On Friday the graduating students were all dressed up and assembling in the college courtyard from about 10am. I almost missed the start of proceedings at midday, and speeches and diplomas were presented against a 'colourful' backdrop. After many photographs and a ceremonial final lesson, where a basic idea is taught as a graduation ritual, accompanied by drinking warm milk (!), the students dispersed and the staff waited for departure to a rest camp from 3pm. At 8pm we finally departed in several jeeps, to a forested valley on the far northern UB periphery, 33km from the centre in Sanzai. The Baga Bayan Rest Camp is a former Soldiers' Retreat.
Of all the ensuing 24 hours' activities, from vodka-fuelled celebrations to a forest walk and a delicious Horhog barbecue lunch on the following day, a speech by a director - which I had not fully grasped on Friday night - and which was recounted in English by Ariunaa on Saturday - most impressed me. All my bewilderment about Mongolian men and alcohol was called up when the director frankly recounted his personal history in parallel with the formation of the college. As a tertiary educated man in his late twenties he had been lost and constantly drunk. When he met his business partner and friend, the enterprise of establishing the college over the last several years had brought purpose to his life and coincided with establishing a family. His second son had been born the previous day and the college was also now building its own premises, with the help of the students and the first graduating cohort from the architecture course.