun by some weird facist dictatorship in the next fifteen years. Seriously. It's brewing, even though they say Mongolia is only one of the true democracies in Asia.

And tomorrow is my last day of work! After that, I pack up and head to the countryside for 5 days to live with a family. I'll have my own ger to sleep in, which is quite luxurious. And I don't really know much else of what I'll be doing, except that the family has livestock, so I hope I'll be doing a little herding and milking and wrangling and all that jazz.

Hmmm, oh! and I met one of the best sumo wrestlers in the world today! He's Mongolian, held the title of world #1 for a number of years until he was dethroned by another, younger Mongolian. So the two best sumos in the world are Mongolian, a fact which, I hear, causes no small amount of ire among the Japanese. But the Mongolians dig it. So anyway, this giant guy was walking out of a restaurant as we were walking past, and I thought "wow, that's a big dude," but my friend was like "DUDE! That's Dagvadorj!" And I was still clueless, but he explained who he was and hyperventilated a bit and so we ran after him and we asked him for a picture. He was kind of in a hurry, but stopped and let us take our picture with him. But alas, we took it on a cellphone, and when we got back to the office, found out that it hadn't saved or something, and so the incredibly awesome picture was lost forever. He speaks very good English and is fluent in Japanese as well. And he has a very limp handshake; I suppose because he would break many many hands if it were firmer. Seriously, his hands are like the size of hubcaps.

Well, I'm off to the countryside soon, and then my time here's just about over. Hmm. Some reflections next week.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Fruit of my Labors

The website for the Institute is up and running! Hoorah! Check it out here:

We also have Facebook and Twitter accounts! We're so 21st Century. I wouldn't mind it if you followed us on Facebook/Twitter and made us look bigger and more presentable. That wouldn't be bad. My boss would not be unhappy.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mm... Food

Mongolian food is delicious. Believe it or not. I think the entire Mongolian cuisine has been shaped by the winters here. Which are really frigging cold. UB is the coldest capital city on earth. So Mongolians only eat what can survive the winters, and they only eat things which will allow them to survive the winters in turn. So no fruits or vegetables or any of that nonsense. Just meat and potatoes and milk and mayonnaise and fat.

The national food of Mongolia is khuushuur (hosher), and I think a metaphor is the best way to describe it. Imagine a letter, a sweet, tender love letter, written on sweet, tender mutton. This letter is mailed in an envelope of dough and the postage is grease. And we're shipping this thing overnight express. So hopefully that gives a good picture: a delicious, greasy dough envelope lovingly filled with mutton. Some are crispier, some are doughier, all are delicious. I could live off these things, and I often do. At the Naadam festival, there were about a million khuushuur stands. The best I've ever had I bought from two little kids carrying a bucket of the stuff around. Other foods are buuz, which are mutton dumplings, tsuivan, a noodly dish, and a lot of dishes with various combinations of rice, potatoes, mutton, and sauce. I once had a soup that was literally just cubes of fat in broth. It was disgusting.

Salads here are interesting. They call anything that's drenched in mayonnaise a salad. So you have potato salad, coleslaw, and that's about it. Suutei tsai is the traditional drink - it's milk tea and it basically tastes like melted butter. It grows on you. It's kind of like hot chocolate but instead of a chocolate taste it's a butter taste. Mmm. Then there's airag, the famous fermented mare's milk. I've had airag of both the horse and camel varieties. The taste is pretty unique - kind of like a lemony, milky yogurt. It's really invigorating. We keep a bottle of it in the office to increase productivity.

There are some pretty good restaurants in town: American, French, Japanese, good Indian, and a ton of Korean. My favorite is Zochin Buuz, which is a Mongolian fast food chain. They serve up cheap, dirty Mongolian food. It's great.

Things I have not yet had that I am intending to are: boiled sheep's head, roasted sheep, and blowtorched marmot. Actually I think I'm going to avoid the marmot because they're endangered in Mongolia. Because people blowtorch them all the time, I suppose.

And that's about it for Mongolian cuisine. I think my stomach will be in shock when I head to Thailand.

Sunday, July 19, 2009


There are few things Mongolians love more than socialism and the Beatles, so Ulaanbaatar may be the only place in the world where there are statues of Lenin and Lennon a few blocks away from each other. This makes me very happy.

(note the Playmobil billboard in the background. awesome.)

I'm back at work now after the weekend. It was pretty relaxing after a Friday night out until 6am. Which is early, because the rest of the people turned in at 10am. Mongolians are late nighters. I spent Saturday in a French cafe, and saw the circus the night. It was cool. They liked jumping around and making giant stacks of people. I spent Sunday afternoon sneakily taking pictures of a flooded development (it rained a ton Friday) for propaganda purposes, and reading Dostoevsky on a mountaintop. It was blissful.

And I got some pictures uploaded, some some older posts have been updated.

Monday, July 13, 2009


This weekend was Naadam, the summer festival, which is the biggest event of the year in Mongolia. The whole country basically shuts down for 3 days, which makes it really frustrating when you're trying to find food. But, it was really sweet.

I had an interesting Naadam weekend. On Friday, we received word that 8 hedge fund managers from Hong Kong were in town for the weekend. One of them went to grad school with my boss, and they're all loaded with money so he wanted us to show them around with the hope that they might invest. Now I really have no idea what a hedge fund manager does, but this weekend I learned that they are basically 40-year-old frat boys. I haven't yet decided if this is funny or pathetic. I also don't know how being a 40-year-old frat boy translates into a career with wealth and prestige but oh well. So Friday night I was driving around UB in a hummer with some hedge fund managers. And that's a cool story, right? And one of them knew Harcourt Place so we bonded over that because the club of people in the world who know Harcourt Place is very very small.

