unconventional ways to meat your mongolian neighbours, with piona whittaker





take one sink

one plug

any grubby undies or socks you have lying around

wait until about 2am

put the plug in the sink

put the undies and socks in the sink

fill with water

turn the tap, not quite, but almost off

wait!!

and so we finally met our neighbours! it was 6am. and they were kinda pissed off. and thier bathroom had water coming thru the ceiling. and paint was peeling. and the electrics were doing something really weird! and they were standing in water. but it was great to finally meat the family whom we’ve lived above for the last 3 months and never spoken to!!

so, things are coming to an end again!!

just extended my flight for the 5th time – and this ones for real!

things are still roaring along – tho i’ve gone and put myself on crutches for a week. not exactly sure how i did it, but its been interesting hearing the remedies that i should be applying to it. its only been a week, and already i have been told to wrap it in thin slices of salted horse meat, to piss on cotton wool (big piss) and strap it to my foot, then theres also the option of soaking cloth in strong black salty tea and applying that, or finding a small bird, and eating it. but, i visited a shaman and have gone with her remedy. heat 3 litres of milk up (fresh, not pasturised) and when simmering, add 500ml of youghurt. stir to create a curd like thing. set aside to cool. now, take a chunk of sheep fat and warm it up. rub the sheep fat over the area (esp if there’s swelling) and then take the warm curd and pack onto affected area – strap it there with a gauze bandage. keep for 3 hours!

now i’m off to get another massage (read torture session) from the shaman.

ouch! back again. there’s something hot about a shaman who can multitask – massage the bad energy out of my foot AND send txt messages at the same time!!

so in documentary world.

have sorted a team of translators who are getting all the interviews into english and we are really starting to see what we have here – its pretty exciting! we interview more bands – find out more about jason, the mysterious supposed godfather of hip hop here in mongoila. its a pretty humourous story. a bunch of people whom we have interviewed – namely older ones – have sited a guy called jason whose last name is probably godfrey (maybe cyrus) is half black (most likely ghanan), half british, and possibly half porgutuese – tho more likey was living there. and had a band there called lumino. and his brother is a famous british basketballer. anyway, he was apperntly here 1996-1997 teaching english, and teaching a bunch of kids the art of hip hop. now, noone has his contacts, and we are trying to chase him down for an interview!!! any help anyone??

interviewed a 10 year old called MG (the kid rapping on the hummer), plus mongolias only gansta rappers – freedom, and a guy called enkbayer who was in a band called honh (bells) who wrote became the soundtrack to the end of communism here in mongolia – one of the first true free expressions. interviewed lumino, black rose (15 year old techno rap band with lots of humour), a mover and shaker called natsgaa who runs a radio station, a chain of record stores and is pushing live music here, a mission around the national history museum, and saw an amazing band called the legends at the irish pub who are aa bunch of kids who are playing traditional instrument, but coming up with new rocking sounds. all we need now is to get some similarly talented muso’s playing hip hop! interviewed a tv show host, and also appeared on a radio station – talking about our project and playing some aussie and other hip hop. tzu and hilltop hoods – if you’re listening, half of mongolia was bouncing to you the other night!!

i’ve been getting hassled by a journo about photos for a story that she is writing on the scene and project, so dragged freedom outta town and did a great photo shoot with them – really beautiful scenery and great guys with a great sense of humour. have got two photography mates over here – dan and carl – and they are getting a bunch of shots for us. planning shoots with most of the bands that we’ve interviewed so any idea – toss them this way. i’lll put some up on the website for all to see. huge thanks to dan and carl for helping out.

fiona snuck away tuesday this week. she’s extended her stay once, and was keen to do it agian, but all good things have to come to an end (i’m delaying mine for as long as possible) hgue huge huge thanks piona! was a fucking journey mate and i appreciate all the passion and love and thought and energy and time and vodka that you put into this to make it happen. look forward to having a beer with you back in reality!! enjoy the beach – i;m dying for it now!!

so now its just me. i bunged my foot somehow, so have had the week on crutches, just getting off them now. leaving here 2nd of april and back to melbourne monday 9th. 7am. whoever picks me up, please bring a meat pie and a big m!! yoda and i are pretty busy – chasing artists to try and get filmclips and footage and photos, and even landing more interviews. ran out of tapes so trying to find real ones (sales girls tell me the $1 are real and the $10 are real and i cant tell the bloody difference!!) also, heading underground with some street kids to find out if they are using hip hop – know they are fans, not sure if they are writing their own stuff. did a presentation at a rich kids school (hi cat!) and they seemed pretty interested – even responded to the footage of the kids from the ger districts rapping.

