Saturday, February 23, 2008

planes, deer, and dogs

My horoscope in the UB Post says that I should "Seek rest; take frequent naps... 'deep rest' is called for Monday to Wednesday." Hallelujah.

This is good because after saying that we had no near-death experiences on our trip, I read that someone had fired "a missile-like object from the ground" 'at' an EZnis airlines domestic flight from UB to Khanbogd. I say 'at' because it came within 10km of the aircraft. That seems like a pretty good distance to miss an aircraft by. We have two theories. It was either an ex-Soviet missile someone fired off for the heck of it (because it is still Tsaagan Sar, or the white month of the new year) or someone not quite paying attention at the nearest military establishment. Now, as you may have read here, this couldn't have been a Russian missile because it missed -- and the UB Post article mentions that "Last year, students at the Tavan Tolgoi peacekeeping training area accidentally fired a military-use rocket... as a helicopter flew by..." Hmmm.

Incidentally, EZnis is the newest domestic airline in Mongolia, and supported by a grant from the US Trade Development Agency. If you check travel advisories issued by the State Department, you'll see that US government personnel are currently "prohibited" from flying MIAT (and apparently Air Mongolia did not pass its safety inspection in October and is grounded for now). If you fly in and out of Chinggis Khan airport, you'll see the plane graveyard on the south end of the runway. There are some cool Soviet helicopters and a bunch of wooden-framed biplanes out there, too.

Having said that, these were new Saab airplanes, the staff was polite and bi-lingual, and there was food and beverage service on our 75min flight. Shame our own airlines have forgotten customer service like that.

But now: back to the taiga...

This is just a short clip of one of our favorite camp deer, Whitey. As you can see, he/she isn't particularly phased by our being here. As you can also see, most of the deer have a simple bridle that passes under their jaw, splits, and passes either side of the antlers. A fair number of the deer had one or other antler trimmed to prevent them from being overly dominant in the herd. When select deer are harnessed, they are saddled in (what Vitebsky identifies as) the Sayan-style with the saddle behind the shoulders and using stirrups.

And here's a gratuitous picture of me wrastling one of the camp dogs. There were at least a half-dozen either tethered out as watch dogs or just wandering loose. And while I am always cautious about approaching strange dogs, all three of the dogs I really played with clearly knew what play was -- and so we'd have a great time each time they came over. Stay tuned for more.

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