Monday, 29 January 2007

Technical Problems, Performing Cats, Nurses are Women

Monday 29th January 2007
Thursday I had the joy of experiencing meltdown with my iBook, quite possibly as a result of downloading the King James Bible from the Project Gutenberg site. My laptop now won't boot up, which may be repairable with a system restore disc - unfortunately mine is nestled away in a packing case somewhere in Liverpool, and Apple don't seem to have got an awful lot of suppliers out here in Mongolia.

I cheered myself up by going to see the visiting Russian circus on Saturday afternoon. I was particularly drawn by the feature in the UB Post which promised performing dogs and cats. I was not disappointed - my particular favourite being the cat which lay on its back in a special harness and rolled a ball on its feet. The acrobats and trapeze artists were all Mongolian and pretty impressive. On the whole though, the circus was a very scrappy affair. The kids in the seats surrounding us had been to see it three times, and mostly came for the tigers in the Grand Finale. One of the kids admonished me for clapping too enthusiastically during a trapeze act.

Through asking my colleagues and students I have learned that the overwhelming majority of Mongolians express a marked aversion to cats. By way of explanation I have been told a rather involved story concerning a Buddhist monk who crucified a cat and set the creature adrift on a river. The cat was rescued and nursed back to health. Years later the monk passed by the cat's home and the vengeful creature attacked him and bit through his jugular. Well, so I was told.

Over the weekend I worked recording a CD of basic English grammar - spending hours reading out lists of words and sentences such as: "The pen is on the table", "Mr Smith is going to work", and "Nurses are women." The grammar book is the work of my Turkish night school employer, a very charming man and tireless self-promoter. His own name finds its way into his exercises, such as "Our English Teacher Mr ------ is very good" and "'Who are two good writers?' 'Charles Dickens and Mr ------ are two good writers.'" I haven't actually been paid for my work yet, which situation is almost made worthwhile by the overblown excuses and promises calling down God as a witness that I will certainly be paid by noon tomorrow. I'm due to work at the night school this evening - for the fourth day running I was promised I would be paid by noon yesterday - that he would phone me and come to wherever I was to bring me my money. I am looking forward to hearing his latest excuse this evening. In the meantime, I am looking to find another evening job.