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Mongolia dome... (first half)

Just to get there was an adventure. All the ways I had planned to go didn't work out and finally I ended up directly flying to Beijing. There I had to get my Visa for Mongolia and the bag material to build the dome as we had not been able to find it in Mongolia.

Now I had been trying to get some information of how to get around in Beijing and if we had any members there who could help me, but I had not put to much effort as I thought anyhow I'll manage... However one Dada, who started to help me a week before going, organised that some of our members would pick me up at the airport and help from there. Well I am very happy he did as I saw that without help I'd been quite lost... Very few people speak English and just to organise an affordable place to stay would have been a major obstacle. With their help I got my visa and we found a place that sold the material. They had arranged for me to stay at the University hostel and got a room by myself. In China anything that looks like religion is illegal which is why I couldn't stay with them or even practice meditation where others could see me! I'd like to put our group photo but that could bring them in trouble...

After few days when we wanted to pick up the bag we found it was all lose and not on a roll as promised... I had to take it on the train and bus and taxi and across the border etc... finally they found a way to pack it more tightly and again with a lot of help from co-travellers the 40Kg package reached safely.

The other big challenge was how get a ticket for the train... You'd think just go to the station and buy the ticket but even the sister who helped me (and spoke the language) had a hard time to find it out. Finally it became clear that the last train that week had already left in the morning and next would be in four days... My time for Mongolia was already tight so as I had heard that there were also busses I decided to try that. It sounded simple, catch a bus to the border (14 hours) than catch a train across the border and at the other side catch the train to Ulaanbaatar the Mongolian capital.

Packing the bag 6 hours at the Mongolian station

The bus was a sleeper bus...Never seen anything like that before! If I knew how it looked I think I would have waited the four days for the train... But I bought my ticket before seeing the bus so I the decision was made.

Somehow I managed to get the material in the completely full luggage compartment underneath, climbed over the luggage packed half way up the isles inside the bus and reached my seat, I mean my bed. It was all the way in the back, five beds down and five beds on top. the rest of the bus had also two levels (not two floors, more like a multi level storage system they use in warehouses) but only three beds with the filled up corridors in between. No toilet... We reached, what more to say?

At the border there was no train, I think... the taxi driver kept driving around and refused to drop me at the station, he didn't speak any English nor do I speak any Chinese... I felt he was honest and finally let him take me to a jeep that ferries people across the China and Mongolian border. Quite expensive but I paid the same as the local people.

We got through safely, probably taking 3-4 hours for 10Km with all the paper work: Customs China side, immigration China side, immigration Mongolia side and finally customs again. Each apart and in different buildings. The jeep was there each time to pick us up and drop us of at the next stage. Some luggage got hidden in the engine compartment... I didn't ask what was inside...

Once at the station (Mongolian side) it was no problem to get the ticket and all luggage went together with the other passengers of the Jeep which was indeed a great help. The train was most comfortable and finally the next day, a few hours later than scheduled it arrived. I arrived safely in Ulaanbaatar exactly one week after leaving the Philippines. That seemed already a life time ago and on an other planet. The two Dada's working there (Ajaya & Vinayakrsnananda) and Didi Ananda Kalika who had invited me were there waiting to pick me up.

Welcome at the childrens home The Summer camp with one of the Gihrs (tents)

After a bit of rest, a shower, meditation and some food, Didi asked if I were not too tired and would like to visit the summer camp where most of the toddlers were staying. She needed to go to supply more food and see how all were doing. I was tired but thought it will be nice to see and as long as I am still standing it'll be fine.

Mongolia has nine months of really cold winter and only a short, but beautiful, summer so after being inside the house for so many months people love to go to the country side and stay in the traditional tents called ghir. They are actually well insulated with layers of felt so even in winter when -50C outside it's comfortable inside. We had four ghirs and about 60 kids and four staff were staying there.


meditation by the river Mongolia = lots of horses

We went for a walk and I realised why we have so many fingers, most of the young kids liked to hold Dada's hand... initially 2, 3, 4 on each side each grabbing one finger:-) It was such nice feeling to immediately feel adopted and part of the family. Didi has 120 children to look after, from few month old babies to the teenagers who would help to build the dome. Many have no parent, or parents unknown or not able to look after them. Babies get produced without much thought how to look after them... and many mothers are only in their teens and the grand mother takes care of the child if possible. No one worries too much about it... Sometimes Didi finds a baby on the doorstep, tucked in with a little paper telling their name.

Inside the ghir for the Dada's Didi's ghir

After two days we went again to the country side and stayed the night near an old monastery in the traditional ghir. A new monastery was build after the many years that religion was banned under the communist regime. Not only were the monasteries destroyed also 1000s of monks were killed.

Monestary, destroyed in the 20s by the communist scary masks

I saw that the old monastery was build with earth and probably had survived many centuries.

Many beautiful flowers, don't know the name... Yaks

So many beautiful flowers that I could fill a separate newsletter, without news: just photo's as I wouldn't know what to write about them beside that they look pretty...

Finally the site for the dome and the first layer going down

It wasn't only sight seeing... rather most of the three weeks were spend on site. But after many newsletters with lot's of dome news I thought to put more other photo's this time. And write about the over all experience. Building the dome was fun and again I learned a lot. I thought I came to teach but than found that I have hardly any experience how to work with a bunch of unruly teenage boys and girls, what to say I didn't even speak the language!

Building is fun and sand can be used for more than building...

I think they did really well, beside lot's of mischief and ice-cream they did work very hard and learned quickly. We normally started work at 10.30 - 11 and than took break around one till three. After we'd work an other three hours. It's light till about 10 so most people say up late and... wake up late. I also found myself caught in this pattern though waking up late was 7am...

noontime break waterproofing the foundation

The wall of the dome was a very popular recreation area... and the higher it got the more popular it became. The last week, every time at the start of the work all the kids wanted to be on top and somehow hoped that the mix to fill the bags would magically appear.. Once things actually started moving it was hard to stop... Though they watched the time carefully not to be late for the noon break. Sometimes grumbling if we wanted to work a bit longer to finish already mixed earth but the proof that they did enjoy was that even on days that there was no work (new sand was delivered late) they turned up anyway to see if they could help! One evening after peace returned, means the kids had gone back, Dada Ajay and myself got chance to dig a trench around the dome to put tarpaper for water proofing and fill the trench again. We finished 10pm.

Traditional costumes and song The boys summer camp

An other day Didi took me and few others to a cultural evening down town. There is such a rich verity of traditional costumes and beautiful music and dance. The dance makes you feel on the back of the horses in running in the country side. The song made me feel the space and vast country unobstructed by fences or other things. The modern Mongolian music (Hip Hop) was less pleasant... but the kids loved it so it was played loudly while working... And it seems there were only a few songs playing again and again. After a while you don't notice anymore.

An other evening we went to bring food and visit the boys camp where all the 6-11 yo boys were for the summer. We climbed one nearby hill and did meditation on top. With two boys trying to share the blanket I brought against the cold, concentration was a bit difficult.. I am really not sure how Didi is keeping her sanity!

Next half soon:-)


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