New to Ulaanbaatar, Feb 2022

By Bulgan Batdorj 

After four years, I finally got to go to Ulaanbaatar in February 2022. Although I was in regular contact with my family and friends, I was overjoyed to see them in person. The home welcoming of UB starts with the airport, the long line at the luggage pick up and taxi drivers by the gate. Somehow, Chinggis Khaan was not quite the same as Buyant Ukhaa airport, although it was shinier, fancier I still reminisce about Buyant Ukhaa.

The weather was unexpectedly colder as it ranged from -20 to +160 during the day, it dipped to -17 at night. I was expecting warmer weather since we passed the coldest part of “ес”, a traditional measurement that estimates the strength of coldness. However, the cold weather meant that I got to wear my reindeer boots. Then, despite my excitement, the reindeer boots were so out of style. This winter footwear trend is replaced by felt shoes and Dr. Martens. In addition,  Canada Goose and Arc’teryx got even more popular since first mentioned by Julian in his list of things that arrive and disappear in UB. Many would agree that UBians are stylish, and appearance is a rather important indicator of how UBians judge one’s success and capability unless you are a white person (yes, Mongolians are racist, too). This social appearance and the related perception of prestige and anxiety in the society seem to be rather high given the amount of time, money, and efforts dedicated to looking good with the help of cosmetic procedures and expensive cars. I admit that I felt judged for wearing my out-of-style reindeer boots.

Although my trip coincided with the reduced COVID-related regimes, people were very disciplined in wearing and changing their masks compared to here in Canada. It perhaps is related to UB’s air pollution as people are trying to protect themselves. In addition to the mask, I saw the indoor air filters in many middle-income households as one of the ways to cope with and reduce the effects of air pollution. Since I was in UB last time, the indoor filters were surely not a thing (though Julian noticed it in 2019).  Another interesting addition to households was coffee makers. The indoor air filter was not acquired by every household I visited but I had an option to either drink milk tea or coffee at almost every family I visited except my 82-year-old grandma.

Things that have not changed

The things I  prepared for were the traffic and air pollution in UB. The traffic starts at 7.05am on workdays and only 5 minutes made the difference between being stuck in traffic for 40 minutes or reaching my destiny in 8 minutes via taxi. The traffic gets to be much more manageable in the evenings after 8:30 pm.

The bustling energy of big and busy UB is so hypnotizing. My short visit was not enough to reacquaint myself with the city architect, fashion trends and the food. Although Mongolian dishes are not globally popular, I was over the clouds eating my parents’ buuz, my sister’s ums kitaa (better not translate for those who are squeamish), and sheepshead. Also, I was surely in a treat for a of wild boar meat, and bulganii airag, delicacies. Surely worth every single day of my four years of wait.

This entry was posted in Air Pollution, Bulgan Batdorj, Change, Food, Pop Culture, Reflection, Social Change, Ulaanbaatar and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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