Who: Miles Light
When: February and March
Where: Ulaanbataar, Mongolia
Temp: Feb: -20F, Mar 10-30F

In February, I was retained by the USAID project for "Economic Policy Reform and Competitiveness" (EPRC) to help advise the Mongolian government on an upcoming comprehensive tax reform.
I arrived in Ulaanbataar (UB) in my best phsyical form for 4 years, but quickly lost it working in the office and socializing at night with friends and coworkers. The trip was fun, and so probably worth the tradeoff.

Sodier's salute in the main square of UB, called "Sukhbataar Square". These soldiers were saluting the return of troops from Iraq.

Wrestling is a big deal, here is a billboard where wrestling champs in Mongolia endorse the local bottled water.

The "Ger" suburbs on the edge of town. From what I can tell, the city gives away land, as long as it is fenced in. This is ironic, given that Mongolia is called the "land without fences". Anyway, people will fence in some land, then set up their temporary ger (yurt) inside the fence. These suburbs all burn raw coal for heating - the air is so bad that at times in the cold winter it's hard to see across the street!
Here's a typical older man in UB. They all wear the traditional silk/satin outfits, fur hats and giant leather boots with pointy-toes.
Traditional "horse-head" violin concert. They guy in the blue was singing a song, but later the guys in yellow behind him started "throat-singing" where you make the vocal chords in the back of your throat vibrate. It sounds like a chronic smoking victim singing, but somehow has a pleasant ring to it.
Here's a clear picture of the "Horse-head" on the violin. Horses are synonomous with Mongolian life.
Me on a ridge about 30K outside of UB. Every Sunday a group of ex-pats and some Mongols go cross-country skiiing outside of town. It's a great time. Ron Zeidel, a UB resident, has about 5 extra pairs of skiis that he graciously gives out to anybody who wants to go.
The vast and bleak Mongolian "steppe" landscape.
Often there are packs of wild dogs running around the cold streets of UB, just outside of my hotel:
Here are some typical-looking people around town. These pictures were taken at the Buddhist temple, so there are a few more traditional people here than around downtown.
Here's some old guy sitting around by the temple:
There are hundreds of prayer wheels around UB, and the Mongol population is highly-superstitious. For example, it is very bad luck to do things on Tuesday. So nobody really flies that day, the national airline only has limited flights.
Here people are ringing the good luck bells:


Schoolchildren feeding the birds. The female/male ratio in schools is getting better, but over the past 5-10 years, it has been about 4:1 female/male.
Here's me out front of a temple, with locals milling around:

Some of the support staff at the EPRC office. Christie in the back, then Uggi, and (..). Next is Deegi and her friend, out front of the Budwieser Bar.

John McRae from Melbourne, working in UB as CIO for Khan Bank, having some dinner with me at the French Cafe, just down the street from my hotel (the Puma Imperial Hotel). Next to this is a dinner pic at the same restaraunt (the owner is a classic French guy, named, "Guy"), with me, Barhuma's friend (front), Barhuma, and Dave from the Embassy. September 1st.. Dave will be reassigned to the Kyrgyz Embassy.

Ted Wood and Jeremy, from Conservation Inc., hanging out at the "Silk Road" club after hours. This club is not my favorite because the music is trance and everybody is kind of snooty. There are several other bars that are more fun. Ted and Jeremy were in UB making maps and brochures for the Parks in Mongolia. Ted's a photographer (he has the last-known pictures of Hunter S. Thompson before he killed himself), and Jeremy is a writer and book layout expert (when he isn't busy as a professional dancer).

The next picture is Doljisuren (Doljko), my officemate at the EPRC office, explaining some of the more important aspects of UB life.