Posts Tagged ‘video’

Gobi

Saturday, December 13th, 2008

Monastery museum of Choijin LamaThe past few days I’ve explored UB at a rather leisurely pace. I reunited with Michiel and Rick from Holland. We met in a CS meeting in Irkutsk, and had a day trip to Lake Baikal together the next day. When I left for UB, they stayed on for another day in Irkutsk, and then went to Ulan Ude before they too continued on to UB. Michiel is a Buddhist, and is  staying in Mongolia for a month, to do volunteer work. He’s working at a soup kitchen, helping set up a play with local orphans and street kids, and making a short promotional video for the buddhist centre he works at.

In UB, I’ve been to the National Museum of Mongolian history, and the Mongolian Museum of Natural History, which among other things has a quite good collection of dinosaur bones. An old man I met at a restaurant took me to an art workshop funded by the state, where many of the great artists of Mongolia do their work. His son is an artist there, and he showed me how he worked, and I got to look in an album with pictures of his work. I assume he must be rather well known, because I recognized quite a few of his pieces from various places around Ulan Bator!
Gandantegchinlen KhiidI’ve also been to the Monastery Museum of Choijin Lama, the Winter palace of Bogd Khan, and to the Zaisan Memorial, a Soviet phallus of a monument in honour of unnamed soldiers in various wars. On Sunday I got up early, and went to Gandan Khiid, and witnessed the morning ceremonies of the Buddhist monks there. It was a pretty fascinationg affair, with the monks chanting different texts at different pitches, and all of it mixing together into a cacaphony which was sometimes emphasized by frantic blowing in horns, ringing of bells and banging on drums. Some of the layity also took part in the ceremonies, by holding some of the religious objects used in various rituals.

On Sunday afternoon, I met with a Norwegian couple and their three kids. The couple have lived in UB since 1994, and the kids grew up there. They work for a Norwegian mission, with local economic development. A few weeks ago, the Norwegian Crown Prince Haakon was on an official visit to Mongolia, and he also paid a visit to one of their projects. We had a burger at the State Department Store, and then we went to worship service at the international interdenominational fellowship in UB. There were Christians from all 5 continents, and I got to talk to quite a few of the people there. Not all of them were foreigners, though; quite a few were Christian Mongolians who were interested in improving their English. For those who didn’t understand something from the sermon, or just wanted to talk about it, there was a small gathering after the service, where people could ask questions about everything from “what does that word mean” to deeper religious questions. It was nice to be part of a fellowship off Christians, where I even understood all that went on!

My host after I came back from the Ger camp, an outspoken and kind satanist-neo-nazi-metal-head (!) who calls himself Degi, spoke very little English, and frequently used what little he knew to proclaim things like “I hate jews,” “I hate all black people,” “kill all the Christians and burn all their churches” and similar outrageous statements. It was difficult to understand where all the hatred came from, and we had trouble connecting. One night, however, he told me about his mother, who died from stomach cancer last year. He told me that he always sided with evil, because it made him feel brave, and not fear death. He didn’t know, or couldn’t explain why, but he said that Satan lives in his heart, and makes him do it…
Last night was my last night in UB, and we were talking about everything and nothing. Suddenly he tells me that he wants to be rid of Satan’s power because he can feel him destroying him on the inside, but he was worried that Satan would retaliate if he denounced him! We talked about it for a while, and it turned out that he’d been given a new testament at the Christian hospits where his mother had spent the last of her life. She was there, because nobody else would take in a dying woman. He’d read the whole thing twice, and wanted to know whether Jesus could protect him from Satan, if he stopped being Satan’s servant. I told him that the battle was already won, that Jesus defeated the power of Satan when he rose from the dead. He was still apprehensive, but he wants to talk to someone who can help him understand more about what he’s facing. He was very sceptical of Mongolian Christians, because he’d met with a lot of judgmentalism and greed, but I promised to put him in contact with the pastor of the church I went to on Sunday. When I said that I’d pray for him if he wanted me to, he thanked me, and then didn’t want to talk about it anymore, because he thought he might start crying… To those of my readers who believe, I ask that you pray for Degi and what he’s going through.

