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Continued from Hornby dome

On leaving Canada I could still spend the afternoon with the margiis there and have colletive meditation together. While in Canada I got the news that I was probably transferred to New York Sector (North and central America) so as the summer retreat was on I could attend it before going to Mongolia.

Group meditation in Vancouver Proud father


Geodesic Dome in Ananda Kanan, MO, USA Mongolian dome

The few weeks in Mongolia were weird but also wonderful! The plan was to do the insulation for the dome we build last year with the teenage kids. The other part of the plan was a visit to the county side.

Everything was a bit upside down and nothing went quite as planned. There were too many things going on in and around the children's home which made it hard to get focus or plan in a coordinated way. Also one of the volunteers send by OzAid had his own ideas about things and it seems he successfully discouraged almost everyone from further helping on the dome as he thought it was too experimental and a waste of money. He just wanted to get a bulldozer... not so encouraging! A more inspiring comment came from the psycho-therapist who used the space with the children, he loved it and said we should build more and more. Fortunately Dada Ajaya, the monk who helped last year, and Didi Ananda Kalika, the nun in charge of the home, are still positive.

So in the end we only worked out a plan of how to finish it once this volunteer would be gone... and we tried to learn for a next time how things could be done better for this extreme climate.

Myself and dada Ajaya slept in the dome which was very nice. First time to sleep in my own dome! In the summer the dome is quite comfortable keeping cool during the day and comfortable at night. Unfortunately the waterproofing was not very good as the outside plaster was cracked everywhere. The result was damp walls, not to the extend that it leaked but enough to make it not the best for health... I don't know if the plaster cracked because it was applied in December when temperatures are way below freezing or that due to the difference in temparature any normal plaster would crack without special additives to make it more flexible. No waterproofing agent was added either.

The short term plan is now to finish some of the plastering on the base and than apply a waterproof coating on the outside, something similar to bitumen but clear. Once this is done I believe the dome will be comfortable in the warmer part of the year. And with dryer walls I'd think the insulation would also be a bit better. Next stage would be to wrap few layers of felt around it like is done with the Gers (traditional tents) and cover it with canvas. If this works for the gers I don't see why it wouldn't work for the dome.

Wrestling Archery

One of the events that turned our plans upside down was the yearly horse festifal with many different compititions. We didn't see the horse races but visited the other games with the young kids of the home.

Children from our home enjoying the outing to the games Milking Yak

The other part of the visit did work out somehow... One of the other teachers originally from Mongolia took me and Dada Ananda to the country side where we travelled for a week by jeep in the vast plains with herds of horses, yak, sheep, goat and some camels. Even this plan had gone through so many changes... But finally all cleared up and we were on our way, Didi's brother came with us on the first leg of the over night journey (an other adventure...) and we spend some time with the extended family of his wife. The morning we took rest in their home in town but later in the day we drove out to the country side where they had their summer camp; two Gers (traditional big round tents) and lots of horses, Yaks, Sheep, Goat and probably more. We stayed the night and next day we had chance to do horse riding enjoy the milk products from all the different animals. I even wore the traditional cloth as you can see below. And there was no way around a sip of the fermented horse milk... It actually tastes quite nice but I got light headed with just a little.

Our travel group In traditional Mongolian clothes


Didi got a visitor Herding the goats and sheep to better pastures

Late in the afternoon we set of for some beautiful waterfalls where we reached late in the evening. It was still light till 10.30!

Next morning we took bath in the revitalising (other word for freezing...) water and did meditation on the rocks. Later we even went for a short swim even more exciting... But all most all the days were exeptionally hot with temperatures in the 30s, unusual in this part of Mongolia even in Summer. Now water is actually even more special as the daily bath I am used to is not quite guaranteed here, many times there is just no water for bathing and one has to manage somehow and hope next day there is some river nearby.

Again in the late afternoon we set off for our next destination; a bhuddist monastary 3-4 hours drive. I think it took a bit longer so when we reached a big river after dark with no clear road to cross we set up tent and spend the night in the wild (as most nights) The roads are more tracks, unpaved and full of bumps. Sometimes off the road was better going. Fortunately our driver was well skilled with the jeep and made the ride as comfortable as possible.

Rebirth in 360 view one could see 4 or 5 districts

Next day we reached the monestary that was on the top of a hill. The road up was a bit of a risk as it was the most difficult one and in case there would be rain we'd be stuck till it would dry up again after few days... No rain furtunately. The monastary had a few interresting things: A footpring in solid rock from one of the Lama's who stepped there few hundred years ago and above you see me taking rebirth in the Mothers Cave. The idea was to crawl down in the narrow cave, turn around at the end, come out again and be reborn with all past Karma washed away. I am not sure if washing karma can be done this easy but definitely it's a bit of a challange and one needs to overcome any feelings of cloustrofobia to do it. They say the time is takes to complete it is an indication of how much karma one still had. All three of us were very fast:-) All the local pilgrims/visitors were surpriced!

Beside this the view from the top of the hill was also wonderful, Mongolia is so vast and open. You can see this part were many trees.

A Lamas foodstep in solid stone

Largest expansion of the Mongolian empire in Gold,
present in blue.

After the temple we went to the old capital of Mongolia where there was a monument with a big map of the Mongolian empire under Gengis Kahn. There was also a big temple where Didi made friends with one of the ladies working there who told us in great detail about all the things we saw there. Same day we went back to where we started off and reached late night. I think we must have driven at least 6-8 hours every day... I bit exhausting but so much worth it, I'd go again any time!

The idea was to go back to Ulaanbataar the next day so we could be just on time for the retreat that was organised. Only, we couldn't get any transportation... Even the next day we heard there were no busses. Not worrying about what we couldn't change we could get some more rest and went for really nice walks in the hills surrounding the town. In the evening we went out again and did meditation under the stars and while going back we were trying to recognise the different constellations. There were no clowds, no streetlights and it was new moon. The sky was so clear, I have hardly ever seen so many stars .

Sand dunes.

Retreat with record number of Dada's and Didi's

Finally we found a mini bus that would bring get us back to the retreat only one day late... one good margii friend of Didi would pick us up once we arrived back in Ulaanbataar and drive us to the retreat site. Finally we got near by 1am, near... we couldn't find it and after driving around for a while we gave up and slept outside under the stars! Waking up early morning, damp and wet, we found we were within few hundred meters of the retreat site! By the time we reached we heard the retreat had finished the day before... so the others were not very impressed that we came so late. Still few had stayed on and five other Dada's and Didi's were still there so we had an interresting time.

The Didi running the childrens home needed to go back early, and had the only car, causing more confusion... Most packed up quickly and we thinking it would be a three hour trek ended up walking... and once it got dark hitch hicking... It would have been a lot more than three hours! But we did make it back safely.

The next evining I had to leave. I don't know the full reason why, but it was very hard to say goodby and I was feeling very sad to leave!




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