Photo time!

15 Sep

In an attempt to choose some of many epic moments.
Mongolia and China MMXVI.
Wordpress made them in a tiled mosaic,
and you know I prefer it fragmented.

China

6 Sep

It became so easy to walk away time in Beijing, the distances were too big to be grasped by the eye when looking at the map. So much noise and spetakkel! With cars honking continuously, people shouting and talking endlessly (which we experienced especially on our train ride to Chengde); China became so crowded and noisy compared to Mongolia, but it didn’t really seem like the menneskehav, an ocean of people. The Chinese’ must be complimented for their well-developed skills in managing cities and big crowds. We walked away time when we visited various parks and their temples.

Somehow in China tourist attractions and cultural heritage sites have to give you a feeling of an amusement park. Next to for instance the temple itself atmospheric music will be played, if possible there is a beautiful, well-kept garden or park, and wait if you’re thirsty or want to buy something a shop is always around the corner, but also with costumes for taking pictures, or even spots or play grounds for children (such as at the Great Wall we encountered surprisingly a funny down hill slide). Back in Mongolia at the old monastery in Kharkorin, Valerie (our travelling French friend who lives in Shangai) pointed this already out to us, thus the authenticity of the Erdene Zuu monastery that lacked the Chinese shiny, restored self with all the service experience facilities around. We just didn’t really understand it before we actually saw and lived it.

In China it seems that everything can be bargained except for food. The taxi, a drink or a beer, shopping at the market, even the water bottles… Perhaps their traditions of being merchants on the Silk Road are still present? At least it didn’t take long before we learnt most of the tricks to get those convenient deals. Like when we went to the seaside in Shanhaiguan and needed to get a taxi in a hurry to the bus station for the last transport back to our hostel in Chengde. In the beginning the idea was to stay at a hotel in Shanhaiguan, but what we discovered was that no hotels were for foreigners, only “Mainland Chinese Citizens” and we felt discriminated for the first time. Even in Beijing we stopped by a karaoke bar urging to sing and enjoy the last night, only to discover again that the bar was for “Mainland Chinese”. Perhaps there were a lot of good reasons in doing this, only that we ourselves started to feel like aliens, which at times is the word used for foreigners. Valerie who works in Shanghai holds a “Working Permit for Aliens”, despite of her Chinese origins and fluent level of the language. In the Culture Ethnic Park (another example of a wanna-be-amusement-park), which presents the 56 minorities in China by showing their traditions in houses, clothing and more, we walked from ethnic village to village diving into the life styles of the different minorities. Impressing indeed is it that China houses so many minorities on their own, and without going into discussions of freeing some of them, one might understand why China put so much emphasis on the Chinese Mainland aspect, unifying all of their groups instead of dividing. Although as a foreigner it doesn’t give a very welcoming impression when privileges are given exclusively to Chinese Mainland Citizense. Luckily it is only felt on a political and formal level, cause the Chinese we got to know were so warm to us. Even in our first meeting we got a really nice gift of a friend’s friend who wanted to show us around Beijing (such a contrast to the Norwegian cold culture that would never come up with something like that). With a hospitable and warm feeling around us, we really thought it was a pity that we couldn’t communicate on a deep level due to the language barrier.

On our trip to the Great Wall we got lost with the bus and randomly found an English description on how to get there on a sign from McDonalds. Sticking to that explanation we asked various people about help (pointing at the Chinese signs we had captured on the phone) in order to take the right bus. I will never forget that lady in the suburbs of Beijing in the so-called Beifang, she stood out in the street peeling nuts and gave us two chairs to sit on while waiting for the transport. Every time a bus would come she would tell us if it was right or not; a moment in which we really trusted this stranger, and it gave a motherly feeling. She was so helpful and sweet to us, eventually the bus came and thanks to her we finally reached Mutianyu, an epic spot of the Great Wall, which is really a true wonder of China.