so its all coming together. interviews. footage. other stuff. now i;m off to see my mate andrew who does a jazz night here (double bass) and drops some throat singing in.

anyone know a hip hop band who wants to tour – they would love it out here!

peace out – Benj

what did one buuz say to the other buuz?






you’re full of sheep!!!

right!!

two wacky weeks

week one. tsaagan sar festivities continues – buuz, vodka, buuz, buuz, vodka, and vodka. and buuz. the eating and drinking was everywhere, and it was a mission to get any filming done. we went to a pretty cool concert – digital and ice top (no, not an ice-cream) put on a great show to another seated crowd. weird. then early wednesday morning, me, fi, nacho and yoda (translate i will) piled into a russian van called an uaz frugan – imagine a combi van on steriods – and missioned out of town. we were heading for ondorhaan, the capital of khentii. we had heard about a guy there called arslan who was mixing traditional music with hip hop. after a few hours of trying to get out of the city, then overheating at the 6km mark, we finally shrugged off the bad karma and got a few miles under the belt.

we passsed thru the country for hours and eventually arrived at ondorhaan, the state capital round 5pm. an hour later, arslan met us and invited us back to his house for dinner. up a dark derelict stairwell in a soviet apartment block, we entered a beautiful, cozy apartment, with carpets hanging on the wall, and chinggis khan looking down over us. as it was the middle of tsaagan sar, we were fed copious amounts of vodka and buuz. we ate and drunk into the evening, and chatted about music in mongolia, music in this small country town and post soviet changes. arslan plays the morin khur in the local orchestra, which is one of the best in the country, and he played us some amazing music, with his wife, two kids, mother, and best mate, along with me nacho, fiona, and yoda and two cameras all in the room together – was amazing. he told us he’d try to get his band together the next day which was him rapping and on morin khur, an mc, a singer and humi (throat singing) guy, and two beatboxers. although we planned to leave first thing in the morning, we figured it was well worth hanging around for a chance to see this.

the next day, we met arslan, and got led into a small radio station where we had an impromptu interview on the largest radio station serving eastern mongolia and, when asked about what we thought of mongolia, nacho told the country he loved buuz! then we met the rest of the band, and they took us down to the chinggis monument and sang a few tracks for us. was great to hear some live music with hip hop and some humi in there. there is an incredible musical wealth of traditional music that hip hop artist could really draw on over here to make an incredibly unique sound. unfortunately, theres not much of it happening at the moment, but its starting to happen, and i reckon it’ll only get more established.

back in reality – we left ondorhaan round 5pm for the 7 hours of driving home. we did a bunch of filming on the way out of town then convinced yoda to let us drive for a few km’s. we all had turns of sitting up the front feeling like kings driving the beast of a van thru the fading light of the rolling landscape. and then the steam started……….we pulled over and let the car cool down then took off, but another 50m and it was just as bad. we thought something worse had happened and sure enough, when we peered into the engine, we noticed that the fanbelt was a belt no more. scrounging around, yoda found a spare and he and someone who had stopped to help us whacked it on – as in with a 5ft metal pole! during the process, the interior lights started flickering on and off, and then off and not on. when all was done and the fanbelt was back on, and we were set to go, and it was all smiles, an innocent turn of the ignition relvealed that we had lost all electrics. now, these cars are pretty basic. there not much that need electrity. yet, 3 hours later, after 4 cars had stopped to help us, and one had chased a passing uaz (same vehicle as ours) for a few k’s down the road and an entire family of around 16 had piled out of the car, relieved themselves on the side of the road, and wandered over to check out the problem, we still were sitting in the middle of nowhere in mongolia! giving up (around 11pm and minus 20 degrees) we hooked up our uaz to the other one, and they towed us back to the last town – 5km and 30 minutes away – we gladly gave them the 15L of petrol they asked for as payment.