This morning (Thursday Dec 11) I got up at 6, and I went with Degi to the restaurant where he works, in the Narantuul Hotel. There he made me a big English breakfast before I had to head to the train station.
Press secretary of the President                               As I write this, I am sitting in the restaurant car of the train, watching the sun set over the Gobi desert. There is so much I’ve left out from the last days, like the joint Dutch/Norwegian vegetarian cooking experiment, the night in a seedy Mongolian karaoke pub, the drunk secretary of the president’s press corps who tried his darndest to get me wasted and gave me an autographed copy of his recently published collection of nomad poetry, meeting with Tsolmon, Leonid (the hitchhiker)’s web-friend, my first real blunder when it comes to crashing cultures, but if I keep writing, I guess nobody will have the stamina to read it, so this’ll have to be it for now. Tomorrow afternoon I’ll be in Beijing, where I’ll try to get this posted.

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The past week

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

St.Petersburg, November 12 2008 – Idea for a video piece

Today I went to the Kazan cathedral again, to try to locate a priest or something who speaks English. I figured I’d try to get an interview about the youth work in the orthodox church in Piter, for my little video project, and maybe also get permission to film inside the cathedral. (Which is strictly forbidden, but I thought maybe, since it’s for a church…) My host gave me a note in Russian, which explained what I wanted, and I took it to the cathedral. After a while, they found a priest who spoke a little French, but seeing as my active French vocabulary can fit on two lines, it didn’t do me much good. We managed as much, however, as establishing that an English speaking priest would be there in about two hours.

So I walked up Nevsky Prospekt, spent a couple of hours in the Hermitage (looking at art and old stuff, I might say something about that later), and returned to the Kazan cathedral. One block up the street I found a Lutheran church, that had a gathering later that night, so a plan started forming in my mind, making a little piece that could maybe compare the little lutheran church and it’s work with the big orthodox cathedral across the street.

When I got back to the cathedral, it had been about two and a half hours, but there was a mass at the time, so I waited till it was done, and then presented my little note again. It turned out that the guy who spoke English had NOT been taking part in the mass, and had left ten minutes earlier, while I’d been sitting in on the mass. I got contact with one of the priests, however, he might have been about my age. His wife spoke English, so he called her, I explained to her what I needed, and she in turn told him, who answered her, and she told me that there was an English speaking deacon, Father Georgy, who was the one who’d just been there. The priest got my number, and would ask Father Georgy to call me, so we could set up a meeting.

With that promise, I went across the street to the St.Petri lutheran church, and found the meeting they were having. There were a handful of people in the youth room upstairs in the church, and they were having Taizé prayer in both Russian and German. I joined in, and with my rather limited German managed to follow the program. After the prayer, they had tea and cookies, and they were very curious who this stranger was. The youth pastor there, Tatiana, told me about the congregation and their work there, and she and her colleague Elena agreed to tell me a bit about it on tape. Tatiana was also interested in getting in touch with my congregation back home,  and explore possibilities of further contact! She struck me as a genuinely enthusiastic person, with a burning desire to do new things to keep building the congregation, in other words a wonderful youth pastor! I will certainly pass on the contact info and wishes!

Unfortunately Father Georgy never called, so I’m not entirely sure what to do with the takes from St.Petri in St.Petersburg, but I will keep them, and see if I can find another way of using it.

St.Petersburg, November 13 – Guided by  my host

When I got home last night, I was home alone, because my host was in Uzbekistan. (She’s a flight attendant) She got back early in the morning, and went straight to bed. When I got up, I took a good long time, because my feet have become a little sore from all the walking, so I didn’t want to get right back out. In any case, I was waiting for a phonecall from Father Georgy.

Since Natalia’d had night shift, she had the day off, and we spent it together. She helped me get to a medical office so I could get my second dose of Hep B vaccine, and we went to look for the office of Privjet in St.Petersburg, in case they could register my visa. (It was the office of a partner of Privjet, and they couldn’t)
We had dinner at a restaurant, went home and brought some beers, and watched the movie Mongol.

Novgorod, November 14 2008 – Novgorod, founded by vikings

Today was YET ANOTHER late morning. It shouldn’t be that hard to adjust to a two hour time difference, should it? Anyway, I went to the bus station, bought a ticket for Novgorod, had to wait an hour for the next bus, and now I’m here.
My host Aleksej picked me up at the bus station, and took me home to where he lives with his family. They seem really nice, and they want to do everything for me, and Aleksej tries to make them relax… 🙂

Once again I’ve forgotten that it’s later than it feels, and I’m putting down my computer a little before 3 am…