Mongolian Times

31 Aug

Once we came out of UB we met the real Mongolia. How can you describe those endless steps and such an immense nature to be in? Being out in the steps in Inner Asia and you understand why The Eternal Blue Sky was the Mongols’ shamanistic God before Buddhism arrived. The sky is humongous, immense, present everywhere and looks down at the Nomadic people spread out in the country herding their animals. On the road it became a daily sight to see them in action on horses with great flocks of sheep, goats, yaks or camels. In Mongolia you don’t use fences and animals walk freely around, well-supervised by their herders who live with and by them. A nomad’s greeting is often to ask how the animals are doing and bring wishes about them being well fed. Cause the animals are the nomads’ wealth, if they are well fed so is their life stock.

During our last two weeks we have lived with various nomadic families traveling around in the central and southern part of the country by horse and car. Especially on our riding trip to the Naiman Nuur Lakes we left our heart with one of them. From the first moment we were offered ayrag, the fermented mare’s milk (that might get you tipsy if not drunk wisely) as often is the ritual. If not ayrag, other dairy products or tea are welcoming you into the colorful ger. However, this family was in high routine of cutting up a sheep’s inner parts when we entered. While they cut up the organs, we sat down with the ayrag and tried to communicate with our flourishing Mongol skills that grew together with our horse guide Bagi, who didn’t speak any English. Our family had a row of medals stating the high status of their horses’ victory in racing.

Although we couldn’t speak profoundly with them, we understood that the family liked us by their ‘glimt’ in their warm eyes towards us. Eating, drinking and preparing the meat from the sheep, it was all done at the same time as Bagi turned on the CD player and we discovered that Modern Talking wasn’t only popular with our Russian-speaking driver, but also here in the countryside within the nomads’ gers.

When living inside the gers it was incredible to think that their way of being built spans from before Genghis Khan’s time. For almost a thousand years this white-colored and well-isolated tent have covered so characteristically the Mongolian steps and landscapes. In UB it became such a contrast to see the same gers in an underdeveloped and crowded city, especially when they fitted so elegantly out there in the steps.

Although these immense landscapes might seem to not have been lived by humans, it’s far away from the truth. In Genghis’ time the steps were filled with tribes that killed and terrorized each other, one of many reasons for him to create peace by conquering and gathering all of them into one Mongol state. Without going to deeply into all the stories circulating Genghis’ I must say it’s fascinating how his Empire spun out of the traditional life of his people of herders and nomads, nonetheless by moving on horseback. The horses are considered to be noble creatures and carry such a high symbolic place in Mongolian culture, still, they don’t give them names. Of all the horses we met they were all without ones. In Khugnu Tarni, the first place we got to ride, I named my horse Timo (meaning ‘yes’ in Mongol) with whom the vibe and speed were as amazing as the never-ending, free landscapes around us.

Even in Mongolian music the horses are present by rhythms resembling them running together with trashy, soft sounds. A music that would follow us both on the bus, in car and even with Bagi on horseback, who would sing lively the tunes of Orkhan; the horse music trash king (who has by now achieved a great place in both me and Sigrid’s playlist). After we left Central Mongolia and went towards South, Orkhan would soon pop up in Gobi as when we went out for dinner in a restaurant filled with plastic threes looking like a tropical forest. In Gobi we would book a driver who took us around the dry steps, to the flaming cliffs (with Mongolian pancakes for breakfast) and the sand dunes. A Dutch motorcycle adventurer would follow us on our tour, realizing that going alone in Gobi is something you just don’t do. At the sand dunes we would climb up on the top meeting a tremendous wind, but also an incredible view over the desert. We felt like camels when we were moving slowly from side to side in the climbing, with sand getting in all directions.

Under The Eternal Blue Sky we discovered the nomads’ home, in the immense steps that lead towards the desert in South. Our introduction to Mongolian culture was only a fraction of everything it offers and our time was far from enough, The Eternal Blue Sky will soon look down at us again.

