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Ellen Shapiro

eGullet Society staff emeritus
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Everything posted by Ellen Shapiro

  1. Most of those 40,000 people are, I gather, using the Internet for e-mail. The eGullet site would probably break most of the older computers in use over there. But there is definitely good e-mail availability in the cities (I used it all the time there, and we planned the whole trip via e-mail from home, albeit without total accuracy!) and there is a push to modernize the country's telecommunications. Mongolia got thrown into a big depression when the Iron Curtain fell and has only recently started to steady itself. I'll bet you'll see those numbers grow a lot in the next few years.
  2. Thanks for all the kind comments; they keep me going as my fingers go numb from writing all this down not to mention reliving every bump on that damned horse. I've been searching around for a Mongolia map that I could put here without violating any copyrights, and finally I've come up with one from the US government that's kosher. You'll notice three arrows (I've added those). The one on the left is Olgii, the town we flew into in western Mongolia near where Eagle Hunter hangs out. The one in the middle is UB. And the one on the lower right, for reference, is Beijing. You'll see that Mongolia
  3. To read all the parts of this series please click: Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V, Part VI, Part VII, Part VIII We've already established that Eagle Hunter doesn't hunt eagles but, rather, is the owner-operator of a trained eagle that hunts on his behalf. And we've learned that Eagle Hunter occupies a high station in the Mongolian Kazakh social structure, roughly equivalent to that of a cross between a federal judge and a basketball star. But Eagle Hunter is no mere specialist. Eagle Hunter is a jack-of-all-trades, a veritable one-man Mongolian Kazakh dude ranch. Not only was I to
  4. Funny you should mention that . . . I brought a bottle of Bulgarian wine back to UB for J. I simply couldn't hog that sort of treasure to myself because, well, it would have been wrong.
  5. I brought the gifts with me from home. I had heard from people who had been there previously and read in my book that I should have little gifts with me to distribute. Generally speaking, I'd give a selection of gifts to someone in the ger (usually the oldest woman) and let them distribute accordingly. I brought everything from pens and hair scrunchies, to packs of needles and dozens of rolls of different colored thread to little swiss army knife type tools and Leatherman tool knock-offs. I also had some instant coffee, hot chocolate and little stuffed toys for children—oh, airplane bottle siz
  6. Cheesy. No, seriously, I've been avoiding the cheese issue because I have a large section of the next part devoted to the whole dairy business. So I'm going to dodge the question for the moment. Thank you for the opportunity to build suspense!
  7. >> Part III is here >> I promise I'll catch up on unanswered questions as we go. Some will be addressed in the installments, so I don't want to be duplicative -- we'll get to everything, though!
  8. To read all the parts of this series please click: Part I; Part II; Part III; Part IV; Part V; Part VI; Part VII. The Eagle Hunter doesn't hunt eagles. Rather, Eagle Hunter (the definite article quickly fell away as "Eagle Hunter" became a proper name of sorts) is a Kazakh fellow who has captured a wild eagle and trained it to hunt for him. The basic exchange is that the eagle is rewarded with fresh meat from the kill and both partners are (relatively) happy. Eagle Hunter and his eagle are alleged to share a meaningful "friendship" and, after approximately ten years, the eagle is re-released i
  9. The digital body I use is a Canon D60 SLR, which is part of the EOS system -- meaning it can take any Canon EOS lens from the film-camera series. I also schlep a lot of additional equipment -- half of what I carry on a trip can be camera stuff -- such as lenses (for deep in-country travel I rely mainly on the workhorse EF 50 mm F1.4 USM lens, and a 100-300/F4.5-5.6 EF USM Zoom for longer shots), strobes (two Canon 550EX Speedlites plus the ST E2 Wireless Controller), filters (circular polarizing, etc.), sometimes a tripod or monopod, cable release, lens-cleaning stuff, memory cards (on a 6 meg
  10. Suzanne, I don't tell Steven any of the really gory details until I get home. If I did, I think you'd find me handcuffed to the bed with only my right hand free to type posts on eGullet. I've been traveling alone on a shoestring to far-away places since I was 22 (when I traveled around the world by myself on my hard-earned babysitting money) so I've gotten pretty good at troubleshooting and looking after myself and others. I've found that while it's very tempting to report home (if there is even a way to do so) to family about the trials and tribulations I've encountered on my travels (in orde
  11. Awilda, A tour company, no. I have taken groups as large as 12 to Nepal, I co-lead a Sierra Club trip along Oregon's Rogue River most years, and I'm often willing to put trips together for groups of people. But it's not my business and I don't make any money from it. To date, I've never even covered my own expenses. My profession is that I'm a writer and photographer, not a guide or travel agent. But when I get really far off the beaten path and I tell people about my travels I often get requests to put trips together--which I sometimes will do. When I'm really passionate about a place (like N
  12. Hell, I'd settle for a book deal! But we already know that there's no justice in this world. And I haven't even told you about the Eagle Hunter yet! That'll be in the next installment.
