Still too tall


Bethany and I had decided to go in to the Orgil on the way home from school. There were a few items we wanted to grab for our desks at school, and this particular Orgil had a pretty good selection of things to choose from (Orgils are supermarkets with additional things like cookware and office supplies). One of the items we wanted to grab was a folder organizer, one for Bethany and one for me so we could clean the papers off our desk and organize them by subject.

We had grabbed most of the other things on the list, and finally got to getting the organizers. They stand a bit over 12 inches tall and probably 10-12 inches wide. There was an aisle that had a number of office supplies on one side, but there were also a few people stocking things in that aisle, so we skirted around them and got to where the organizers stood, nicely arranged on the top shelf.

Both Bethany and I hummed and hawed over which one we wanted, and finally settled on the right ones – a grey one with a drawer for Bethany and a black one for myself. I grabbed them and we went over to the cashier, set our items on the belt, and watched as the cashier started scanning things. Almost as soon as she started scanning, another gal came over and grabbed the organizers, speaking quite a bit to the cashier as she did. This seemed most curious to us – why on earth would another cashier come from a different checkstand just to grab our organizers? She looked at them, set them down and walked away, came back with someone else and grabbed them again, set them back down, walked away, and finally came back with two boxes containing organizers just like ours.

We had grabbed the display models. The ones for sale were “assembly required” and were definitely not where the display models were. This was fortunate, as I wasn’t sure how we’d be able to carry those already assembled models home and back to school without it being a huge hassle; the boxed up version fit much nicer into our packs. It was only after we had grabbed our bags from the check counter and made our way upstairs that I realized…

The top shelf is out of reach for nearly everyone in this country. A normal person would’ve had to ask for help.

Yep. Still too tall.


Crazy white guy


I sat down on the stool and immediately second-guessed myself. Duma, the wonderful office assistant who had accompanied me to translate, had asked me earlier to peek in the room and see if it was the same eye doctor as last time; I had removed my contacts, but when I peeked in it looked like the same doctor. Now, sitting on the stool, I wasn’t so sure – the doctor last time hadn’t cracked a smile the entire visit, and really didn’t say much at all, yet this doctor was smiling from ear to ear and was talking Duma’s ear off as soon as I sat.

I was really hoping it would be the same doctor as last time. She was good, very direct and to-the-point even if she wasn’t very talkative or, seemingly, very happy. She definitely knew her stuff, and didn’t dilly-dally. I had been in to get my eyes checked because I have a blind spot just off-center in my right eye and, naturally, was concerned to be overseas and potentially losing my vision.

So when the gal I was seated across from, whom I couldn’t see well because I didn’t have my contacts in, started chatting with Duma with a huge grin, I seriously doubted myself and wondered if I would need to explain (through Duma, of course) all over again what the problem was. Interestingly, she didn’t even bother to start checking my eyes until after her conversation with Duma. I was a bit miffed. It was my appointment after all, not chat-with-the-interpreter-because-the-big-white-guy-can’t-understand hour.

Finally, the nice gal stopped smiling and turned to check a few notes. Then Duma explained what the conversation was about.


From what I understand, my beard and big frame stick out a bit in Mongolia. What perhaps has stuck out more, apparently, is my resistance to the cold. The reason the gal (who indeed was the same doctor from last time – she resumed her stoic antisocial nature promptly after the conversation) had been smiling and chatting was because she had recognized me; she lives in the same neighborhood as us, and she had taken note of the big white guy who stood at the bus stop without a jacket or coat in the morning when it was 14 degrees out as she rode the bus the opposite direction in to work. It is sorely out of place for a person not to be wearing a coat, let alone a foreigner, and she was entirely amused that this insane foreigner was now sitting in front of her for an examination.

I laughed. I’ve become famous in a city of over 1 million because I’m crazy, even by Mongolian standards.




Our school is on the way to the Zaisan area in UB, and when we get off the bus, I can see the Zaisan Memorial from the corner. Yesterday, I took a walk on my own to Zaisan and climbed the 612 steps that leads from the base of the hill to the memorial at the top of the hill. Like most notable places that we have discovered in UB, the Zaisan Memorial holds multiple types of significance. The monument itself is in memory of Soviet forces that joined Mongolian forces in the pursuit of independence in 1921. There is a lot to be said about the monument that I will have a hard time explaining without pictures because, brilliant as I am, I still forgot to bring a camera along. Once we have a chance to go back in the future, I’ll remember to bring my camera and take notes along the way so that I can properly tell the story.

The part of the monument at the base of Zaisan Hill. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

The hill the monument is on has further historic–possibly legendary–significance. From the plaques along the many steps to the top of the monument, I gathered that the area used to be between two monasteries on opposite mountains. Wild weather in the area indicated to the monks that there was a demon living below the ground who was about to come out of the ground and cause catastrophic weather conditions. In order to prevent this, Zaisan Hill was built above the demon’s home to prevent his escape, and the weather settled down. Again, I’m not entirely sure if I understood the story correctly, so take what I’ve written here with a grain of salt and correct me if you’ve heard otherwise. I noticed spiritual elements on the hill–silk scarves tied to objects, a porcelain saucer for an offering, and a few ovoos–so clearly the area is not just politically significant.

That said, the view from the top of Zaisan Hill is amazing. Even with a haze of smog over the city, it was incredible to see just how big UB is. I tend to forget how large the city is because I have a bit of a routine in where I go and what I do, so it was definitely worth it to be reminded of the size of the city. Also, upon crossing the bridge over the Tuul Gol, I could see that the river is starting to freeze over as winter approaches.

Speaking of winter, you know you live in Mongolia when you look at the forecast and get excited that the current temperature is literally freezing. That’s practically warm! It got up to 40 F today, and I was regretting layering a zip up under my jacket. Next week’s forecast predicts no temperatures above freezing. Woohoo! It should be cloudy on Monday and Thursday so maybe we’ll even get some snow?