So – seven months of Mongolia and teaching has gone by in the blink of an eye, and I find myself back in Bishkek, at long last, reunited with Grettle once again!
I am no longer driving the Karakorum highway into India, but instead taking on a 7000 km drive from here, back to Ulaanbaatar (with a minor detour into Uzbekistan to pick up my Russian transit visa).
I loved Mongolia so much that I decided to stay another year. I have a new job teaching sport part-time starting this August at the American School of Ulaanbaatar, a fabulous basement/art studio to live in, and a plan to spend most of my time making sculpture, offering private art classes, tuition, taking on commissions, and training up a little puppy that I plan to pick up in happy paws pet shop on my return to UB!
I suppose the main reason for this somewhat sudden change of plan came from an unlikely invitation from an English accountant working in Ulaanbaatar, to go bollarcking and ice fishing for the weekend.
This all came about through a total miscommunication between myself and a man that I met at my Grandmother’s funeral in February.
This man had understood from a brief conversation we held together, that I would be driving alone on a Vespa through Mongolia in November- an understandable mistake to make I admit, since this had at one point, mad as it sounds, been the plan! He had got in touch with Chris, the English accountant, who had in turn contacted me, offering, very kindly, any help if I needed rescuing along the way!
He had also taken a look at my art and decided to commission me to paint him a ‘proud and woolly camel’ on route.
Accepting the commission, but explaining the misunderstanding, I informed him I was in fact already in Ulaanbaatar and had begun my new job teaching at Hobby School.
Now, along with the somewhat sensible side to Chris’s life as the boss of a successful accounting company, there is a totally wacky and ever so slightly mad side to his current life in Mongolia. A keen cricketer from a young age, Chris, along with a Mongolian Judo champion named Battulga, have joined forces to build Mongolia’s first ever cricket pitch!
He soon re-thought his proud and woolly camel commission and asked instead for a series of paintings depicting Mongolian animals playing cricket!
It was whilst arranging a time to meet and discuss this extraordinary request that the invitation of a weekend bollarcking and ice fishing came to be. I accepted this slightly odd offer from a total stranger and joined him, and a couple of others on an escapade in to the Mongolian countryside.
During the four hour drive to the Ger camp, among many other things, we got chatting about his commission. It had started out as a series of four or five paintings, but soon escalated into a wild idea to paint the entire Mongolian cricket team- now referred to as the Mongol X1 and the Marmot Umpire.
Prints of the paintings and the originals would be exhibited the following month, at a fund raiser for the building of the cricket pitch, held at the British embassy in UB, called ‘A day at the Races’.
The day consisted of horse racing on a large screen, where people would place their bets, and win either a bottle of vino or a member of the Mongol Cricket team as a prize. All the money raised went towards the building of the cricket pitch, which is now well on its way, and the grass seed is being planted as I write this.
The day was a huge success, with many people, and many prints sold, but money is still needed for the cricket pitch, and the prints of the Mongol X11 can be found in my portfolio. Do take a look if you are interested- the team members are as follows:
The Mountain Weasel- First Batsman
The Batting Yak- 5th Batsman
Camel Carrying Bat
The Gobi Bear- Wicket Keeper
Eagle at Fly Slip
Cricket- The bad Sportsman
The Stray- Star Catcher
Horsing Around in the Outfield
The Padded Argali
The Snow Leopard Bowler- Line and Length
The Marmot Umpire
The weekend at the ice lake was fabulous fun, freezing cold, and a great adventure- in fact my first out of the city since arriving in mid-November! Although having said this, I must admit, we did not have the slightest bit of success when it came to catching any fish, and as it turned out, there was not enough wind for any bollarcking -a bollark- if you were wondering- resembles a gocart with a sail that can speed over land or ice...a wonderful idea in my opinion!
The procedure for ice fishing was really quite bizarre, one would use an ingenious instrument known as an auger, to screw a whole through the 6 feet of ice and into the lake. Then wait very quietly, clutching a ridiculously small plastic rod (about 3 inches in length) and dangle the line with small bate hooked to its end through the hole in the ice and into the water beneath.
I think our difficulties and lack of catch was most likely due to the fact that out party of people was somewhat louder than any other (all of whom seemed to be catching hundreds of fresh, chunky fish every few minutes) and the noise level, consistent with the lack of any catch, grew greater as the dry martinis started to flow, and the picnic box was cracked open. All in all however, it transpired to be a great weekend away from the city!
I returned to my apartment to begin the commission of the Mongol X1 and soon got to know this mad English accountant rather well. One thing led to another, and after one too many karaoke sessions out on the town, we soon became more than friends, and hence... the slight change of plan!
I have my fingers crossed that there will be no difficulties when I return to UB with my other half (Grettle)- one can only hope that the two of them get along, and that a menage-a-trios situation will go down smoothly and peacefully with both parties...
So- all in all, it’s pretty great to be back in Bishkek, and I am beside myself with excitement to be back on the open road once again!
Yesterday, I met an Israeli chap who is also, believe it or not, driving from Bishkek to Mongolia on a 125CC in a couple of weeks’ time, so we may join forces and tackle the road together!
In the mean time I have a slight hurdle to hop…Since having everything stolen in Bishkek, I have no bike importation form for Grettle, and due to a new rule, I will not be able to leave Kazakhstan without one…legally…so fingers crossed the Kazakh border officials are nice and corrupt and open to a bit of innocent bribery…otherwise I fear for poor Grettle being squashed into a small metal box, and me being carted off to a Kazakh cell for the foreseeable future.
The other slight snitch is that she has also overstayed her allowed import time by 6 months! EEK! Anyway, time will tell on these things- so wish me luck and let the adventure commence!!!!!