Friday, September 9, 2011

Returning to Ulaanbaatar

August 18, 2011

After breakfast we all packed up our luggage and set out for Ulaanbaatar.

Trudy and Jig went in one vehicle with Dash who was attending our briefings in Ulaanbaatar.

I hitched a ride with Sarah and Donna in their Toyota Landcruiser. It was great! I had legroom. I had comfort! and I was not crouded in!

Our travels back were almost 7 hours but the ride was smooth, even when some of the roads were rough. We stopped for lunch and found that we were at a very popular spot that was filled with diners and some food choices were no longer available.

I had lamb with noodles and was quite content. I have had so much lamb on this trip, the next noise out of my mouth will be baah baah baah.

When we arrived at our hotel of modern conveniences, Imperial Puma Hotel, we were pleased to hear that two of our colleagues (Meagan and Sophie), that we were worried about, were released from a quarantined area to board their plane and arrive at our hotel later that night.

It was wonderful meeting up with all the other coaches and sharing stories of our experiences.

We all had dinner together than most everyone needed an early bedtime as we were each quite exhausted from the travelling.

I kept busy up to near midnight and was able to welcome Sophie and Meagan as they checked in.

My last Day at BEH Credit Union

August 17, 2011

Morning came early, once again, but today has extra activity at the ger camp. Most of the "residents" are departing for other areas of Mongolia continuing their vacations and explorations. They come from all over the world but primarily Britain, Germany, France and one lone young lady from Washington state, USA.

They each have their own story as to why they chose Mongolia and none had pre-conceived notions of grandeur.

The young lady from Washington state is a fire fighter. She took a sabatical which started the beginning of April 2011 when she tried downhill skiing in Mongolia. She said the slopes were great but the snow conditions were poor most everywhere she went. They do not get as much snow as we in North American ski centers get, therefore the base is minimal and the wind sept snow is crusty to icey. Plus there are no ski lifts. Your manually trek to the top of the mountain and then ski down. Sounds like hard work.

She explained to me that since the snow melted she has been bicycling all over Mongolia and has felt safe on her own. She pitches her own tent each day and really enjoys the mix of solitude and times when she has companionship at ger camps.

Yesterday before she arrived at camp, she had been caught in a storm that started off as sleet and turned to snow followed by a down-pour. It turned the dirt road into a mud pool that lasted about 4 to 5 miles that she had to push her bike with her camping trailer through mud that was well above her ankles. Being a fire man fighting forest fires, she looked very strong and determined. The weather certainly did not prevent her from arriving at her chosen destination.

Stories like hers are repeated by other tourists which make the ger camp quite enjoyable.

Today I picked up the beautifully tailored dale ( a traditional full length garment of distinction) that I had made for my wife. The tailor had me acquire the silk at the market and next day it was ready. In Canadian dollar terms, the silk cost $30 and her tailoring was $20. Bargains like this are hard to believe especially when you see the quality of workmanship and attention to detail of very fine decorative stitching and patterns.

Trudy and I had prepared a presentation of recommendations to BEH Credit Union of where we saw their opportunities to improve and focus. These were primarily where the greatest value could be achieved for the credit union and its members. Dash, the Manager, made notes throughout the 2 hours that we presented. On concluding, he thanked us deeply saying that we had brought forward real options for them to make great strides. He liked everything we presented but also confessed that he personally had some resistance to overcome his "continue as before" comfort zone. We really appreciated this feedback because we have all been in the position that ideas are presented to us and we resist until the seed of that idea germinates and develops within us and wins us over. Dash pledged to try these options because he knew we were bringing him real world experiences and knowledge that was invaluable. I am bowled over by all the credit union people that we worked with because they badly want to attain the success that we have achieved in Canada.

As lunch time approached, Sarah Feldberg and Donna Balkan from Canadian Co-operative Association arrived for their own deliberations with the credit union and then with the felt producers co-op.

Mid afternoon we all toured the Erdene Zuu which is the 16th century Buddhist temple in Khara-Khorum. It is a huge temple of at least 25 acres within the temple walls. Our hired guide was eloquent with all the historical information as well as informing us of the proper observance of Buddhist ritual of circling some inner temples three times and our prayers and wishes would be granted.

Spinning the brass prayer drums three times was done by each of us as we travelled through the various temple buildings.

Many of the buildings were now museum type locations with religious artifacts and treasures that each held special meaning and significance. Concluding this visit proved tiring since it is so very large. But before we departed the temple, we visited a Buddhist ger where a wedding was underway and the family members were each receiving blessings. We observed the ceremony but made certain that we did not impinge on the privacy of the family. While we did not understand the words conveyed, we could see the happiness on the family members' faces and that of the bride and groom.

Arriving at the ger camp, Sarah and Donna and their translator were assigned a ger and  I agreed to have their driver share my ger which had four beds in it.

That evening after dinner, Gamboldt and Dash showed up at the ger camp dining room with gifts, Airag and vodka. Plus a throat singer to entertain us. The evening was very pleasant and entertaining. the whole camp attended our celebrations and one fellow even entertained us with a few Beattles songs that he had perfected.

It was the perfect ending to a perfect day in Mongolia.