the cafe had a room with three beds, and they threw a matterss on the floor for us. next morning we woke to yoda lighting a fire underneath the uaz to warm the sump….scary image when you see how old these beasts of vehicles are. but to his credit, a fire, and 4 hours of tampering with the engine and wires and otherbits with two guys who were wandering along the steppe and happened to be uaz experts and not up to anything in particular that sunny morning, and we were running again! so we hit the road (and its a good thing as we’re meant to be hosting a party at our place that night, and nacho is booked on the first flight saturday morning!) pick up a family who are hitching to ulaanbaatar to vist a sick relative, and at 6.45pm (exactly) we arrive at our house and run about like mad trying to make the place descent and stocking up on vodka. had a great party and nacho excaped under fiona’s and my hangovers without even saying goodbye! cheap spanish labour!!! nah, huge thanks to you nacho for the 21 days you were here man! really really appreciate your time, opinions, energy and passion mate, and loved hanging out with you in this meat loving country! look forward to working with you on the island!!

so, with nacho gone, wekk two started, and it wsa up to me, fiona and yoda to finish researching the doco. we had a huge post tsaagan sar week planned, when out of nowhere, fiona got sick and didnt see much more than her bed and the toilet for a few days. luckily, she had met a young doctor who was doing some field work out here, so he came over to check her out and pretty soon sent her off to hospital. she hadnt been retaining any fluids, and on the way to the taxi was in and out of consciousness which was a bit scary. we got to the hospital and they got a drip in her and 3 hours later, she looked a million dollars better. they decided to keep her in overnight, and then another night, and friday morning at 7.30 she rushed into my room and woke me with…..LETS GO FOR BREAKFAST!!!!! now, mongolia is a pretty progressive little place. they have internet, coke, and you can even get some nice burritos at a few cafes. however, a western breakfast at 7.30 on a friday morning is not as easy to locate. as she hadnt eaten for 104 hours, i felt like i should at least try to find something that wasnt grey meat and salty tea, but it wasnt till 10am that we had brekkie – 108 hours after her last meal!!!

now its a new week, and fiona is here still (shes gettign better, but still not up for travel and feeling a bit queezy still, so had her flight changed) she leaves on the 13th of march, and i;m out of here on the 16th (tho can push it back…..again!!) we are getting organised for the last of the filming. translations are under way, its been snowing and i now a beautiful sunny freezing day. going to be manic until we are out of here.

this is huge. if you made it to here, kudos to you. more soon!

benj!!!

happy mongolian new year!!!






happy new year!

well, its the first day of the mongolian lunar year and i’m hung over from hours of vodka induced celebrations. we are having the day off today which is great. we have been flat out since nacho arrived – hes only here for 3 weeks so have been cramming as much as possible into every day. its been great. we have had some amazing interviews – a music teacher and composer, a journalist who has been working for 23 years in the industry, the director of the musuem of persecution whose grandfather was the countries first prime minister in teh early 1900’s before communism came, and loads of artists and kids into hip hop.

we went to the national tv station at midnight and filmed one of the hot bands here, digital film their filmclip into the early hours of the morning (nacho nearly featured in it!) and then got out of ub and went dog sledding – an amazing couple of hours runnign round. unfortunately the snow is pretty crap this year so it was kinda weird to be riding up this frozen river with snowless hills surrounding us. its been set up by a french guy and is great fun. they are heading up to khovsgol – huge lakevin the north to spend a few months running 9 day trips the entire length of the lake! would be madness.

artists we have interveiwed have been tatar, muuhiin rep, b.a.t, gee, and my fave artist, quiza. most groups are pretty young here – in their 20’s, and b.a.t is like the grandfather of hip hop here (age, not establishemnt) at 33 years old. they have all been great interviews. nacho has been doing the filming, and fi and i have been asking the hard questions. we are getting pretty good at running the interveiws, although the delay due to translations can be annoying. some interviews have been conducted in englsih which have been a great relief. we have also interveiwed a sound engineer from singapore who seems to be the only foreigner in the music industry here.

we have met some young kids also into hip hop. some have been all about the performance, and not writing that much, but others have been writing some incredibly powerfull stuff. we visited some ger districts to meat some kids who had expressed interest and they sung us thier songs – pretty powerfull stuff! one girls song was about be an orphan – her father died last year and she was singing some amazing lines, and another young boy had written an amazing song about alcoholism. we also ran into the young rapper whom i met in the street and then dissapeared, and after interveiwing him on his moms bed, he busted out some amazing raps. we are looking freedom of speech and how hip hop is using that right more than any other music genre here. we have heard some pretty powerfull messages, and it wil be fascination to see how the scene develops over the next couple of years. with a huge population of young people here, a lot of who are into hip hop, it really has the potential to create some big changes in society here.