The eagle arrives

4 Aug

There was no direct flight to Ulaanbaatar from Oslo and in order to get here we needed to criss-cross two continents. We went down and up in Europe and in and out of China. We flew above Russia, a kind of feeling of looking down at the Transiberian railway following it from the sky. With strange illuminated lights from small Siberian cities, and the Chinese Great Wall proudly below us surrounded by beautiful green nature. Once getting within Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar rised as a colorful cluster of buildings in the middle of nowhere. Our hearts stopped a second when we saw some white traditional gers.

Gers would become the building we would see everywhere in Mongolia’s high accelerating capital. They would be in front of the parliament, in the district in the hills close to the monasteries and even decorated ones (a sense of trash) made by flowers. According to Bilguun Ulaanbaatar doesn’t resemble the Nomadic spirit of the Mongols. They were never used to the thought of settling down and in the city buildings are now constructed close to each other, stretching up to the sky as skyscrapers trying to copy other Asian big cities. Mongols always ride a horse and not cars, so the result is a confusing, aggressive traffic. A big contrast in the city are the old monasteries, or the few of them that were left after Stalin’s terror in the 30s. We were walking around them and understanding piece by piece the different layers in the Mongolian-Russian relationship. Although, their monks and monasteries were destroyed, the Russians also helped a lot to develop the country.

Bilguun showed us amazing pictures of Mongolian landscapes and the Khazakh Eagle Hunters. In the evening we went up to the beautiful top, the so-called “Montmartre” of the city and by luck we met a Khazakh boy with an eagle enthusiastic to share him. Our travel to Mongolia started on a plane exploring the territory and its surrounding neighboring countries from an eagle perspective. Now we even held this majestic, strong bird on our arm, we felt like lucky children and this was only the beginning. Tomorrow the real adventure towards the steps, the heart of Mongolia, would begin.

Mongolia:tomorrow!

1 Aug

 

Tomorrow it will happen. Me and my cousin Sigrid will start our epic adventure towards the East in which we will travel around Mongolia and China for one month. I started this blog more than four years ago when I went to New Zealand and Australia, now my blog will be alive again with some Mongolian and Chinese times!IMG_6222

Mongolia from a Norwegian countryside perspective – wondering how it will be?

Milano.

18 Jun

The other weekend I went to Turin, I couldn’t grasp the city, despite of my frequently party visits the last year. Elettra made a remark that Turin has no fish and no meat, as a way to tell that the city is far away from the sea, her Trieste and the ‘meat’ probably refering to a deeper saying out of my own cultural understanding? Still, in Turin I couldn’t grasp the city, I couldn’t define it properly, something that I realized during my 26- hours-long-stay. My post about Milan starts with Turin. Cause in the beginning, when you first arrive in a new city you see the differences, you sense something else until you walk within the city’s contures of everyday life. When touching the outside and not living the inside it is easier to define. I still need to do that for the city I am currently living in; Milano.

In the beginning I did like everybody else who never lived in Milan. I perceived and thought about the city through the big eyes of prejudices. Cause simply if one doesn’t really take the time to visit the city, it doesn’t really seem beautiful, and it rains a lot. (Rain that so often gives that grey appearance.) The Italian concept of ‘beauty’ has its standards, the whole country swims in cultural heritage, contrasts of past and present. In Milan the streets are big and linear with high, grey buildings. Sometimes and quite out of nothing the churches give the impression of being the ones strongly kept in tidens tann; out of time. They make that history; its beauty emerges when all the other streets have a tendency to hide it away. Beauty is to be found in Milan, but you need to look for it. It is not like Rome or the other cities where it is so omnipresent, like forests and pine trees in Norway.

Milano. I came here first of all due to a very convincing internship offer. Working for Iperborea – the publishing house that translates and promotes Nordic literature and  culture in Italy – became a company I could easily fit into. In a way, the fact that I found an interesting internship in this city, and not in Bologna or the rest of the country, demonstrates how Milano is that hub of more opportunities. I’ve already met so many who applied for jobs and where did they end up to find one? Milano e Milano.
Besides actually having a reasonable job, life around you like moving around with the metro or going out with a friend for dinner is not that bad. Actually Rome’s terrible metro lines (with that undefinable swetty smell I’ve never met anywhere else) seem so far away and distant. Sometimes I get the feeling that the people who live Milan are all softened up by a more comfortable life. We move around from a job that makes sense, to amazing restaurants if we want to and around us there is a cultural life that never sleeps. Although the streets are big and linear with high, grey buildings, the exhibitions and festivals are everywhere, a flowing creativity  is now put into an organized angle of Italy, it’s different, it is even trendy, being the centre of fashion and design.