Saturday was the opening ceremony for Naadam, and a little drizzly. I was supposed to go with the Swede but she wasn't feeling well, and I called up two of my coworkers but they were m.i.a. so I wandered down to the stadium by myself, bought a scalped ticket and found a seat squished between two Mongolian mothers and their adorable children. I got there kind of late, so my seat was in the front row of the rear of the stadium, so I couldn't really see too much. But what I did see was pretty cool. They start by marching in these 9 horsetail banners from the parliament house, which are the symbol of the government. So the seat of government is actually transferred to the Naadam stadium for a few days. These banners are white, and they switch to black ones during times of war. I don't think they've pulled those out for like 800 years. And then there was all this singing and orchestra-playing and narration and acrobatics and horse-riding and flag-waving and traditional-clothes-wearing and marching and general patriotism. And my butt got a little soggy but I had some nice greasy khuushur so it was all good. Then they conclude the ceremonies and start with the competitions.
Naadam is a celebration of the "three manly sports:" archery, horse-racing, and wrestling. "Three manly sports" is a little bit of a misnomer, 1. because a good portion of the contestants are women and children, and 2. because there are kind of four sports now that sheep anklebone-flicking has gained popularity (yes, you read that right: sheep anklebone-flicking). But regardless, every one of these sports is hilarious from an outsider's perspective.

Wrestling takes place in the stadium. Mongolian wrestling is awesome for many reasons. Everyone wears these ridiculous costumes and they all do this sort of soaring-eagle swagger ritual before and after the match. And there are no weight classes and they put the highest seeds against the lowest, so the very first matches are these little scrawny dudes getting walloped by these monsters. It's awesome. I have no idea why the little scrawny dudes even enter the competition, because they all get destroyed. It did not look like fun. Here's a video where you can see the banners and the goofy outfits and the soaring eagle dance.
Don't mess with her.

At this point I met up with the Swede who was feeling better, and we wandered out to see the archery competition. The contestants were a mix from young men to old grandmas who were out there whipping off these arrows. So I learned another lesson: do not mess with a Mongolian grandma. They shoot at these little targets on the ground from about 50 meters away, and there all these judges standing right around the targets with arrows whizzing in right at their feet, without looking the slightest bit concerned. And we were like, what? It was bizarre. But they were all incredibly accurate, so it seemed ok, until one arrow misfired and flew way over the judges' heads. Then we left.
The judges. Note the arrow at his feet.

We went next to the anklebone-flicking arena. When we got there we couldn't get in because President Elbegdorj and Prime Minister Bayar were in there observing. Apparently they are avid anklebone-flicking fans. But we got to see them, so that was pretty cool. After they had rolled out in their motorcade, we went into the arena. This has to be one of the most bizarre activities that exists. There's this incessant chanting/humming sort of thing going on in the building. Guys are on teams of four and the sit about 3 meters from the target, which are two little sheep anklebones. Other teams sit on each side of the target and watch and chant. The guys flicking sit there stoically with a little wooden slide
propped on their knee with another bone on it, and they line this thing up and flick the bone at the target. And they're incredibly accurate - I think they made like 10 in a row - flicking this little thing at this little target from 10 feet away. It's crazy.
A fearsome anklebone team.

The only sport I didn't see was horse-racing, which is supposedly the best. Now this is no Kentucky Derby. This is no race where so-and-so's horse with such-and-such an ironically clever name and such-and-such overpaid jockey hurt his poor little ankle so he can't run around in a circle for 30 seconds in front of a bunch of rich ladies in ugly hats. No. This is Mongolian horse racing, a grueling two hour race through the Mongolian steppe. The jockeys are kids from 4 to 10 years old, born and raised on the steppe. Many of the horses drop dead before or after the finish line and these little kids jump off and start kicking them to get them going again. This is real horse racing. Mongolia is PETA's nightmare, by the way.

But I didn't get to see that. After the anklebone-flicking, we wandered around the fairgrounds for a while, trying khuushuur at every place. Khuushuur is the most delicious food on earth. More on that in a future post. I think everyone in the city was at Naadam. It was really crazy. We had a good time, I had a bowl of airag which was ladled out from a dirty plastic barrel, and it was truly invigorating.

The next day we hung out with the U.S. ambassador. One of my friends and co-workers worked at the embassy last summer and the ambassador become somewhat of a friend and mentor to him, so he invited him, the Swede and I out to a cultural fair in the countryside. But we ended up having an even more Mongolian cultural experience by getting diverted to different routes three times trying to get out of the city and ending up stuck in traffic for an hour and a half. So we decided to turn around and head out the city to Terelj, a park outside the city in the other direction. But we were kind of hungry so we headed to the ambassador's house for a quick sandwich. This turned into a few hours and a four-course lunch, so by the time we were finished it was raining and too late to go to Terelj anyway. But it was still a good time, the ambassador is a great guy. very kind and hospitable (who would spend their holiday with three college kids?) and he promised us a trip to Terelj another time. That night we caught the closing ceremonies on TV, in which the winning jockeys are honored with a bowl of airag. They were still riding their winning steeds, who by this point looked envious of their fallen comrades. The wrestling finals were also on, this time with two behemoths. And to close they carried the nine standards back to the Parliament house.

My Mongolia experience has been enjoyable though not at all what I expected. I expect to come here and wrestle sheep and milk camels, but this was my Naadam: riding around in a hummer with hedge fund guys, riding around in an armored SUV and dining with the US ambassador, wandering around the Naadam stadium with a Swedish model. Who knew I had to come to Mongolia of all places to get away from such lowbrow company as I am usually surrounded with? Company like you, dear reader. Company like you.