Saturday, April 30, 2016

Random Musings from Mongolia

Though they drive on the right in Mongolia, most of the cars are set up for driving on the left; that is, they are right-side drive cars. And driving here is really an open frontier. People don't seem to be particularly affected by things like traffic signals, signs, or whether there are pedestrians potentially in the way of their path when making their driving decisions. So if you are a pedestrian, the best thing to do is GTF out of the way in every circumstance, because you are at the bottom of the food chain. It's not like I haven't been in that circumstance in other countries before. I am just surprised I haven't seen more accidents because of it.  Also, people will just park in the most nonsensical places, like the only entrance to a crowded parking lot. Then someone will pull behind, and just sit on their horn, even though there is nobody in the parked car. But Mongolian tow trucks get a lot of work due to this...I've seen cars towed in circumstances like this on a few occasions. Intersections can just be complete gridlock, as people will just pull into the intersection from all four sides, and not cede way to anyone. And then everybody will just sit on the horn. But there doesn't seem to be a lot of driving on the sidewalk, like there was in Beijing. And there aren't a ton of bicycles and scooters like in China, either.

I mentioned earlier that I don't have data in Mongolia. So I'm dependent on WiFi to get on the Internet at all. Which means that when I'm walking around the city, I have no Internet access at all. But a couple at one of the hostels I stayed at in Beijing turned me on to an android app called that does just about everything Google Maps does, but offline. Google Maps claims they allow you to download offline maps, but it doesn't work in some countries. It didn't work for me in Mongolia at all, so I downloaded when I was on the hostel's WiFi. After I downloaded the map data for the entire country of Mongolia in about a minute or two, it has worked great for me offline; about as well as Google Maps does online.  And it is open source and free.

I've heard a few people answer their phones here in Mongolia, and every single one of them has said something that sounds almost exactly like "Bueno" when they answer the phone.  It surprised me to hear that,  because I hear that all the time among Spanish speakers back home.  And I answer my phone like that occasionally, too, especially when solicitors call, and I can then pretend I don't speak English.  Of course, one of my favorite phone greetings has always been to put on a voice sort of like Lt. Worf, and answer the phone with, "Speak freely, with no fear of retribution."  Somehow I don't imagine that happens in Mongolia a lot.

The bathroom in the hostel has a toilet plunger with a bicycle pump-like mechanism on it. What a great idea...haven't seen that in the States.

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