сайн байна уу! That’s “hello” in Mongolian. You say it, “sain by noh” (sign bye no).
Anyway, I promised pictures! Sunday was our first day of class, and we spent it touring Gandan Monastery, one of the most famous monasteries in the country. It was really busy, with lots of monks and locals running around and worshiping, as well as a bunch of tourists wandering aimlessly. We were lead around by professor Benard and one of the monks. The whole complex was very pretty, though most of the religious aspects went over my head. Though I will say it was a seriously different experience than going to synagog in St. Louis. It was much louder, and about 100x more chaotic, though everyone seemed to understand exactly what was going on.
The tour didn’t last very long, and afterwards we were given the afternoon to explore again. I just went to the grocery store and did homework, since I had two papers to finish. The next day we had a more “traditional” class. All of us met up at Lamrim monastery for our first two hour Buddhism class. Class was dull, but prof. Benard clearly knows what she’s talking about, so that was cool. We got an hour and a half to go find lunch wherever we wanted, so Luisa, Annin and I found some tasty traditional food nearby. Afterwards it was back to class, and with full stomachs it was very hard to concentrate.
The next day we went on an adventure to meet Panchen Otrul Rinpoche, a recognized incarnation of something or other. Truthfully, the whole thing went over my head. Anyway, to get there we all had to take taxis. In UB there are no actual cab companies, and no official taxis. What happens is, you stick your arm out, and any random car that feels like it becomes a taxi. Super fun, right? I was really nervous about the whole thing. We divided up into about 6 taxis, each group had either a cell phone with the number of the monastery and the “chaperones” or an actual chaperone. I ended up with Nima, prof. Benard’s husband, who is extremely nice, very slow moving, and a bit difficult to understand (he’s from Tibet). Anyway, we all piled into a car, and spent about 20 minutes trying to find this monastery. We get to a little shop where other Pacrimmers are hanging out, and we get out of the cab. Turns out we had the wrong address, this was a shop run by the charity in the Monastery. Whoops. So then we all had to pile back into cabs, but a few had already left. So I was asked to shove myself into a overly full cab and sit on Allen’s lap in the front seat. Allen is 6’5″. So, we were a bit squished. The cab had 7 people, including the driver. We spent another 20 minutes trying to find the correct place, and after a few panicked moments where we thought the car would break down, we got there. It was a weird experience, but the adventure of it was actually pretty fun. Everyone had a really good attitude, which helped a lot.
Anyway, so we met the Rinpoche, and he told us all about his life. His story is pretty amazing, and he talked about being forced into a Chinese labor camp and then escaping one day, then spending a week trekking through the Himalayas in the dark to get to freedom. I didn’t actually learn this until after he had talked though, because he had a voice that made it almost impossible to concentrate. And I made the mistake of sitting in the back row. So after his talk we ate some weirdly tasty pizza (pineapple pizza exists in Mongolia, and it is not bad) and then had class at the Rinpoche’s monastery, since getting back into cabs and heading home would take too long to still have class. At the end we were all left to find taxis on our own, and Kylie, Monica, Kari and I ended up with a really sweet Mongolian lady who tried her hardest to teach us Mongolian. It was a really fun ride, and I am happy to say the taxis here do not scare me as much anymore. Family, don’t worry, this doesn’t mean I’m going to run around hopping into cars by myself with strangers.
Today we had class in our usual monastery and then spent a few hours in an art museum. It was pretty cool, though sadly I wasn’t allowed to take pictures. Afterwards I wandered with Sarah and Luisa back to the main square, where we saw another wedding. I took the opportunity to snap a few pics of people in traditional Mongolian dress. Very cool, yeah?
The rest of the day was mostly Luisa and me trying on hats in the SDS, and getting ready for our three night trip to the ancient capital of Kara Korim which we leave for tomorrow. I just got back from a really great vegan meal because my body has been starved for veggies (mutton and starch seem to be the main food groups here). Now I’m off to pack and attend a group meeting. Goodbye for a couple days!