Well, I’ve been in Mongolia for almost a week now. I’ve met the other “geeks” and they seem to be a great group. We haven’t officially started our projects yet, so we’ve had a bit of time to go out and explore the city. There are a lot more restaurants than I’d have expected. You can get just about any type of food you want. From what I can tell, there is a huge class gap between the lower and upper classes. The lower economic class lives in near poverty, living on less than 10 dollars per day. This is probably 95% of the country’s population. The rest are extremely well off, driving western cars, wearing western clothes, and living the good life. I’m a little surprised to see that this is the population that we’ll be here to help. Hopefully I’m being paranoid and we’ll actually do some good.
Anyway, I’m liking the city itself a lot more than my first impression coming home from the airport. It’s got tons of old Soviet monuments and statues all over the place. For some reason the people in charge of the city decided to buy a bunch of garish fake plastic palm trees and put them all over the place. It’s really quite surreal!
Getting around is easy. Taxis are everywhere and cheap. You can get just about anywhere in the city for less than $2.00. If you don’t see an official taxi within a minute or so, just raise you hand, and someone will pull over and give you a ride for the same price as an official taxi. We did get into a traffic accident on our way to the US embassy for a meeting, but luckily the traffic moves slow enough that no one was hurt..I can’t say the same for the cars. You’ll see everything in the streets. Land cruisers share the same lanes as horses pulling carts. We’ve even seen one guy who’s trunk was open with an entire side of beef stuffed inside!