What I Did For My Summer Vacation

(Taking a short break from the technical this week….Never fear, more Project fun is on its way.)

My family, like many mixed international families, represents a unique combination of cultures, both inherited and acquired.  As a result, every couple of years, we like to throw the kids on a plane and take them back to Mongolia to see their maternal grandparents. 

Since 1) there’s no direct flight from the US to Ulaanbaatar and 2) it’s probably a bit optimistic to expect two kids to travel for 24 hours, have a 12 hour jet lag, and still be on their best behavior in a high pressure family environment, we typically spend a couple of days in Beijing en route.  That’s where my wife and I lived off and on from 1994 through 2003.

Beijing

As usual, Beijing represents a combination of the new and the familiar old.  We now can zip around under the city in air conditioned comfort, but the subway station map still displays a collection of the same places that we knew and loved back in the day.  The latest musical trend is still straight outta’ Kashgar, only now it’s more experimental, and less flamenco-influenced.  The old Chinese taxis may have been replaced with domestically produced Hyundais, but Beijing cab drivers are still the same cab drivers at whose side thousands of foreign students have learned that impenetrable Beijing accent…

The Summer Palace still looks the same as it always has, although this was the first time I’ve ever actually rented a paddle boat and headed out into the lake behind it.

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I was quite  pleased to have the opportunity to finally meet Liu Dashuang, Beijing-based Project MVP.  Good to see Project Server and project governance going strong in the Chinese market.

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…and after a couple of days of old-fashioned Chinese hospitality and some polishing of my rusty Beijing accent, we hopped a Air China flight north to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

Mongolia (UB & Kharkhorin)

Ulaanbaatar as well was a mix of the old and new.  There were still many of the landmarks I remember from the late 90s – mixed with a major construction boom and a flood of Korean cultural influence as thousands of Mongolian workers move back and forth between UB and South Korea.

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The old Soviet jeeps appear to be a thing of the past, replaced by a wide mix of automobiles representing the wide reach of the Mongol diaspora across South Korea, Japan and Europe.  Luckily, I was still able to find some of the old buses I remember taking back and forth from UB to the steppes.

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UB boasts a brand new privately funded monument to the great man himself…

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…but Gandan Monastery was pretty much still as I remember it.

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…and this time, we were even able to take the kids out to the countryside to show them a bit of my old life in Ovorkhangai.  We headed to Kharkhorin, the home of Erdene Zuu, Ogedei’s old capital city.

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There, we stayed in a ger camp:

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..where I kept waxing nostalgic for the small ger I lived in for two years in the late 90s.  Here’s the view from the back of the camp….

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I was glad to see that my countryside skills hadn’t atrophied, namely the skill to make a fire and the stomach to drink copious amounts of airag, or fermented mare’s milk.

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I was especially pleased to be able to introduce my kids to Narantsetseg, my old partner in crime, who not only took care of her three kids, extended family, and a small herd of animals – but also agreed to take on a fairly useless Peace Corps Volunteer with no real skills. 

Here, we stopped by her new English classroom.

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Very glad to see that hundreds of Mongolian children are still being educated by her capable hands.

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What I Did For My Summer Vacation

One thought on “What I Did For My Summer Vacation

  1. dr. brian r. sinclair says:

    RE: Mongolia Photos at YYC – Well Done!

    Dear Andrew. Greetings from Canada and sincere apologies for a VERY delayed reply. It was wonderful to receive your email and to learn that my photographs struck a chord. I have spent significant time in Mongolia and have come to appreciate and respect the people, culture and country. All prove rich and beautiful. No doubt your experiences in the Peace Corps were profound and life-changing. Your kindness in reaching out to me is greatly appreciated. In our all-too-fast-paced world such outreach is increasingly rare. And, hence, even more special. Thank you! Take care, brian

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