UB Observations from City to Countryside


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is something oddly rewarding about wringing out your clothes and hanging them up to dry.  I was almost tempted to go buy more underwear instead of doing laundry, which is a much more arduous task in Mongolia than in the U.S.  I eventually overcame my American laziness and figured out how to work the washing machine, which is a simple contraption.  You put the soap and water in your clothes in on one side and the bucket spins it all together.  After a while, you take your clothes out and rinse them with water and then put it into the other bucket that will spin most of the moisture out of your clothes.  Then you pull apart the compact wad of clothes and hang them up to dry.  Once you get over hanging up your unmentionables for all to see, it’s rather satisfying to know that you washed your clothes instead of some cold, unfeeling machine that makes everything easier.  If I sat down and thought about it, what would I have done Saturday morning if I hadn’t washed my clothes?  I would have probably slept more hours than I really needed to.

Does technology make us lazier?  It makes our lives easier, but are we better off having them or not having them?  To be or not to be?  I am a big fan of technology.  I use my computer and cell phone everyday.  I watch TV and listen to the radio.  I wear a watch and ride in taxis.  If you break down every little thing humans do, you will find some form of technology in everything.  UB is not so primitive a place that technology hasn’t touched Mongolian lifestyle.  It has helped the continue the nomadic lifestyle of Mongolians with automobiles and trains that can transport people more efficiently and quicker than the traditional horse and saddle method.

But in other ways, technology hasn’t reached Mongolia.  To clarify, technology and the knowledge that goes with technology, hasn’t reached Mongolia.  With power comes responsibilities, and Mongolia hasn’t learned to be environmentally responsible or used good judgment on distribution and deliberation.  Although the government has become a Democracy, I find most Mongolians characterize their government as corrupt.  Granted, I would say that the U.S. government, in some ways is corrupt, but over all holds a policy of transparency as much as a government entity can and could possibly.

Having seen my taxi man be pulled over by a policeman, hand over some Tugriks and drive away, I would be inclined to agree with my Mongolian friends’ point of view on the level of corruption that exist in UB.  There is power, but no responsibility.  The poverty level on the outskirts of Mongolia are sad, but a daily part of their lives here in UB’s gypsy towns.  Mongolians think this is normal and see no other way to live, but what they need is education and knowledge about a different way of life.  This doesn’t mean they need to mirror the U.S.  I love America, but I don’t think we have the only working system.  The United Kingdom and New Zealand thrive in some ways that the U.S. do not.

Every country must take into consideration their land mass, their people’s mentalities, and their culture to form a working system for themselves.

I see fancy cars and poor infrastructure.  I don’t see enough ground cover and experience dust storms that coat your body in grit and soot between your shoe-cladden feet and between your teeth despite your clenched lips.  I see traffic cops and cars not following any traffic rules.  I see hundreds of people who the government has forgotten to try and provide running water, electricity, roads, a postal system.

Some technology has reached UB, but a large portion of this technology only adds to the chaos and complications of a burgeoning country.  I find that Mongolia is full of contradictions and contrast.  Out in the countryside, the land is pristine and the air is clean.  When I visited my friend’s home outside of UB, the air was fresh and filled the lungs with a cold woosh that was like a spoonful of vitamins for the body.  However, inside UB is another story.

Mongolia is a child in primary school.  It sees its brothers and sisters have nice cars and fancy clothes so it too wants these things, but it isn’t quite old enough to realize that these things come with a cost.  But like any child, it is learning.

Here are some pictures of my short time I got to spend out in the countryside:

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