The First 3 Days: Paul’s Take

So as not to be left off the blogging train, I’ve decided to give my own, possibly redundant, account of our first three days in Ulaan Baatar.
I’ll spare you the details of our flights and arrival at the hotel, as I’m sure they have been capably discussed by my companions. Rather, I’ll skip to the first real site we visited in Ulaan Baatar: The Zaisan Memorial, shown below:

As you might have guessed from the picture, it’s Soviet. Very Soviet:

Why yes, Comrade, that is a Red Army soldier holding the flag of Communist victory and brandishing an AK-47. However, the triumph of the proletariat over those bourgeois capitalist pigs doesn’t end there! The inside of the Zaisan Memorial is a veritable masterpiece of The People’s Art (read: Marxist Propaganda)! Just see for yourself:

Ah, how beautiful. The victorious Soviet soldier is crushing the flag of Mongolia’s eternal enemies, the Japanese Empire.
Actually, given the whole Manchuria debacle, the Mongols probably liked this part of the memorial. However, there is a noticeable absence of any mention of the country that actually caused Japan to surrender at the end of World War 2…
Moving on! Here’s another touching image:

It trumpets the defeat of Nazi Germany by Communist forces. While this is a message I think we can all get behind, I’m not sure Hitler had any designs on Ulaan Baatar in the 1940s. And finally, one last image:

Mongolian troops, who of course willingly joined the Soviet Union under no coercion whatsoever from their neighbors to the north.
What I’m getting at here is that Soviet propaganda might not be the most accurate source of world history. However, it was awesome for a history enthusiast like me to actually get to see all these things with my own eyes.

And now for something completely different:

In about the starkest contrast imaginable, we next visited a Buddhist monastery. The first building we entered housed an 80-foot tall statue of Buddha. Unfortunately, they charged $5.00 for the privilege to take pictures, so I can’t provide any. However, I did get a shot of the outside of the building:

That should give you a good idea of the size of the statue; it took up most of the inside of the building. Off to the side of this building was the more private part of the monastery. It was still open to the public, but there were actual monks in this part. Here are some photos:

From the monastery, we went to Sukhbaatar Square. It’s basically the city center. On one side is the Parliament building, on another the ballet and Louis Vuitton store. The centerpiece of the façade of the Parliament building was this statue of Genghis (Chinggis) Khan:

As we were standing there and admiring the sights, a Mongolian came up to us selling paintings. After we got him to leave by saying we’d come back at the end of the week, he encouraged us to find him again. He assured us we could locate him by looking for his UCLA cap, which we took to be a person’s name. His own name, actually, since he began pointing at himself and repeating “Ooklah, Ooklah” (Read out loud for best effect).

The following day (Monday), we started the morning by touring the hospital. However, the afternoon is where I should go into greater detail. Justin, my dad, and I went to a local field to help some of the kids play soccer. We taught them drills, the most popular of which consisted of me standing in goal while they took shots. Many of these shots went in. Whether that was due to my generosity or incompetence I’ll leave unanswered.
Today consisted of much of the same, but with many more children. Whereas on Monday we only had 10 or so kids from a single district of town, today we had a solid 25 from both the district and the orphanage. The greater number allowed for a much better scrimmage, which in turn left me much sweatier than the day before. But it’ll be worth it if these kids are better than me by the end of the week… Which, admittedly, wouldn’t take too much.

After seeing where these children live and what kind of background they come from, it’s really great to see them smiling, laughing, and having an all-around good time. I’m glad we’ll be able to do it for a whole week and I hope they’ll continue playing long after we leave.

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1 Comment

  1. Jenny Puckett

     /  July 4, 2012

    Ever since your Spain blog, I’ve been an admirer of your photography skills, Paul. Wow! Please keep the narrative and images coming……the combination is wonderful. Back in the day, Life Magazine would have hired you in an instant!


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