Saturday 10th March
Another glorious sunny day out there. A fortnight ago we had a freak tropical heatwave in UB - the day time temperature was ABOVE freezing: rumour has it that the thermometer reached +5c. This was followed by snow, and the temperature dropped again; ups and downs, however, have ensured that the snow turned to slush and then ice. There's been markedly less air pollution: presumably because there is some air movement with an icy wind building up now and then. When I arrived in December the cold was steady and constant, and the rule was simple: wrap up as warm as you could. Now I'm forever getting caught out - either wearing too heavy a coat and over-heating, or deciding not to wear long johns and ending up wondering whether I'll make it back home before the arteries in my legs freeze solid.
Mongolia's charismatic and hard-working President N. Enkhbayar (furthermore, Wikipedia informs, a former Leeds University student) has been busy with international diplomacy over the past few weeks. At the end of February he was visiting France, discussing deals for Mongolia to supply France's future uranium needs. France has tabled and supported motions in Mongolia's favour in the European Union: Enkhbayar thanked Jacques Chirac for this support, and called the EU Mongolia's 'Third Neighbour'. Mongolia, of course, is a land-locked nation, with borders with only Russia and China, so the 'Third Neighbour' concept is rather a neat one. Indeed, as last week's UB Post observed, it's such a neat concept that Enkhbayar has also previously described the US as Mongolia's 'Third Neighbour'. Of course, it's easy to mock such self-plagiarism, with the outrage of a heckler who attends a second show on a comedian's tour, only to discover that the performer uses the same witty one-liners which had seemed so brilliantly spontaneous the first time round.
President Enkhbayar has just returned from a 5 day tour of Japan, where, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, he has been discussing strengthening business ties between Mongolia and Japan; the two nations also promising to continue working together within the UN, especially concerning their commitment to 'maintain the nuclear disarmament and nuclear nonproliferation international regime' (UB Post, 8/3/07). Student exchanges, financial aid and much else will all increase. The UB Post further reports that in gratitude Enkhbayar said that "because Japan assisted Mongolia, extending a friend's hand when our country had difficult times and because Japan is an important partner which can help to fasten Mongolia's development and to strengthen our country's position in the international arena, we consider Japan as the 'third neighbour' of our country."
Elswhere in this week's Post the news is not so good for Mongolia's standing in the international community. After a survey team were sent out in the early part of the year, McDonalds have concluded that they sadly won't be opening a franchise of their delightful cultural and culinary embassies in Ulaanbaatar, owing mainly to the limited size of the population here.