we also interveiwed some musicians who are shamans which was pretty amazing. they sung us a load of incredible music, and had some songs that sounded a lot like hip hop that were a couple of years old. with the throat singing here and those tracks, its interesting that hip hop artists here look to america so often for inspiration – at one point during the filmclip shoot, all the band members, and models who were dancing in the clip gathered around a laptop and watched a destiny’s child filmclip!! we hope to interveiw a few more bands before nacho leaves, and then fi and i will finish the rest of the interveiws before she leaves at the start of march. after that, i;’ll stick around to get all the interveiews translated to english and get the rest of the footage we need – shots of mongolia and fillers for the doco. will hopefully be back in oz round the end of march.

yesterday we rocked down to the wrestling to watch the new years competition which was great and next week we are heading to the next province to chat to a guy who is playing traditional music and rapping over the top of it. cant wait to check that out. heading to my mongolian friends place tonite to eat buuz – mongolian dumplings that are the offical food of tsaagan sar (new year) most familes make between 1000 to 2000 of them aroudn this time off year and visit each other feasting on them!!! sounds perfect!!!

big love – benj

photos at www.mongolianbling.blogspot.com
or www.myspace.com/mongolianbling
skype: nomadicgoat
msn: puzzledschmuk@hotmail.com

two aussies and a spainiard walk into mongolia……






sain baina uu!

well, two weeks just flies by round here. things are coming along great and will be helped greatly by the recent arrival of fiona, and the imminent arrival of nacho.

i made some more great contacts with some charities working here – save the children and cristina noble foundation. save the children have got back to me with news that they look after a few kids who are using hip hop to tell their stories, so next week we will head out and see what they have to say. and edward at the cristina noble foundation told me the only thing worse than hip hop, was mongolian hip hop, but he was fascinated by the project and interested to see if any of the street kids they work with were interested in and or using hip hop to tell their lives tales. we will also join him at a later date when they do the rounds of the street kids – what i believe is a twice a week health check and food and clothes distribution.

also, i joined jana again – with fi and around 50 kids from disadvantaged families (along with a handful of moms) and got out of ub for the day (my first time!!) it was an activies day, and led by the scout group, we were taken about 20km east out of town, down a rugged dirt and ice track, and to the base of a few large hills, covered in a dusting of snow and, best of all, out of the poillution that hangs over ulaanbaatar. at the blast of a whistle, we all lined up and named our groups (we were the hawks) and then, another blast, we all turned to the right, and another blast!!! we took off. at the bottom of the hill, we were told it was a race, but about 30meters up the hill, it came apparent that the mission was just to make it up. snotty kids, overheating westerners, mums with handbags, and (my fave) young moms wearing deadly heels all joined together as we made our way up the snowy incline.

at the top of the mountian, after lunch, a blind comando course, and reaching the peak, we asked who was into hip hop, and had a few kids jump about. there was a gorgeous 13 year old who got dobbed in as a beatboxer, then chased thru the trees by her mates till she finally agreed to bust out some beats, and two 16 year old girls who were really into their hip hop and, along with singing a few raps, also did a complete dance routine amongst the birch trees and snow. also, a young guy had started a band and had written a track that he pelted out, and others eagerly sang some other popular hits of the moment. it was a great to get out of the city and hike about in fresh air, and the kids loved it – for some of them, it was their first time out of the city, and for most of the others, it was only events like this that enables them to get out. huge thanks to jana for organising us to get out there – and also for the great photos from last email!! sorry jana!!!

on the other end of the hip hop scale, i met my hero, quiza. he’s one of the countries top artist, and his lyrics are regarded as pretty switched on – theres a fair bit of commercial crap out there, and although most albums tend to have a love track interlude (or are entire love songs!!!) i really dig his stuff. fiona has been spending hours with our translator, oyenbileg working out what all these guys are going on about!! i’m working on organising a workshop with some of the top artists here, and having kids from the street and disadvantaged families who are interested in hip hop come along and spend a day workign with these guys on music. i put it to quiza, and he’s all for the idea – throwing up ideas for tv ads, spots on radio shows and ads in papers!! will try and work out more details this weekend. quiza should start shooting a film clip next week which, if its anything like his last one, will be pretty awsome.

