There is a certain appeal in getting a peek into someone else’s every-day life—even if that person’s life is not that different to yours, or is entirely made up. While I cannot promise beach babes, high drama or Alf Stewart, I can offer a look into an average day of ours here in Mongolia as autumn comes to an end.
In between trips to the mountains, horse-riding, vodka tasting trials and becoming lords of the flies in Terelj, life flows forward gently in a swirl of work, language lessons, running (me) training with the cycling federation junior girls’ team (Kate) and socialising.
We get up at 8am, feeling quite ragged—I don’t know whether it is the slightly higher altitude, the glaring light from the giant TV screen on the side of a hotel nearby being refracted through the cold haze and pollution or just our regular helter-skelter lives, but we seem to need more sleep here.
It is around minus ten degrees as I set off for work looking like the Michelin Man. Kate has the morning to write—a bit of a rarity these days in between her volunteer work with the cycling federation and the judicial council.
It has snowed overnight, and there is a softness to the sound of the city. As always, I see street dogs heading off on their secret missions elsewhere during the 10 minute walk to work. There is not much of a program to deal with them here, and I believe that they are either culled or left to die in the harsh winters. There is not even an animal shelter as far as we can find. If I could put several years into Mongolia, I would love to work with an organisation that was implementing a holistic solution to the problem. In the meantime, we do our best not to fall in love with every street dog we meet.
I work for the Independent Research Institute of Mongolia. They are a young organisation and have rapidly grown over the last several years. This requires inventiveness when space is necessary (‘Shall we hold the meeting at my desk or yours? Are you happy to share a chair?’). I work on a couple of different projects through the morning, interspersed with requests for proofreading and hi-jinks with my young colleagues. It is a pleasant atmosphere—they work hard, but everyone including the CEO and operations manager are prepared to spare some precious time whenever I have a question or an issue.
One of the differences I have noticed between here and Australia is the different attitude towards personal space. If you were to take the acceptable distance in which you are allowed to stand next to someone in an Australian office, then halve it, and take the square root of that figure, you would be getting closer to the acceptable distance in Mongolia. Touching is more acceptable too, unless you touch someone’s foot with yours, in which case you need to shake their hand as soon as possible to show that you are not declaring war on them.
I often go to lunch at a cute café nearby called Coffee Hut, run by a garrulous lad named Lkhagvadorj and his family. They make a couple of ‘Matt-special’ no-meat dishes just for me. They cost around three dollars—which means that if I could just find some way of earning an Australian salary over here, I could come home, buy a house, and eat all of the avocado on toast I want.
Kate meanwhile, has put on all of the layers of clothing she can find in the house, and ridden the eight kilometres to meet her cycling girls. It is still minus five degrees, which means that she is fine as long as she is riding, but less fine when she is not. For some reason, when she gets there, there is no riding, but rather an hour and a half-long discussion between coaches in civvies. She has no idea why, or what they are talking about—as is often the case, one must be flexible here (see blog posts number 2, 3, 7, 9 and 11). Unfortunately it is hard to be flexible in minus five degrees, and Kate is forced into bed to warm up when she gets home. This time she manages to avoid frostbite, however.
After my work and Kate’s process of decryogenicification we head off to ‘Golden Gym’ to get ripped. Fifty minutes on the treadmill (‘quick, think of something interesting… brain slowly atrophying… must think of something… ‘Home and Away?’ no, no good… brain atrophying faster…’) followed by a core strengthening class run by Madame Paine and we are ready for dinner.
We go to our local Japanese noodle house—delightfully named ‘Noodle Warrior’—for some slurpy noodles (me) and some less-slurpy-and-slightly-grossed-out-because-of-the-slurpy noodles (Kate) before braving the cold again for home.
And so our autumn day comes to an end. It’s now 12:30am, and I’m hollering for advice from Kate—who is back in bed—on how I should finish this blog. She has strongly suggested that I do it in a self-referential way, or if not, whatever I do, do it very quickly or run the risk of sleeping on the couch.
Like what you’ve read? We also have a blog about cycletouring in Europe. Check it out here: https://journals.worldnomads.com/katescarlett