Mongolian Rhapsody

Date: November 21, 1999

Dear Nondas (and all),

Hi from Ulaan Baatar… I arrived yesterday from Beijing. Directly my parents whisked me off to an international women’s club ball, with a grand raffle and dancing and a lot of smiling, fake and not, where my fatigue after traveling from 7.30 am onwards topped with some wine finally showed their effects, and today I slept till 12 noon.

It’s the expected cross of Communism and untamed tundra lifestyle here. I like it so far.  Snow and ice are on the ground, but a brisk walk in a nearby foresty part of UB’s environs heated up the body enough to shed the gloves and cap. A grand plan ensues to translate the dissertation, but already on Tuesday there’s a program for visiting the ancient site of Karakurum, with Turkic-Mongolic stone ruins, which I embarrassingly failed to offer the right term last night- monoliths?

Anyway, in Beijing and Shanghai I went around the main sites and although I could not take too many pictures, if any modernist and really cool pics come out, I am sure to try and forward some to you. China is grotesque and beautiful at the same time. A good policy of gradual opening out to a free market (all foreign companies, including the mighty American GM, have to be partners with the Chinese government to enter the Chinese market), contrary to Russia’s maniacal laissez-faire. The Mongolians, I hear, are more relaxed than the Chinese in their foreign social interaction, e.g. no mysterious person likely to follow you around the streets here, but ideological-wise they are proud, e.g. of the tank that is hoisted up as a monument, in the middle of the city on a geometrically intriguing (!) base, because of its heroic socialist deeds- the Mongolians donated the production costs or the tank itself  I don’t know, to the Soviets in WWII, and it was one of those that entered Berlin at the war’s end. The base stand has graphics showing the trail of the tank. Very interesting!

So amid all the slanted-eyed, usually sympathetic strangers around me for the last week or so, I am marvelling at this chance to see this part of the world, and thinking of friends scattered around other parts of the same world… So I hope you are doing well and that we keep hearing from each other.

Talk to you latah, much love, Ege