Welcome to CCA’s international development blog page … the sights and sounds, the people and places as experienced by credit union and co-operative volunteers on the frontline of development.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Erdenet, Airag and Pauzirik...

Trains, planes and automobiles! The train bound for Erdenet – a young 35 year old copper mining city of 100,000 souls, departed on time at 9:00 pm. If you have ever experienced a long bus ride in Canada you know what I was in for – a dozen or more whistle stops (I may have slept through a few).

The overnight on the train was quite interesting. Mungu (my interpreter) and I had a berth for four to ourselves until about 2:00 am when we stopped in Darkhan (third largest city) when we gained a couple who took the top two bunks. As the sun rose I could watch the scenery and see gers dotting the countryside (rolling hills much like Alberta) and surrounded by herds of horses. Sleep? Not much!

Incredibly, waiting on the platform when we arrived was the only person I have ever met from Mongolia (2009 ACCU conference in Bangkok). I could already feel the hospitality! So, it was off to the hotel for a quick shower, shave and breakfast before work.

At 11:30 am we had airag (interesting coffee substitute) or mare's milk – the traditional drink of choice. Mongolia without this healthy beverage would be like North America without Coke. Oh and did I mention it is fermented? While enjoying our airag I was informed that the city’s TV station would be here in 10 minutes to do a live to tape interview. More amazing - they were on time. I guess it went well because the CEO said she was almost moved to tears. Chalk it up to the airag!

After a full day at the credit union we toured the Erdenet carpet factory late afternoon – a personal treat as my family had been associated with the wool goods industry for five generations. I couldn’t resist the Pauzirik carpet, which is a pure wool reproduction of an ancient pattern found 10 years ago at an archeological site in the western province. It can only be purchased from this factory. Haven't quite figured out how to get it home yet...  

To top off the day, our hosts took us to a 6 course/6 wine Italian Dinner, put on by Wine World (a member’s marketing event) featuring a German Sommelier. Some else who speaks English? No such luck. His German was translated into Mongolian and Russian only, so the tireless Mungu had to interpret for me.

I’m beginning to understand why Mongolian hospitality is legendary.

The Itinerant Coach

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