I’ve probably entered Milan’s contures of everyday life. In the beginning I remember that among my impressions was my amusement of living so continentally to the other European countries, somehow it made Milan different (can it even explain on a deeper level their organizational skills as opposed to other Italian cities? Perhaps as a result with this part of the country’s different history as influenced by a closeness to their neighbouring countries?).
As in that fresh, first observation of the city I should probably have digged more into that thought, but I didn’t and now I’ve entered within the contures of that typical, habit cultivating everyday life, still I must say: Milan you are vibrant.

GIOCA: og en ode til Bologna?

21 Mar

If my master course had got its own soundtrack it would have been Dragostea din tei. Another trashy piece reflecting that intercultural dialogue I am so found about? Only that this time it happened in my dearest Bologna with the GIOCA course.

What did it actually mean to become one of the Giocas?

On the university’s home page the degree; so nicely named Innovation and Organization of Culture and the Arts – was aimed to equip us with the necessary skills and tools on a managerial and interdisciplinary dimension in order to become cultural professionals, on the way we were according to some; little Giocas – i giochini. In Italian Gioca is quite similar to the word ‘gioco’, which refers to a play or a game. Therefore, saying to people that I was a Gioca sounded rather like a joke. Could this immediate association from an Italian point of view give an intuitive description of the degree’s quality? Ironically enough, after one year most of my classmates wrote a letter of complain to the programme directors.

Still, Gioca is one of my best decisions made lately.

Being in Bologna (yet again for some more student life) surrounded by strong personalities, driven by an equal curiosity towards the cultural field and us resembling so different backgrounds, were some of the reasons. In a way, studying cultural management in a living cultural diversity mechanism: us and our personalities, our different point of views, languages, stories – I think it gave Gioca that special layer of why it became meaningful, even for those who signed the letter of complain.

A cultural element that became social, with various connections between us:
with so many days passed together at lectures in Aula Filopanti, the real time together was perhaps during our group work? Cause every single course demanded group work, a group presentation or paper, at times even both, all in order to get evaluated with a grade. For me it was never only about sitting there in Aula Filopanti taking in knowledge, but also having a coffee with other Giocas before and during these group meetings. Without exaggerating: Gioca involved more than 20 different group presentations and I think we all became masters in coordination and communications skills necessary for team work,
-it even made us brilliant in crowdsourcing and using Google Drive. Something in which the Reporting and Budget exam demonstrates an outstanding example. Funny indeed how the only course that excluded group work, was by our own initiative turned into a collectively managed project, based on the same goals to somehow pass the exam.

One of our last courses was Networking in Arts Organizations that introduced a quite abstract language to those phenomenons you meet in networks working together in creative industries. Still, without analyzing the ‘social capital’ or the ‘knowledge brokerage’ of the Gioca programme, I would simply say that it has become our own network: lived by us, made by us, changing by us.

Dragostea din tei became the soundtrack of my Gioca experience. It was introduced to us in last class of  Critical Studies and Arts Management, having little to do with an aim to analyze management issues in arts organizations, but a lot with us exploring each other stereotypes and diving into our cultural diversity. Through our international presentations the Romania team decided to spice up their show into a quiz based on the lyrics of this catchy, fun, and yes you know me; trashy piece of music. Creative indeed as a way to share and encourage an interaction far away from the course’s initial teaching objectives. Perhaps the song even resembles a certain vibe in our network? A network also saying that it will never be a really goodbye – although most of us have left Bologna, we live our network in various angles within and without Europe: until the moment we coincidentally and not, bump into each other again.