August 12, 2012
The others had breakfast at an Internet café this morning, so they could talk to their parents and their friends, but my digestive system decided to throw a hissy fit, so this post will have to be delayed. The first good weather since we arrived, and I’m spending the day in bed. At least my room has its own bathroom, so I don’t have far to go.
I whined when mom made me take my Align during the days leading up to this trip, but I have to concede it was a good idea. I’ve never had problems in Europe, but it appears that Asia is another matter. “Where the **** are you?” my stomach wants to know, “and what the **** have you been eating?”
The same things as everyone else, actually, so I don’t know why I’m sick and they’re not. But whatever it is, it’s miserable, and I’ve spent a good part of the day profoundly wishing IVs were a do-it-yourself kind of thing so I could get enough fluids in my system to make the headache and the dizziness go away. Drinking my water is, unfortunately, rather counterproductive.
I’m very glad to have other Fulbrighters here with me. Lisa agreed to buy me some applesauce, in hopes that I’ll be able to keep it down by tonight, and Lucas offered me some of his antibiotics. And I’ve had a fun time with all of them so far, even before I got sick. Seven of us is too few for the group to really get cliquey, and mealtime adventures and the like have all been open invitations.
UB is an interesting and varied city, from what I’ve seen so far. Its center is pretty well-developed, with an impressive parliamentary building, a number of tall office buildings, and reasonably good streets. The edges, however have a distinctly third-world appearance to them. Everything is either ramshackle, with rusted edges and peeling paint, or under construction – there’s construction everywhere. A five-minute walk takes you past stray dogs, people burning old clothes, and even the occasional ger.
Walking itself is an adventure, as sidewalks are all but nonexistent, and the traffic is terrifying. People weave in and out of lanes indiscriminately, blaring their horns at anyone they judge to be moving too slowly. Turn signal usage appears optional, but then again, it seems nothing has been standardized in this city: the grocery store labels are a mix of Mongolian, Russian, Chinese, German, and even French; it’s anyone’s guess which side the steering wheel of any given car will be on; the appliances in my room include a Korean TV, a Chinese refrigerator, and a British tea kettle (each with its respective kind of plug, of course). Thank heavens for universal power strips.
And the roads – imagine the potholes that turn up in Chicago if they were subjected to a winter half again as long and twice as cold. And never repaired. When it rains, as it has for the past two days, these enormous and irregular holes fill with water, so that you have no idea how deep they are. It’s all but impossible to avoid them on busy streets, and drivers are not exactly careful about splashing nearby pedestrians. Lucas got hit with a particularly impressive spray that cleared the top of his head. His clothes, face, neck, and even his hair were all thoroughly spattered, to the great amusement of the passing locals.
The two of us continued on in search of dinner anyway, the others having decided to stay in and snack in their rooms. We eventually made our way to a place on the left side of the street, whose name we managed, even with our limited knowledge of Cyrillic, to decipher as “Mongol Restoran.”
There were only a few patrons inside, and our waitress spoke enough English to tell us that the items on the first page were soups, but that was about it. With no idea what anything was, we each pointed to a random number, and as the waitress left, we toasted each other with glasses of lukewarm Mongolian beer.
I have no idea which of the random selections I received, which is a shame, because mine was delicious. Beef, potatoes, and carrots are all fairly major ingredients here, which suits me just fine. Portions are generous, too – a mixed blessing, since you can’t take leftovers home. The only thing I haven’t liked so far is the milk tea. It’s vaguely salty, with melted fat that congeals on the top if you let it sit long enough, and it smells like melted butter. I hate butter. I’m not sure what I’ll do about this, as it’s rude not to finish your tea if it’s offered, and even more so to refuse it. I’ll need to learn how to explain in Mongolian that milk tea makes me feel ill, I guess, as that’s probably the only acceptable reason not to drink it. Today’s misery was not a result of the tea, though. I liked the Mongolian Chinese food we had last night, but I guess it did not like me.
I’m feeling much better than I was this morning, though, which I take to be a good sign. Hopefully I’ll be out and about tomorrow, and back on solid food. Cautiously
(Update: I’m posting from a café on the other side of town and just finished eating an omelet, so all is well once more. I was pretty miserable for about eight hours or so yesterday, but it could have been a lot worse. And I’ll be brushing my teeth with filtered water from now on, just in case.)