  13. Rachel, The big expense, when you go to a developing nation halfway around the world, is getting there. Plane tickets are so variable in price, and so much depends on luck and when you buy them, or get them with frequent flier miles, not to mention how you combine them with other stops (for example I also spent a week in Beijing on the same trip), that my actual trip cost wouldn't be indicative of much. Once you get to a developing nation halfway around the world, however, things get cheap -- and if you want them to be cheaper than cheap, that can also be arranged. Of course you can also spen
  14. Jin, I try to "shoot em as I see em" and not alter the photos much at all. I've done the same thing to every one of these photos: I've run the entire set through a batch processing program called DCE Auto Enhance so that the gigantic 6 megapixel images from my digital camera don't blow out your screen--it reduces images to any size, in this case 600x400. It also does a little bit of contrast adjustment and the like so that the photos are properly optimized for computer screens. But I don't do any special effects in PhotoShop or anything like that--because I'm a film photographer at heart. I ki
  15. To read all the parts of this series please click: Part I; Part II; Part III; Part IV; Part V; Part VI; Part VII. The escape-fantasies began after I had walked about 10 miles barefoot through slippery mud (yes, it was clay) in an evaporating (not quickly enough for our needs, though) lake in the middle of the Gobi Desert (carrying no drinking-water) in the hopes of convincing a bunch of Mongolians (prospective Mongolians, rather, because they were too far away to determine who they were at first, and who, it turns out, spoke zero English) to walk back with me through the slippery mud "lake" to
  16. I don't know what Inner Mongolia looks like but if it looks anything like Mongolia (Outer Mongolia to the Chinese) we can expect to see the expansion of the Gobi Desert into China. As it is, about 15 miles from Beijing there actually is a desert and apparently (according to Lonely Planet Beijing) winds are blowing the sands towards the capital at a rate of just over one mile per year. While Inner Mongolia is not exactly right next door, I fear that grazing cows on grasslands like those in Mongolia would be bad news. But enough about that. Regarding the cheese-making—I promise that there will b
  17. If you can verify the mayonnaise as being part of the Russian cuisine (I haven't been there and last I checked going to Little Odessa didn't quite qualify for getting my passport stamped), I absolutely agree that this is where the mayo comes from. It certainly didn't come from the Chinese and it had to have come from one border or the other (or, apparently, from California).
  18. Please behave. They get the majority of their imports from Russia and Germany. The ubiquitous mayo is some Russian garbage out of a tube. But we are definitely at the very far end of my expertise. I can also say, though, that there are a lot of Korean and Taiwanese connections with Mongolia. There are restaurants in UB with names like Seoul and the whole "Mongolian barbecue" trend came via Taiwan I think. I'll try to get this Mongolian food professor's e-mail address so we can ask him some of these questions! [Edit: because I remembered about the tube]
  19. Back in 2000, at least I think it was 2000, Fat Guy and I went to Singapore. We had with us an early model digital camera that took impressively weak photographs, so we never really did anything with them. But I was inspired by some recent eGullet traffic about Singapore to go back through my photo archives in search of the Singapore snapshots. Then I dug up some old information on eGullet about Singapore from back in the days when every user had an "X" next to his or her name. So, let me call this thread the Consolidated Singapore Info Thread. It includes some old posts (the original thread c
  20. Whaaaa? Hm? Who knows? It's all oral history and everybody has a different story, usually made up on the spot, about how things got to be the way they are. There's no Mongolian Larousse Gastronomique or even Bobby Flay so there's nobody to ask. There's some food professor at the university in UB, but what I read by him (I'll give some quotes in part-the-second) is about as informative as the Visit Mongolia 2003 site that Jon linked to. Maybe they just like mayonnaise?
  21. Jon, this exact verbiage was reiterated in the MIAT (Mongolian Airline) in-flight magazine! I'm planning to provide some very informative excerpts in the second part of this account.
  22. I'm going to give you one guess what was in them! And yes, they're a bit momo-like in appearance (you know our bulldog is named Momo, right?), but then again they're similar to a lot of different types of rustic dumplings you'd find all over Asia. In a lot of cases, the answer to that is, "What showers? What bathrooms?" For much of the latter part of the trip, I used the same bathroom the cattle used, aka the great outdoors. It's not like there's any lack of space! But in the Ger camps and the city, bathrooms were pretty normal -- a mix of Western and Eastern toilets -- and showers were plent
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