Yesterday I visited the HonHor re-transmission station, which is connected to the history of radio broadcasting in Mongolia, which began in 1934. The station is marked by a field of transmission towers about 20 km east of Ulaanbaatar. I met with the director of the facility who gave me a tour and showed me several generations of equipment, the first of which was manufactured in the Soviet Union. The facility is next to a ger village, and further out there are herders working, moving goats and sheep across the landscape. It is interesting to see the juxaposition of a radio and television transmission facility plopped down in an area in which herders still work. I met a young boy who rode up on a horse to meet us. I gave him a granola bar and he smiled and told me his name and his horse's name. He was wearing a pink pokemon shirt and pink pants -- he told Zaya that was his favorite color.
We also went to meet with the marketing director and founders of the wireless network Skytel. The service center was packed with people subscribing to new services, paying their bills or buying new phones. They have 200,000 subscribers and use CDMA technology. They are the third largest wireless provider in the country. The company has ad campaigns in the last year called "NICE" and "COOL" and they are minimalist in that they feature a nice or cool looking person next to the company's brand name and new orange bubble logo.
Yesterday we also visited a new Buddhist monument that was established a few years ago at the base of the valley where Zaya lives. It sits below a monument to Soviets, which was installed on a hill overlooking the sitting in honor of their military interventions during WWII when the Japanese occupied and tried to take over certain parts of Mongolia. There is a constant flow of people visiting both of these monuments.
After a very busy work of meetings and work, Fri night I ended up going up into the mountains with some new friends. We ate dinner at an old Soviet style hotel that was sort of falling apart, but had delicious mongolian food. We sat outside on a table in a forest area and the wind picked up like crazy so we decided to go into the hotel basement and play ping pong and pool late into the night. I played ping pong with a Christian Mongolian woman who is expecting twins in December. She was an excellent player! It was an interesting group of people -- there was also a sculptor, a manager from the ministry of labor, a cargo container operator, a banker, a toyota dealer, a guy who owns a driving school, and a teacher. They are all friends from school and invited me to join them. We had a blast together--though I was not able to keep up with their pace of vodka-drinking. We drove home on a dirt road, taking the back way and a half moon was peaking above the mountain and it was soooo beautiful!