the “up and coming” hip hop artist i;m following, gee, shot a film clip for his latest single. intersting, the song is a “dis” at quiza. quiza had a track where he dis’s all mongolian rappers (a seemingly popular theme in mongolian hip hop) and gee;s track gets back at him. in a beautifully ironic moment, we got picked up at the………BUDDHIST MONASTARY in a………..bright red HUMMER H2, then went to the outskirts of town, and with his mates, shot a clip – gee singing the whole thing in the back seat of the hummer. this is the track that features mg – the 10 year old i told you about last time who’s film clip is also in a hummer. seems to be a theme running here!

in other themes, a bunch of us had a bbq for australia day!!! mongolian bbq!! there was beer and laughs and, after swinging by a brit’s bar (thanks dave’s place), we strolled out onto the crease of the main square in ub and had a few hours of cricket!! then more hours of beer drinking. and then i think more hours of dancing. i’m in a new apartment now, a gorgeous little 2 bedroom in a pretty cool spot, so coming home drunk at 5 in the morning is no longer a sin, and we are getting ready for nacho – arrives tomorrow night. fiona is setling in and is speaking mongolian, drinking vodka, and getting right into it (currently at the black market getting nacho a bed!) and we are all set to explode with loads of interviews and filming over the next month. should be one hell of a trip!

nacho arrives in 24 hours, so best go stock the fridge with vodka so he knows he’s in mongolia.

happy oz day to all and hope you’re all doing great! benj

chingis khan – man of the millenium



rock and roll!!!

well, hip and hop!! things are moving along real nice over here in ub. met a producer who has worked with a load of the artists in mongolia and he took me to the artists end of year, slash new years bash and i met a load of hip hop artists. chatted to a few of them and will be interviewing some of them in the coming weeks. also met mongolias version of the strokes, the lemons, all girl band, kiwi, heavy rockers, bulsara, and some of the countries top actors!!! pretty funny night. took place in a fancy restaurant that brewed its own beer and served fried meatballs with chips. a load of the bands preformed during the night and a few awards were handed out for the years efforts.

then a few days later i was in the music shop. i’ve met a cool guy who works there called bayanaa who is into his hip hop so i occasionaly drop in to find out any news i should be knowing about – and he’s like…..that guys a rapper…..casually pointing over the isles of bad hollywood dvds and beyonce cds. the guys name is mogi – rap name is gee – and turns out he is recording a track that weekend. so days later, i find myself in a cosy little recordign studio behind the main rd in ub with gee and his crew…..”click, click, BOOM!!!!” they do some recording and he tells me this young rapper is coming in to feature on the track, and its this 10 year old kid!!!! i’d actually seen his filmclip at the abover mentioned party and had wanted to find him – he’s 10 yeras old, and raps this track from the bonnet of a hummer!!

after we have heard him laying down a few lyrics, mogi and his crew head outside to have a smoke so i follow them. hanging around the door is a bunch of young kids and i get chatting to them about hip hop – they love all the usual mongolian stars, and all the kids are singling out this one kid saying….”he raps!!!” he raps!!! of course i dont know their sayign that and my translator doesnt tell me, so i nearly miss it, but this tiny kids spontanously busts out this incredible rap in this husky rich voice!!! half way thru, he switches to a higher voice and finishes off the rhyme, walking out fo shot and two minutes later has dissapeared alltogether! i’m now on a mission to find him again and quickly learning how to make a doco!!!

anyway, so mogi is recording his debut album. we are heading out wiht him and this young rapper – mg – to film them making thier filmclip next week. also have just got the number if my favourite rapper, quiza who has recently released an album (and some awsome filmclips) so will be catching up with him in the future. at the prison we are trying to organise some kind of workshop for the kids with some rappers or bands or something. is a slow process. today i went out to the ger district with jana and visited some family development centres (school slash day centres slash community centres). kids go there in a schools sense, but it also promotes the idea of community – interestly, there is no word for “community” in mongolian, so things aren;t done as a community. family is big. community is not. spoke to the kids about hip hop – they all love it out there and some even busted out some raps, although there were quite shy. they are having an activities day out in a few weeks and hopefully i’ll be able to go along. jana was there to hand out shoes – its winter here and some of the kids are doing it pretty tough. unfortunately, the building that one of the centres is based in is being taken back by the local government, and they have to move out in two days – only problem is that they have nowhere to go. four years they have built up this centre and are providing educations for hundreds of kids, and now, as of sunday, they are locationless. check out more of the amazing work that jana is doing at http://www.fromyourdoortotheirs.com/

i have hired an excellent translator called oyunbileg who is eager to help out wiht all aspect of the project and has a great adventure spirit. hes from the country and regularly goes on horse rides and has a dream of taking a group of people on mountain bikes from lhasa to kathmandu. he also looks like johnny rose. your mum ever lived in a ger john?! here at my home, my family is in mourning as i am about to move out. have rented an apartment as nacho is on his way, and fiona might be coming – haven;’t heard from her at all since i left so if anyone knows anything – let me know!!

