A youth stood by the dirt road this morning, waiting for his friend, as I walked to work through the now familiar ger district. "Hi" he offered. "Hi," I replied. "Whats your name?" he asked, encouraged. "Greg". "Hin?" (what?) "Gregory - Greg, what's yours?" "Gerel.." he said.. "you... Ger? ... Jesus?" He made a cross with his fingers. "Bish.. Bagsh, no, (not a missionary, a) teacher" I muttered, and continued walking. The dirt roads now show few traces of snow or ice that was lying around a week ago. Even the north facing shaded hillsides have thawed. The small black dog corpse I saw freeze last year is lying undecomposed at the roadside as before.
On Tuesday evening, in honour of 'Soldiers Day', the 75th anniversary of establishing the modern Mongolian Army, I met Enkhbaatar, a male languages teacher at MUST, with other teachers. After a beer and chat we were heading home in the same direction and he asked me to stop in to meet his friends, male language workers, with banking and mining, at a bar. I rarely meet Mongolian male English speakers. They sat around the table chatting and quizzing me in the usual way, but in a mix of Mongolian and English. Meanwhile, although I did not want to drink, there were persistent toasts of vodka, Chinggis Black Label, and I was eventually persuaded to participate. The staccato conversation about Mongolia continued, but the vodka part of the culture and of Mongolian mens' relations I struggled with, and subsequently I have been ill for almost a week.