I just came from a visit to the old Interspunik satellite station (called NARAN, which means Sun in Mongolian) on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar and met with the manager of the station, Erdenejugder, who has worked there for more than 30 years. I have to say it was probably one of the highlights of my research career. We toured the old circular satellite station, designed by a Soviet architect who wanted to integrate the shape of the Mongolian ger within the space-age building, and we saw several generations of equipment manufactured by the Soviets and the Japanese. I interviewed the manager and the senior engineer and had a tour of the entire facility, including a small somewhat private archive that the manager has helped assemble. He flipped through a scrapbook of old photos going back from 1969 to the present -- from the groundbreaking ceremony to the recent upgrading with digital equipment. I took lots of photos and will likely put them on my flickr site soon. The manager had me sign the dignitary's guest book which he has kept for over 30 years, which was truly an honor.
Yesterday I had meetings with the senior engineer of Mongolian Telecom, the marketing director of Mobicom (the main wireless service provider) and a script editor and translator who works for the social and educational programming division of Mongolian national public television. We also visited a company called Malchin that sells satellite dishes, receivers and solar and wind power equipment to Mongolians who live in remote areas. The dish equipment is bought wholesale in China and then brought to Mongolia. The meaning of "malchin" is nearly equivalent to the word cowboy -- this equipment is installed by those "malchins" who live beyond over the air transmission facilities and they learn to install it on their own. They have been doing this since the early 1990s, and now they receive a package of 4 channels, distributed for free by the Mongolian Telecom Authority from the NARAN station, the Mongolian national channel, as well as 3 other commercial channels based in UB, Ch9, TV5, and Ch25. If they move the dish, they can receive Russian and Chinese signals as well. As you might be able to gather, this week has been very busy and my hands are tired from taking so many notes and trying to process so much information so quickly!
During dinner last night, I learned a lot about Mongolian wrestling and have to admit I am very curious to see a match or two, especially after hearing about their rigorous training rituals out in the countryside. Groups of men go off and train for 20 days before the Nadam festival (July 11-13) and try to build strength. It is a private ritual and women are not allowed to see this, according to my friend, Zaya.
Later today I am scheduled to visit the set of a Mongolian film being produced in Ulaanbaatar. Today it is very hot (and it was yesterday too--in the 90s) and there are fires outside of the city and the air is very smoking and dirty today. It is almost hard to breath (kind of like in Missoula during forest fire season). I hope to get a little rest on the weekend and am going to a Mongolian rock concert on Saturday night.