A short podcast from the Russia-Mongolia border. As it takes about 3 hours to clear Russian customs, and more than 1 hour to clear Mongolian customs, I decided to get out and record some observations and thoughts especially in regards to the first two weeks in Siberia. You’ll also hear me briefly interrupted by the arrival of a battalion of Russian border guards.
“I can offer you a job, you should stay longer; for many foreigners Mongolia is very interesting right now.”
I tried hard to keep chewing my food, but in my head I was already calculating what life in UlaanBaatar would be like working for some government official. I quickly regained my focus, “Thank you, but I’m not seeking a job, I’ll return home tomorrow” I tell him, thanking him a few more times and trying to get back to the interview.
Bekhbat, grandson of P. Genden, the former Mongolian Prime Minister famous for having been the only man to slap Stalin, has a lot to tell me about Mongolia as we sit down for lunch at the Grand Khaan Irish pub. An extremely well spoken and modest gentleman, on his suit jacket lapel he wears a tiny pin that is familiar to me, rotary club. Among his many civil activities, he is an active member of the rotary club working hard to raise money for segments of the Mongolian population that fall through the cracks; the poor, the deaf, etc. It becomes clear that like his grandfather, Bekhbat is a man people know and trust. Even during the course of one lunch, there was rarely a 10 minute gap where someone (Mongolian or foreign) didn’t come up to him to shake his hand with a big smile.
“Mongolia will become a country the benefits from its extensive mineral wealth, like Venezuela or Russia, there will be a great influx of money and things here will improve.”
He goes on to talk about Copper, not only with Mongolia as a great source for Copper, but also that the nation would become a place where that Copper is processed as well. Uranium, with a great need in many nations for nuclear energy production, they will turn to Mongolia which has a great amount of it.
“My interest is public-private partnerships, to find the best way to improve Mongolia’s infrastructure.”
Indeed infrastructure is crying out for help in a nation where tap water is undrinkable and more than half the capital city, never mind the country, does not have running water or indoor plumbing. Where once you get outside the city limits of UlaanBaatar, you find roads almost non existent or un-drivable without the help of a very special 4 wheel drive vehicle. Say nothing of the nation’s primary energy source, coal, the exhaust from which creates a thick layer of pea-soup-like air that in the early winter morning if you open your mouth you almost choke on it.
Yes it was hard not to love Mongolia, where everyday I was there, with every passing hour, more adventures arose out of nowhere. Had I stayed another few days, there is no telling where I would ended up or who I would have found myself sitting with. Ready to come home? No, I was not.
Stay tuned for the podcasts…
When you wander around the streets of Tomsk in Siberia, you may think the place looks a little behind the times. But beneath the surface there are in fact new and creative ideas in the world of new media taking root. In this particular podcast we hear from a videoblogging priest about why he uses the internet as a tool in his community, and how some young DJ’s have turned to internet radio as their main stage for playing music. (special bonus at the end, me ringing the church bells, I apologize in advance to your ears.)
The church’s Videoblog (where I, though not religious, might appear soon)
RTFM.FM Internet Radio in Tomsk
Irkutsk, Russia: land of engineering, the trans-siberian railroad, an oil pipline to China, raw materials, and a whole lot of water. After 36 hours from Novosibirsk to Irkutsk I arrived tired of the cramped train cabin but well fed after two elderly Russian ladies felt it was their job to keep me fed and call me to the table every 4-5 hours.
The trans-siberian train is much less the tourist vehicle than I imagined, with April being the off-season, I found myself the lone non-Russian for several rail cars. As a result it seemed the notoriously cold train conductors memorized my name and would come over to explain little things about the train to me, where things are located and how to work knobs and buttons. My cabin mates seemed fascinated that I came to Russia and actually wanted to go such a long distance on THIS train. They also seemed fascinated by how skinny I am.
While this famous train might be a dream for alot of travellers from around the world, in Russia the train is still very much a way of life. Love it or hate it, they know exactly how to approach it, what to bring, what to wear, and ways to both take care of themselves and pass the time. Watching grandmothers and grandchildren, it became clear that this is a time-honored tradition being passed on generation to generation regardless of what kind of government is in place or how the world economy is doing.
Me, I’m on my way to Ulan Batar, but first I’d like to see this lake Baikal. So a brief pause with limited internet to test the waters, and then its on to the vast nation known as Mongolia!