well things have been improving rapidly on all sides in Mongolia; Molly has learned how to jump on and off Grettle using my leg as a spring board...
And has also learned how to sit back and relax...
The sun has finally broken through the thick winter smog and snow encapsulating Ulan Bator, which is a pleasant change and one that brings with it a lighter mood.
You see, despite being ever so excited about my upcoming adventure, i am actually, in general, a little low...
I have reached a point in my life where it is now essential that i find my footing; find a full, active, outdoor, creative, sociable and exciting way to live and work. It's all very well when I travel, since travel encapsulates all of the latter, but when the adventure draws to end, i find myself lost, drunk, bored and usually a little fat! What i need, is a purpose to wake up for in the morning and something that i long to do every day. I have tried teaching, and have tried the somewhat lonely life of an artist that works from home, tried settling down to write, and although these things are relatively satisfactory and enjoyable for a short while, they are simply not enough.
I can't sustain, and wouldn't want to, a life of travel, for, excluding this upcoming trip, which is in fact essential, since I must get both Molly and Grettle back home in time for my brothers wedding this July, it lacks purpose.
I am starting to think about these things things and during a process of elimination, combined with two years of trial and error, have started to seriously consider Art Journalism. The idea being that I set out (with both Molly and Grettle of course) to illustrate world news with sensitive sketches. Who knows whether this will take off, but at least if it fails to grab the attention of the news, it will no doubt bring purpose, excitement, travel, creativity, and challenge into my life, and furthermore, will leave me, if with nothing else, a full portfolio of interesting and topical art work to exhibit.
So- who knows eh? But i think it's worth a try!
I am keen to spend some time in the EU when I return home this June and so perhaps, post wedding celebrations, I will start off this idea in Europe...we shall see!
Other than these thoughts, and Molly's training, not a huge amount else has been going on in UB but to give you an idea, here goes;
I am doing a commission for Trish Reed, which involves painting several Mongolian animals playing cricket... not the average commission nor an easy task, but rather fun, and filling my studio at long last, with a bit of color!
Works in progress...
I have started art classes with a middle aged Mongolian Lady who is keen to learn how to use paint. The classes have gone rather well and next week we will be driving in her car to paint yaks in the Mongolian steppe.
I was followed around the city a few days back by a toothless nomad which was a little unnerving. He caught up with me at a pedestrian crossing asking me where i was from. I said, rather shorty 'England' and wish i hadn't, for he then continued, as i hurriedly attempted to cross the road on a red light, 'Ah, you English girl, you are dangerous, you are not afraid of the road' i laughed nervously and said no, quickening my stride in an attempt to get rid of him. He quickened his in return and as i looked behind me, to witness a toothless grin and hear a rasping cackle, he said 'Why you try to get away so quick? It's OK, i live near you, I follow you home', this comment was followed by hysterical laughter at which point i decided to walk straight past my studio in order to divert his attention from where i lived. I continued towards some shops and he followed in hot pursuit, until finally i dived into a nail parlor and loitered near the window to wait until the coast was clear. The ladies that worked there weren't entirely sure if i wanted my nails painted or not and just as i thought i was going to have to sit down for a manicure, the coast cleared and i hurried home!
Other that that, recently there has been a Mongolian new year, during which all of the shops and cafes closed for 4 days. Now nobody had informed me of this, and despite being very surprised to see, quite literally, hundreds of people swarming around the local supermarket the Saturday before the new year was due to commence, it did not occur to me that this was the last chance to buy food, drink and more seriously, cigarettes, for 4 days!
The amount of people in the supermarket caused a queue that protruded onto the street outside and a monumental pile up of trolleys made it almost impossible move at all. I abandoned my trolley and muscled my way through to chicken section (I had actually only gone to the supermarket to buy Molly a roast chicken as a treat for her good behavior on Grettle) and left the shop as soon as possible with nothing else.
The following morning i went outside, to discover, absolutely nothing, not even the homeless chap that raids through the dustbin outside my studio every morning. I had no food (other than the roast chicken which molly had pretty much polished off) and a rapidly decreasing supply of cigarettes.
In a desperate attempt to contact the other expats on Facebook, I finally heard word that Good Price Supermarket was open on Souel street. Since the roads were practically empty,I took this opportunity to take molly for her first ever spin around the city on Grettle and drove to Good Price. It turned out, on the contrary, to be very bad price and we spent an awful lot on very little, but managed to get hold of a few essentials that would last us through the holiday.
When everybody returned from wherever they had been, it was rather a wonderful sight; all of the local rabble were still in their smartest, most flamboyant Mongolian traditional attire; crazy colorful hats of all shapes and sizes, amazingly intricate and embroidered boots with the toes turned up and wonderfully exotic robes and dresses.
Then there was rather an amusing spectacle where a policeman had stopped a car which was quite literally covered, boot to bonnet, in mud. I lingered for a minute on the street to watch as the driver of the vehicle attempted to rub off the thick layer of muck which had made the number plate of his car completely unreadable. It took some time until the officer was satisfied at which point the driver was allowed to continue on his way, and sped off in his mud covered car with a dazzlingly white plate.
On a different note, I have been putting on a big sale of all of my possessions in the studio, and have managed to sell almost everything, excluding the mattress, the tent and a bundle of clothes which i will carry on Grettle when I set off in 6 weeks time. Admittedly, this might have been a little ahead of schedule; i now have no tables or chairs and currently am writing this on top of two of Grettle's old tires and my only remaining drawing board!
Despite having no furniture, it's actually quite a relief to have got rid of the colossal amount of crap that cluttered this space and quite a relief to be a few hundred dollars richer! I also managed to sell the treadmill which had taken on a clothes rack role for the past year, got rid of the welding machine, helmets, drills and angle grinders as well as heaps of art equipment, so, all in all, a successful sale and one which brought many visitors to the studio!
Meanwhile, I have been quite busy trying to match the pistachio green color of my studio door in order to repaint the parts which Molly has nibbled, and despite the fact that the ceiling is falling down, the heating system is broken, the water pipe is leaking and the loo doesn't flush, i think the studio is generally in good shape and exactly how i found it, so fingers crossed there will be no fines and i will receive my full deposit back next month!
Molly has received much spoiling attention over the last few weeks (so much so, that i actually fear Grettle might be a little jealous) people seem ever so perplexed by the sight of all three of us driving to our local store and Molly has made many friends in the process.
I am off to China in a few weeks time simply in order to come back into Mongolia on the second entry of my visa- i know- it does indeed sound a bit peculiar but usually one is only permitted to stay in Mongolia as a tourist for 30 days. I am hoping i found the right loop hole which will have enabled me, by the time i leave, to have stayed for 3 months, but if i have not, then i suspect i shall be badly caught out when trying to re-enter on the train at the Chinese border- fingers crossed!
Dad is coming to visit just after this trip to China which will be lovely and we plan to head out of the city into the countryside for a night or two. I think i might take this opportunity to drive Molly on Grettle out of the city for the first time and see how she takes to the Ger camps and the Mongolian Steppe!
So there's the lowdown for you on UB and until there are further updates, i will say adios!