i cooked my family dinner last week and ever since they have been looking forward to me moving out! i took them on a little culinary journey. leaving the world mutton, potatos, carrots, mutton, onion, noodles, and mutton, we arrived (wiht a little hesitation) at the land of new and exciting vegetables and meat that isnt boiled and boiled and boiled! not brave (read suicidal) enough to cook a meal without meat, i opted for a nice little beef stirfry. there was a lot of interst in the kitchen, and dosma (mum) nearly fell off her stool when i put the meat into the zany combination of soysauce, honey and lemon. both her and jama (dad) replyed “i’ dont know” when i got gungaa – my bro – to ask them if they were going to eat my food!! but they ate most of it and seemed to enjoy it. it was the first time they had eaten brocolli, capsicum, bean shoots, fresh ginger and brownrice so points for their adventurous spirit! may try a mushroom cream fettucine before i leave this weekend to leave them a reminder of the mutton fat hating aussie! jama was nearly in tears when i cut the 200 odd grams of fat off the beef and made me put it in the fridge so he could eat it the following day….nothing like steamed fat fro breakfast!!

looking forward to being on location for the filmclip shoot next week and an apartment where i have my very own key and dont feel guilty rocking home as the clock strikes 12.

be good to your neighbour – benj

how many mongolians does it take to eat a sheep?






whoohoooo!!!!

so it snowed last night for the first time and i woke up and looked out my window to see ub covered in a beautiful white blanket. ive been here about two weeks now and am really settling in. after a few panics about what i;m doing out here, things are starting to really fall into place and come together.

i stayed at janas till just before new years, then moved in with a mongolian family. i had two great options to choose from – the first was a family whose father used to be a monk, but is now working for an oil mining company!!! talk about enlightenment!! and the one i chose is a gorgeous family of a mom, dad, one son and a visiting nephew from the countryside (he’s a really shy country boy who is here to study wrestling and has only said about 10 words to me!) the dad (jama) is a retired train driver (duncan, need your help here mate!!), the mom, dosma is a stll working train engineer, and the son, gungaa is 18 at school and into hip hop. he told me he breakdances and i’ve had him beatboxing a bit so its all pretty cool.

i’m taking daily lessons with a cool chick called zaloo – whose husband is training to be a shaman – so my mongolian is slowly improving and am practicing it with the family. i have a pretty sweet deal in that i get free accom and food in return for giving gungaa lessons and helping him out with english. i started new years with the family (lots of potato salad and vodka!!) and then missioned into the main square for about an hours worth of fireworks!!!! deadly fun. i have also caught up with all the people i knew here a few years ago and have been out to miya’s ger – he was the driver intrepid used and he’s my adopted Mongolian father!! he lives in a traditional ger on the outskirts of the city and we went out there and ate meat!

eating meat is about as happy as a mongolian can be. i have been with this family almost a week now, and the have eaten meat at least twice every day. on new years it was chicken, and every other day has been sheep. not those tasty lamb ribs you’re imagining that your aunt cooks up, but mutton. that’s like 20 – 22 year old sheep who can remember the soviet occupation and not to distant ancestors were herded my chingis khan! but at least i’ve been getting some spuds, the odd carrot and a few tomatos with it. i met a guy today from the countryside, and he told me he wasn’t to keen on the wacky diets of these city folk. back on his ranch (2 days drive away by public transport), meals consist of meat, and maybe if theres some whinging vegetarian tourist, some flour, water and salt. get your appetite up fiona, nacho and sal!!

