June 1st, a magician waves his wand over UB and transforms the city into a playground fit for every princess and chubby-cheeked child. Historically, the U.S. has celebrated International Children’s Day, but the holiday has fallen on the wayside as American parents’ say everyday is Children’s Day in America. The holiday started from a meeting of minds in Geneva Switzerland that decided to improve the situation of children all over the world, they would dedicate June 1st as International Children’s Day. The women and men sitting around the table shared a hope that if they celebrated this holiday all over the world, certain countries (who will remain unnamed) would take better care of their children.
I have no idea if their dream came true globally. After all, I’ve only visited 3 out of 196 countries in the world. What I’ve observed is that their dream did come true for Mongolia. I spent the day with a couple of Mongolian families as they celebrated it with their children. At every street corner was some tent selling children’s toys or games for them to play. The city setup a mini-zoo and carnival near the baseball stadium, the Circus was in full-swing, and children were everywhere. Princesses were dressed in their best pink gowns and boys . . . well little boys just wear little boy clothes.
It was a blistering 85 with no cloud cover and I wore no sunblock. Luckily I don’t burn, I just turn darker and darker. Although the fun of today underlined the importance of the family mentality that thrives in Mongolian culture, Children’s Day is undercut by my recent Mongolian friend Nasa’s words that homeless children is a major problem in UB. Unfortunately the city isn’t organized enough to have shelters – or at least enough of them to mitigate the problem. This is a reminder that child labor, orphans, child trafficking, underage prostitution, and all the other problems that unfortunately plague the youth of the world everywhere is still a problem and must be addressed. The small hands that grab for lollipops and the smiles that are smeared with chocolate are the same hands and mouths that will be the leaders of the world tomorrow.
Besides celebrating Children’s Day, a lot has changed since I last posted. I’ve been steadily increasing my small list of contacts in my chunky, monkey cell phone and having fun along the way. I recently met a wonderful family whose father, Wesley, is Vietnamese-American, mother Mongolian, and they have three very smart boys. I spent June 1st with them as we attempted to go to the zoo, but decided it was too hot, too dusty, and just too much strain on the kids. Therefore we appeased the children with pizza, iced tea, and candy. It was my first pizza in a month!
Wesley’s wife introduced me to a group of women who belong to the league of International Women. I like to think of them as the International Housewives of the Earth. They come from Australia, United Kingdom, Mongolia, America, and everywhere else. I’ve met more Mongolians studying journalism, and some foreigners spending a year backpacking through Asia (and who I might see again in Vietnam!). I’ve had my first Mongolian beer, ate milk tea with dumplings, visited a monastery, and finally met the allusive one-man band that produces the English program for MNB Agency (which is MNB TV). In other words, I’ve been having a lot of fun.