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Joanna's Mongolian adventure

Welcome to my travel page which will keep you informed about all my Mongolian adventures for the next 12 months...including the freezing temperatures, the wild horseman and any possible experiences of living in a 'ger'! I look forward to hearing from you all and keeping you up-to-date about Mongolia.

Diary Entries

Monday, 29 August 2005

Location: Mongolia

Yes, still in Mongolia, and yes, still trying to find the time to up-date this site. Photos have been chosen and ideas have been formed - but time is always escaping me! Things at work are really starting to happen, so alot of my time has been spent doing work on weekends, and of course socailising. Well, probably more socialising, but I have still been doing work, I promise!
Mum and Dad have been and gone, and young Christoper White's visit is just around the corner - a little bit excited and constantly find myself breaking out into 'big smiles' at the oddest moments. I'm really looking forward to seeing him.
Also, Catherine Gearing (GG), one of Chris' good friends from uni, is also coming to Mongolia in the next intake of Youth Ambassadors and arrives in probably less than a month - also very exciting.
This weekend and a few days on either side, I will be going to Hovsgol - the huge lake in the north of Mongolia. So, I promise the weekend after will be dedicated to writing up a storm. Have so many pictures and stories that if I don't do it soon catching-up will start to become impossible - actually I think it is already a little out-of-control.
Well, I miss you all, but I'm feeling happy at the moment in Mongo. Have had alot of up and down moment, adjusting to a new life, new friends, new workplace, and NEW CULTURE! But having my parents here and things starting to fall into place at work have made things start to feel a little more 'normal'. Was so great to see my parents - I burst into tears at the train station. I think it was just great to see two people who really know me and it was so great to speak through my experience to date, let out some built-up emotion and get some good mum and dad advise.
Currently at work, working on a media training program for Mongolian journalists to develop their social reporting skills. Have a big meeting on Wednesday where we are bring together a number of organisations who are key stakeholders in media development in Mongolia to discuss a joint program. I'm doing all the organising and concept development so I'm a little stressed at times, but it is also very exciting.
Nothing else much to tell you, I just have to let the photos do the talking. Do hold you breath because they will be up soon!
Take care jo

Thursday, 30 June 2005

Location: UB, Mongolia

Just a quick note to let you know: a) I'm still alive and b) yes... yes...I know I'm terrible at this travel page thing. I have photos coming out of my ears as well as stories but just need to sit down and write, write, write, and download, download, download.
My time in Mongolia is flying and I'm really enjoying myself - it's both beautiful and extremely different (but not that different that I'm freaking out).
Work like all new jobs started slowly and it has taken a while to get my head around it all, but I'm finally feeling like I have a clear idea of my goals for the year, and now, I'm just preparing myself to ride the rollercoaster of excitment and frustration that come with working in development.
Living in a four bedroom apartment - which is basically unheard of in Mongolia - with the other three AYADs - Daniela, Dave and Brad. We are all very different, but over the last few months have started to form some really nice relastionships and living with them is extremely easy and uncomplicated. However, don't worry '24 Belmore', they still haven't got an inch on you!
Nothing has been spinning me out too much and life is fairly normal. Have stopped a few pick-pocketing though (quite the norm in UB) and now have become quite suspicious of everyone around me while walking to work. However, in regards to everythng else, there are vegetables (I was expecting mutton for a year) so what else do you need from a city.
The countryside is beautiful and the romantic side of Mongolia. Little white gers spotted across green rolling hills with horseman riding past in traditional dels (clothing) is normal, and before it gets too cold, I will be trying to get out to the countryside as much as possible. We did go canoeing the another weekend down a river outside UB and camped over-night - that was pretty amazing - and I've been travelling with work and visited some of the kids from World Vision's sponsorship program, and that too has been pretty amazing.
Actually, the only thing I'm finding hard to cope with is the concept that in about four months time it is going to be getting cold, really cold, because at the moment I'm walking around in skirts and singlets. I hope the cold (or should I say freezing) breeze doesn't make living in UB too hard. I know I won't be able to have the ice cold beer in the beer garden like we've been having every second day, but hopefully I won't walk outside and my nose will fall-off.
Well, that's it, but it's start. Thought I needed to write something before my "fan-base" gave up all hope. Take care and I'll post those photos and more stories on the weekend - I promise!

Sunday, 24 April 2005

Location: Beijing, China

Well, I’m in Mongolia, but thought I should re-cap on my Beijing experience before I take you all to the land of weeping camels and freezing temperatures. Beijing was amazing, crazy, different, and now seems like a distant memory – I suppose that happens when your in three different countries within one week, your head doesn’t really have time to take it in before you’re in the next place.

Firstly, our mission in Beijing was to organise our Mongolian visas, which took a little longer than expected, but was finally achieved after a little handy work from the Mongolian Foreign Affairs Department – good to know you have friends in high places before you even arrive in a country. The wait was a little painful but was made more colourful by a couple of interesting characters including a ‘mad’ Mexican and PMS-stricken front desk attendant –you always have to laugh in these types of situations!

Once the visas were in our hot little hands we had time to experience the ‘real’ Beijing, which is nothing like Australia, or even close. Beggars are the norm, including tiny children who barely come up to your knees. They are spotted across the city in areas which have high numbers of foreigners and wait for you to walk pass and then run after you with tiny tin mugs shaking them for money. Your first reaction is to want to pick them up and take them away with from this life, but then reality kicks in and you have to make the decision, do you give them anything, and although you heart is says ‘yes’, your head says ‘no’, because it is more than likely that an adult is around the next corner to collect the takings.

In Beijing bargaining is also the norm, and I must say this cultural difference made shopping the most exciting and exhausting purchasing experience I have ever had. Nothing is the same as its price tag, you bargain for everything from the cost of taxis to teapots. People surround you, hold onto you, speak sweet nothings in your ear and even have tantrums to try and make you buy something.

Those elements of shopping in Beijing were pretty much all encapsulated on my first real shopping experience at a Chinese market in the hunt for a down jacket for Chris, a teapot for my brother Mark and some sneakers. On my first purchase I didn’t even mean to bargain with the lady, she just attached herself to my arm and in the process of trying to escape I managed to buy a pair of sneakers for $10 Australian dollars – she told me I was great at playing the ‘bargaining game’ but I was just simple trying to get away.

Next Dave, Brad and I (Dave and Brad are two guys from Team Mongolia) joined forces and combined our limited but collective bargaining powers to buy a down jacket each. By this time we had started to work at the game a little more and circulated the markets trying to find the lowest prices, then with this knowledge we whittled the price of our down jackets down to $30 each from the so-called original price of $260 – they see foreigners as ‘easy meat’ so you have to play the game otherwise you’ll be eaten alive. However, it does become exhausting and you sometimes wonder why you are arguing over $10 when to us it is nothing and maybe to them it’s a huge lump of their monthly wage. But you still catch the bargaining bug and you learn that two things are most likely to happen; (a) that you going to make a ridiculous purchase because you don’t have the energy to bargain anymore, like a teapot for an extravagant $10 and; (b) that you will always get back on that 'bargaining horse’ and argue over a couple of dollars like you life is at stake.

However, apart the above mentioned that blew my mind in a ‘this is crazy way’, and the crazy Chinese driving and extreme pushing on the subway to get a seat, Beijing and the other places we visited in China blew my mind in a ‘this is amazing way’ - but never fear on every adventure there was still an element of ‘this is crazy’ lingering somewhere.

On the day we finally got our visas sorted all four of us (Brad, Dave, Daniela (also part of Team Mongolia) and me) head to ‘The Forbidden City’ to experience Beijing outside of the Mongolian Embassy. The Forbidden City was build more than 600 years ago and was the imperial palace of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Over the years after its completion, 24 emperors ruled the whole of China from there for nearly 500 years. It occupies an area of over 720,000 square meters with 9,000 bays of halls and rooms.

Although it is extremely magnificent and sweeps you up in its glory for 10 minutes with simply its beauty and size, after the 10th room or so you begin to grow tired as you don’t understand the history or social context of this amazing place you are standing in. However, we did acquire some information from taking turns following tour groups and reporting back, but I must confess our careers as secret agents is very much in the beginning stages.

Next we split into twos and Brad and I began our own little Beijing adventure, which took us a little more off the tourist track. Firstly, we took a ride on a ‘rickshaw’ (a bike with a passenger carriage attached to the back) through the back streets of ‘old Beijing’ – a part of Beijing that has remained largely untouched. As the ride started I was overcome by excitement as Brad and I buzzed through what Beijing would have been like over 300 years ago, but slowly I realised these houses were where people still live and I felt like a big, white foreigner sitting on a rickshaw who had paid money to stare into their lives for my trivial enjoyment.

Then we stopped to look around and were invited into what we thought was a historical quadrangle for a small fee, as we entered I realised this was someone’s house. At first I felt a little uncomfortable by being in someone else’s house, but soon realised that this was how this family made its money and the man showing us around was proud of his house and wanted to show as a part of his family’s history – the house had been part of the family for more than 300 years and was full of traditional cultural.

Brad and I then headed to Tiananmen Square to have a look around and met two young Chinese people called ‘Steve’ and ‘Linda’ – most Chinese people who learn English are given English names and they use them when they met foreigners to make our lives easier, quite strange. They were really nice so we decided to spend the evening with them and headed to an old market district of Beijing where they took us to a traditional Chinese pharmacy and tea ceremony. It was great to hang with some locals and talk to them about their life, loves and experiences opposed to simply seeing Beijing with foreigners through foreigner’s eyes.

Before we made it to Mongolia we still had two days in Beijing. On the second last day we had morning tea with the Australian Ambassador for China and met one of Daniela’s family friends who lives in Beijing – her husband is the Rabi for the city. The day was spent with her answering all our unanswered questions about politics, religion and culture in China and taking us shopping at the markets.

The day before we left China we went to the Great Wall, a ‘great’ way to end our China experience. It was simply amazing, but still at one of the most mind blowing places I have ever been that other ‘this is crazy’ element of China still managed to emerge. For example, before we even made it to The Great Wall we had bargained with a ‘taxi’ (a man with a car that said he’d drive us) to take us there and back and stopped at the toilets where the doors only come up to our waists. This is where Daniela and I also stood-up to a bus load of Chinese women who found these two foreigner trying to manage the Chinese public toilet system quite hilarious.

Once we made it to The Wall we were met by another ‘this is crazy’ element of China, Chinese ‘hawkers’, people who follow foreigners trying to sell anything and everything. Even though there were ‘hawkers’ at nearly ever section of our three hour hike on the wall, we still had the space to appreciate it’s beauty and after the first hour they just become part of the experience.

The Wall is simply amazing. It stretches more than 10,000kms and as you walk on it you can see its stones rolling across the mountain tops for what seems like forever. It is hard to comprehend the wall was built simply with hands all those over hundreds of years ago. I'll let the photos speak for themselves.

We left China the next day and landed in Mongolia a few hours later and into another ‘this is crazy’ and ‘this is amazing’ world.

Wednesday, 09 March 2005

Location: Bathurst, Australia

Can't really believe that in a month's time I will be in a new country, working for World Vision and experiencing a whole new way of life - I really can't wait!
This week I have gone back to my roots - good old Bathurst - and have started to prepare for my year long adventure. I have been buying warm clothing, trying to learn the Mongolian alphabet, and basically, doing all those things you do before you go overseas, like ensuring you have a enough undies to last you a year.
It is weird to think it has only just past three weeks since I found out I was heading overseas, and it was only last week that I finished work at Central Sydney, with a BANG I might add! Prince Charles paid RPA Hospital a visit, very considerate of him I thought for my last day, but it also meant we had been working really hard so my departure come and went without much time to think about it.
However, next week I head to Canberra for a week's training before I depart and I think this will make what is happening all the more real. At training I will meet the other Youth Ambassadors that will traveling overseas and will rub shoulders with Alexander Downer at a cocktail party - should be interesting.
Then I'm off to Byron Bay with the wonderful Chris and a number of other friends for a relaxing holiday, then to Chris's parents farm and then the big exit, Chris flies to France and I to Monoglia a few days after.

Photos - Click Below

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Recent Messages

From Robin Green
Really enjoyed the update from the girls!Sounds like every day has a surprise in store just when you think you've seen it all !
Fantastic job with the website... I love it
Response: No problem - thanks for logging-in!
From Akshar
Hey bud,

Hope you and the gang are all well! Tell everyone that I'm a SNAG now and miss them all very much. Mongolian Metallica. Forever.

Response: Oh, how could we not miss you with witty humour like that, and of course, your new found SNAG status?! Hoping to feature some photos from 'Our UB Summer Sessions' soon - and yes, there are some sexy ones of you! Will email you some photos soon as well.
Liz is fitting in nicely in our house-hold. Summer is fading fast. Preparing for Chris and the AYADS to arrive soon. Take care jo
From Christoph
Hello beautiful,
I love you very much.
Can't wait to see you. It'll be wonderful to be with you again.
Lots of love,
Response: Guess What? I love you too!
From mel
hey jo,

awesome photos! hope you're safe and well- looks and sounds like an amazing adventure. take care x
Response: Hey Mel,
Such a nice surprise to hear from you - hope all is going well in Sydney, and no doubt will see on my return home around the traps! Take care jo
From Marney
I think this is what people call a real adventure! Looks like you are having a fantastic time. Maybe someone could mail Tiny to you so he could enjoy the fun too! Lots of love M xxx
Response: Hey Miss Marney Moo,
Yes, Tiny is missing out, but not long and he will be here with Chris - seven weeks, yeah! Think of you, and think you're going back home soon so might miss you in Europe -boo hoo! Take care jojo
From Fiona Green
Hi Jo,
Nice to see my brother Dave is enjoying it all too! This is such a great website. It must take a great deal of time!
Say hello for me and I wish you all continued fantastic adventures! His little nephews say " Hi!!" as well.
Response: Have passed your message onto Dave, and just up-dating my site now, so hopefully I can give you something else to read. Take Care Jo
From Marie
Hi Joanna
Have just explored your site and enjoyed your photos. What an amazing experience you are having. Your Mum & Dad will have a wonderful time, expecially in Mongolia. Looking at your photos makes me wish we hadn't changed our minds about joining them. Hope you all have a great time together, we'll be thinking of you. Keep safe and well.
Response: Great to hear from you, and think about you and the gang often! William must be huge! It has taken me so long to reply that the parents are back and I'm sure you and Mum would have had a catch-up by now! Say hi to all. Take care Joanna
From Brad & Hayley
Hey Jo,
Great to hear you have arrived safe and having fun. I can now picture you travelling around the country side having just got back from my 6 week odesy to Europe with Hayley. I must admit, very jealous of your travels as i had such a great time when i was away (and nearly meet up with Chris at Monaco, we missed each other by a few days!) it is hard to get back into the swing of normal life and i assume you are having a blast.
As soon as we can save some more money we will be of again, and now that Hayley has just started a Job with Flight centre it might be sooner rather than later. We might even try and do a "stop over" in Mongolia and say g'day!!!
Take care
Love Brad & Hayley
Response: You're both welcome anytime, but as I can now feel the winter coming, I think unless you come tomorrow you'll be waiting until it heats-up again - in May next year!! Chris is heading here in November - just trying to plan a trip, and also where to buy the best long johns - hard work! Hope all is well in Australia. Take care jo
From Miriam
Dear Joe,
Just so you know, there are probably many "onlookers" who are part of your "fan-base" (like me) who haven't yet dared to post a message but are keeping track of you all the same! I guess you haven't seen a hockey stick over there yet? I'm still in France, and will be for another couple of years (haven't told Tim yet, Oh oh...) Looking forward with bated breath to your next insallation. Take care, Joe. Mim
Response: Great to hear from you, and actually, I have picked up a hockey stick- well, a type of hockey stick, have played one game and hopefully the hall will be fixed soon so I can play again. Heading to France early next year, as Chris is living/working there at the moment - so might bump into you! Take care, and make sure you tell Tim soon! Love jo
From Anthony
Hey Jo, only took me 3 months to work that out i can check messages on my planetranger the yurts!...Anthony
Response: Good to see you're on top of it! Hope that Chris and I can make it to Japan next April - would love to visit again. Japanese is getting better again in Mongolia believe it or not, have met quite a few Mongolians who speak Japanese. So I'm speaking Japanese and no Mongolian in Mongolia - strange! Take care jo
From Daniela
Surprise!!! I know why you're getting so many hits- I go into your site now at least once a day, sometimes even twice. I love looking at the pictures and keep hoping there'll be more. Really stupid, I know, given that I know when you're putting more up, could look at my own photos or I can just look out my window and see everything there is to see... I'm a sucker for nostalgia
Response: At least now I've identified my number one fan - keep hitting as there could be some good benefits to being my biggest fan - not sure what, but I'll think of something, maybe a warm hug in winter!
From Daniela
I love the fact that you're doing this! I just sent out a mini-group email telling people to have a look. I hope you don't mind. See you later... (it's fun to say that when everyone else that writes can't!- sorry all)
Response: I'm finally posting your messages. Hope that your friends and family enjoy the page, and tell them more is to come...I promise! See you tonight for Indian!
From FP and Mum
Have spoken to you lots so you know all the news but just wanted to say that we were blown away by the latest photos, so fascinating.
Can't believe that we will be there this time in three weeks time. Very excited and can hardly wait.
Really enjoyed reading Chris' page and seeing the pics too. So interesting and such a contrast to yours.
Lots of love,
FP and Mum.
Response: Well, you have been and gone, and I'm slow on this page thing! I loved having you here and were glad you were able to experience a piece of Mongolia with me. Your support has always been wonderful and I'm truly thankful. Anyway, don't need to write much more as I spoke to you today and I'm sure I'll speak to you again soon. Love Joanna
From Dezza
And of course they're not as nice as Belmore Street! C'mon Josie, touch x
From Dezza
Beijing looks f--king amazing! And I'm sure I've seen Daniela before...glad the time is flying and you're still enjoying yourself. I can see how Ulan might be a bit overbearing at times. Miss you Josie-frog x Derek
From Dezza
Hi Josie!!

Cool photos....just visited Christophe's site too and checked it out (looks like he's been having a blast). I really want to send you a proper email but seem to have the wrong address for you - the one I talk down on the phone must have been incorrect. Also, please send your number again. Sorry, Jojo, I'm sure I'm worse at this than you are. Lots of love, Dezza
Response: Oh, my little Meer Cat Derek. Three message all within the space of about 6 mins - liked the progressive messaging. Will send you an email with my phone number...soon. Called the other night to say hi, but neither you or Joshy were home. However, tried to help Paulie decide where to go for dinner instead - suggested Asakusa, but not sure if Paulie was impressed, maybe next time...Lots of love josie
From Patrice
Hey Jo,
Im so proud of you for doing what you're doing. Love the website too.

Emailed Chris the other day. Offered up couch accommodation at Hotel Wandsworth (!) for him if he comes through London.

Stay safe ok chick? I'll be keeping a close eye on your adventures!

Love, Patrice
Response: So great to hear from you - seems like a lifetime ago that we started together, doesn't it! Hope you having a good time in London, and I'll be coming to Europe early next year, so if your still there, look forward to catching-up. Love jo
From Rena
Hey Jo jo, I really hope your nose doesn't fall off either although you would still be a spunk rat! Have kept up with your adventures through Lisy-Lou (btw feel free to email me at work: It sounds like you are having some amazing experiences that will stay with you forever. So very proud of you and look forward to reading more about your exciting adventures. The workplace really isn't the same without you. You, Lisa and I should consider starting our own business! Much love, Rena
Response: I'm so lazy! Can't believe you posted this message in July and now its September - two months ago! Think about you and Lisa often, and can't wait to catch-up with you in Sydney. And don't mind the sound of that business thing... Love jojo
From Paul & Robin Green
What a brilliant website! Will now be a regular visitors, Jo.
Loved seeing the photos they are fantastic...... Great to see Dave is in such good company.
Hope the year continues to go well for you all.
Response: Nice to hear from you Paul and Robin, and just so you know Dave's not bad company either.
Will try and keep up dating as much as possible. Cheers jo
From Christoph
Hello Jojo,
Fantastic photos! It looks, and no doubt is, so different to anything we know.
I'm really proud that you're doing this and know that you'll see the benefits sooner than later.
Go go little Jojo!!
Response: I love you, Christoph! Only four months until I see you and Tiny - yeah, yeah! Lots of love and happy sailing, jojo
From Marney
WOW - you beat all other advertures hand down! So great to hear about your adventures... I see Tiny enjoyed the Eiffel Tower.. he is very cultured, so I'm not really surprised.. in fact I think he would like Amsterdam better - more his scene from what I remember! Miss you! Lots of love Marney x
Response: Dearest Marney Moo,
Great to hear from you. Think of you often and hope that you are still in London in Dec/Jan as I'll be heading to Europe. Hope that your Mum is okay and that London life is good - sounds like you spend more time travelling than working! Also I think you are right about Tiny - Amsterdam is definitely his scene. what was Chris thinking taking him to Paris - way too boring! Take care and hope to see you soon, jojo
From Rena
Hey Jojo,
Thank you for the email you sent to Lisa and I. Time has flown! So good to know you are having a wonderful experience. It does seem like years since we were all working together....some very good memories. I won't bore you with the details of my new job here suffice to say it is very demanding but rewarding at the same time. I really hope you continue your wonderful adventures. Take care. Love Rena.
Response: Hello Miss Rena,
Great to hear from you, and just letting you know work just isn't the same without you and Lisa. Sent a long email to Lisa yesterday and ask her to forward it to you - that should keep you well informed. Hope work is still going well and look forward to seeing you both in a year or so for a wine or two (the wine or the locations to drink wine aren't quite the same in Mongolia). Love jo
From Christoph
I love you. I love you very very much. I want you in my life always.
Response: I love you too! So, so much. I miss you WAKI!
From loz and lippo
Hi Jo, Do they play AFL in Mongolia? They sure do here. Melbourne is cool and we have set up our little flat. We even have a fireplace, so it's as warm as a wok. Your writing is inspiring - YT's too - and it makes us smile to know you're both happy and enjoying the adventures. Have you started work yet? We wanted to send our best wishes for the challenges ahead. So - best wishes! Love from Dave and Loz.
Response: Hey guys,
Loved hearing from you both and think about you often and how much you would love Mongolia - the second-hand cloth shopping is amazing and the country-side beautiful. So, if you up for an adventure in Oct/Nov, that's when Whites is coming, you'll know I'll still be here. No, AFL here, but I have started playing Floorball (form of indoor hockey) and work is getting better and better. Hope Melbourne is treating you well, and by now you would probably need that fireplace. Love jojo
From Sarah Litchfield
Hello Jojo,

Love your page and the photos of Beijing are brilliant, can't wait to see your mongolian shots. Tom and I are really liking London although Tom is spending every second month in Saudi Arabia so I get plenty of time to explore by myself [also fun]. The wedding is set ofr 1st of October in Ireland so maybe maybe you and Chris might make it. Thinking of you Jojo Professional Adventure Babe. XXX Sarah
Response: How long has it taken me to reply - and still I haven't up-dated my page. Bad, bad girl! Have just been so busy. Don't think I'll be able to make it to your wedding as Chris doesn't really have any time off during October - Boo Hoo! I know it will be fantastic and will kick myself for years to come. Hope you and Tom are going well, and I look forward to seeing you when I do make it to europe - probably Dec/Jan. Lots of love jojo