i’ve now met a bunch of people in the hip hop world. a few music producers, a film clip producer, a few others, and a bunch of fans. i am saving most of the interviews for when the rest of the crew arrive to help me out in about three weeks. until then, i;m trying to get my language better, sorting out contacts and getting to understand the scene. i’ve been to three concerts so far, two of which featured hip hop stars and one that was heavy metal. the first big concert was an xmas gala. my mongolian mate, soaza called the venue for me to see if tickets were available, and they said the sunday show was sold out, but there were tickets still available to saturdays matinee kids show!! and so it was that i attended a 1 and a half hour concert (that started 1 and a half hours late!) in a huge concert hall full of screaming kids!! kinda bizarre. each band (about 8) played 2 songs to the seated crowd and there was even a clown, a comedy duo, and santa, all dressed in white and being trailed by his sexy Mongolian swimsuit wearing “little helpers”. the other concert featured both mongolian and korean break dancing groups and girl bands from each country. this was also at the same venue (ub palace), so the crowd was also seated, but the scariest thing was that the crowd hardly moved. no one got out of their chairs, and when the curtain was almost on the stage after the last act (a singalong with all the stars) the place was already nearly emptied. the kids concert was actually more active!! someone told me that its a remnant of their soviet era where people would sit down and observe. that’s it.

kids wise, i;ve met some people working with street kids and disadvantaged slash vunerable kids and am going to visit the ger district next week. i have also started teaching kids at a remand centre (aka prison). there are about 15 kids aged between 16 and 18 who are all there awaiting trail, but the scary thing is that some have been there for over a year. i’ve only been there once so don’t know a load about it yet, but wouldn’t be surprised if they were happy there. a lot of kids move to the streets to get away from abusive parents, so a warm enviromnet that provides food isn’t that bad. we hit it off pretty good and they were all telling me which hip hop bands i should check out and who were phonies (they didn’t actually use the word “phonie” but i got that vibe from them)

got some great footage today fo the monastery in snow so heres hoping some more falls. its beautiful here.

peace and mutton

benj

..and in Mongolia its going to be cold and cold



so! i’m here!!!

first up, thanks a million to everyone who rocked on down to the laundry the other night for the fundraiser. we had a hugely sucessful night with something like 130 people coming through the door, a bunch of t-shirts sold, and even ended up making some money!! about $1300. have had great feedback from many who were there and are thinking of putting on a similar event when i return – any thoughts much appreciated. huge thanks to all the acts who performed (paul and paul, jaezed, weston conxion, auracalls, ash santilla, dj manchild and jose aval) and everyone who helped me out on the night (fiona, laura, marita, saatia, marko, meils, jana, megs, anna, will, eva) and over the last few weeks slash months (too many – you know who you are). i wouldn’t be here without you all.

after a manic week of sorting out the final items (second camera and tripod being the big ones) i landed in beijing. those who have been to china and have been questioning beijings ability to host the olympics in 2008 will be please to know that they are still as ill-prepared as ever. roads are busier, bikes are rarey, and the supposed english speakers are still nowhere to be found. i heard that they are going to stop all industry in the city THREE MONTHS prior to the games in an attempt to clear the air! knowing their love of labourers, i can see a million sichuanese with fans clearing the haze. either way, it’ll be a mad city to be in when the champagne pops.

the temperature was hoving around zero for the most part, but there were a few days with killer winds that made me ask myself the same question that all my mates in beijing had been asking me……why the hell was i heading to mongolia in the winter?? it had seemed like a damn fun idea from the warmth of sunny oz, but stepping onto bejings -2 degree tarmac made me think…….what am i getting myself into!?!?

i put it down as acclimatising – this was tropical compared to mongolia. braving the weather, i wandered the city and stocked up on good ol’ fake warm clothes – columbia jacket, merrel shoes, etc, caught up with a few mates, and ate like a king. and, after years of avoiding it, i finally bought the $15 (genuine!!) rolex!! how lucky am i!!

i landed in ulaanbaatar (ub) yesterday. it was a sunny fresh day of about minus 15, although standing in the sun and without a hint of wind it felt warmer than beijing. i got stood up at the airport, then got ripped off by a friendly taxi driver (figure you have to do it at least once) on the way into the polluted capital. i have the use of my “incountry researcher”‘s apartment (jana) as she is eating well in italy, and have met a few other aussies who just invited me for dinner so have to wrap this up!! am sorting out stuff for the doco – started mongolian lessons the smorning and am organising to move in wiht a mongolian family to help my language!!

the city is cold, but the people are warm, and its still a thriving place to be. as i settle down i will start meating people and getting on wiht the doco. already have some great contacts thanks to jana and a few mongolians (ganzo, kusha, tuya) so am excited to get out there!! gotta grab some dinner now from the friendly neighbours and then off to a heavy metal concert!! i love this country! more about it, less about me in the next mail!

bayartai!!!!

benj

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