How cold is it just now in Mongolia? Well, we just had a state visit from Polish President Lech Kaczynski, but his departure was delayed for a day. Why? His plane was frozen.
Yesterday, I decided to walk to and from the Ulaanbaatar Hotel – despite the risk of being mobbed by autograph seekers following my TV appearance (dubbed by my translator as “not great, not bad” – yeesh) – where I had been invited to see the Independent Study Project presentations of the SIT students I went to Dornogov with. I wanted to experience the weather firsthand. The morning was cold, to be sure, but bright – thankfully not like the polluted morning I photographed from my window about a week ago (most mornings are like this; I rarely venture out before lunch):
Walking home after sunset was a different story. This time the wind was in my face and as it bit into my exposed skin, I actually said, “Damn. Ow.” When I got home and checked Weather Underground, I was informed the temperature was -29F (-34C) with the li’l Siberian zephyr making it feel like -44F (Celsius doesn’t even have numbers anymore; maybe we have to go to the Kelvin scale). I did manage to lift out of my dolt-like stupor long enough to see the proximity in the sky of Jupiter and Venus, though not as tight to the crescent moon as they were earlier in the week. I also marveled that half the Mongolians trudging along weren’t wearing hats. In the States, temps like this would send the Weather Channel into a 24-hour National Emergency Broadcast. To the Mongols, it’s just another winter day. This quality of tough acceptance of the facts of ongoing reality is something I really admire in the Mongols.
When I approached the hotel, I realized that I hadn’t walked by there since I returned a couple months ago, so I was startled to see how thoroughly burnt-out the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party (MPRP) building was from the post-election riots in July:
This event was the subject of one student’s study, but she found it still so raw and sensitive for Mongols that most of her interviewees she couldn’t name in her report, and even then they were quite cautious in what they said.
Generally, the students’ projects were excellent, ranging in subject matter from mental health care to trade unions to, inevitably, horses. I was able to spend some time chatting with US Ambassador Mark Minton, who’s a very nice guy, as well as Ariunaa, the Vice President of the National University of the Humanities, who invited me to be a guest speaker sometime early next year.
I’ve added a number of new links to interesting Dharma blogs, and thought I’d highlight them for your viewing pleasure.
First up is Dharma Folk, a collective blog that has recently sparked a remarkably stimulating conversation in the comments to this post about the dynamic and/or attitudes in America between ethnic Asian Buddhist communities, and those of the predominantly white, middle class American-born ones. Plus the little graphic is hilarious.
Next is Rigpa’s Ramblings, written (far too occasionally – he’s a good, thoughtful writer) by an American monk in Colorado who, like me, was ordained by HH Penor Rinpoche.
Also out of Colorado, and assuring me that a monastic vocation is not in his immediate future, is my Palyul Retreat friend Gordon Eaton who now publishes an eponymous blog sometimes about Dharma matters, sometimes about Colorado’s gorgeous wilderness.
Shambhala Sun magazine now offers frequent posting on matters of broad spiritual and cultural import at Shambhala SunSpace.
The prolific Rev. Danny Fisher claims to be “"Just a Buddhist Chaplain Trying to Benefit Beings Online" and is doing a spanking good job.
And, last but not least, the buddha is my dj serves up "religion, politics, pop-culture, music, and the buddha." What more could you ask for?