Ulaanbaatar Field Trip

On a Saturday morning several weeks ago, I met my co-teacher, Seggii, and our English tour-guide students at Parliament.

The Mongolian National Parliament Building, Ulaanbaatar.

The Mongolian National Parliament Building, Ulaanbaatar.

After forty minutes of waiting for all the teachers and students to gather, we made our first stop at the National Museum in the basement of the Parliament building. After going through security, we gazed upon many priceless artifacts — well, in between photo-shoots that is. It seems like for every special occasion or outing I attend, particularly with my students, around fifty percent of my time is spent posing for photos. Considering I speak very little, if any, Mongolian, this is quite fine with me and allows for genuine interaction without language being necessary. [My students’ English level is very low and most of them are very shy to speak with me beyond greetings and small talk.]  However, sometimes I can’t help but feel a bit objectified or tokenized as “the white person,” or, conversely, sometimes feel that I’m treated like a celebrity. I try not to let the extra attention go to my head but the daily unwanted attention in the hallways in my school can be wearisome, especially because the students’ English is usually so low that I can’ actually engage in real conversations with them.

One of the dozens of photo ops throughout the day. This time we're posing in front of a gigantic mural of Genghis Khan.

One of the dozens of photo ops throughout the day. This time we’re posing in front of a gigantic mural of Genghis Khan.

The gallery is very well maintained and has some fascinating items. Among them:

The official Mongolian national seal.

The official Mongolian national seal.

 

An ancient Mongolian diplomatic passport.

An ancient Mongolian diplomatic passport.

A replica of the black banner flown by Genghis Khan back in the day.

A replica of the black banner flown by Genghis Khan back in the day.

 

A mural of a wrathful Mongolian Buddhist deity.

A mural of a wrathful Mongolian Buddhist deity.

A very old boot.

A very old boot.

An even older hat.

An even older hat.

And who could forget the decorative box that the national seal is stored in.

And who could forget the decorative box that the national seal is stored in.

After departing the museum we walked out onto the front steps of Parliament right into a massive display of pomp and circumstance. Dozens of Mongolian soldiers marched up the steps in perfect synchronization (very un-Mongolian) as we scrambled down them. We were quickly ushered off the “stage” by security officers, but we still had an excellent view of the elaborate ceremony. Later I learned it was a practice run for Genghis Khan’s birthday (Chingghis Khan to Mongolians). It was nice to not have to compete with the crowds for these photos. There were maybe two dozen people on hand to witness the rehearsal.

A few photos from the impressive display:

Soldiers doing what Mongolians do best, looking tough!

Soldiers doing what Mongolians do best, looking tough!

Fierce.

Fierce.

054

Me and my new friend!

Me and my new friend!

After a few minutes of looking badass they marched off. I'm not sure if the high leg kick helps their bad-boy image or not, but the Minister of Silly Walks would be impressed.

After a few minutes of looking badass they marched off. I’m not sure if the high leg kick helps their bad-boy image or not, but the Minister of Silly Walks would be impressed.

079

082

093

CAM00534

Which Mongolian is my student and which is the soldier? I can't even tell!

Which Mongolian is my student and which is the soldier? I can’t even tell!

CAM00545

Posing in front of the giant statue of General Sukhbaatar, a  Mongolian hero of the revolution.

Posing in front of the giant statue of General Sukhbaatar, a Mongolian hero of the revolution.

CAM00434

After the marching and more photos, we took a bus across town. Thankfully, our first stop was for lunch at a small restaurant that sold two things, buuz and milk tea. What more does a Mongolian need?

Buuz, Mongolian dumplings. "Did I need to order four?"

Buuz, steamed Mongolian dumplings filled with mutton or beef. “Did I need to order four?”

Yes, I did...

Yes, I did…

The next stop was to Zaisan hill, a massive Soviet WWII monument erected well before the democratic revolution in 1990. Approaching the many steps leading to the monument, I helped three of my students practice their English by counting each one as we marched up them in unison. Six hundred and four steps later, we reached the top!

The circular monument with inset Soviet murals overlooks the city.

The circular monument with inset Soviet murals overlooks the city.

"That is called a skyscraper."

Maybe I said, “that is called a skyscraper.” Or maybe it was something more like “First, we’ll take the archers to the hills to the north and flank our enemy with our cavalry from the west.” We will never know for sure.

CAM00612

After throwing darts at balloon targets and winning small stuffed animal prizes, my students and I descended the stairs and posed with more Soviet sculptures. At my co-teacher’s encouragement, I picked the nose of a Soviet commander and even climbed a tank on display with a student.

Okay, if she's doing it...

Okay, if she’s doing it…

CAM00635

 

Apparently this tank was used by the Soviets in 1945. Again at my teacher’s encouragement, I decided to go through with the staged re-enactment of Mongolian-Soviet friendship.

"Up!"

“Up!”

CAM00669

CAM00672

CAM00675

"Goodbye for now!"

“Goodbye for now!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: , ,

About petersponderings

Addicted to throwing himself into new and challenging adventures...

One response to “Ulaanbaatar Field Trip”

  1. Pam says :

    Maybe I should send you some fake tan lotion to help you blend in better. I hate to have your celebrity go to your head. Now that I think about it though your face will be completely covered while your outside now for months! Thanks for posting and make sure the tour guide students know what “see you on the flip side” means!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: