Saturday, 22 September 2012

And as promised it's on...

...the heating that is.
Our stair door may not shut, but the radiators on the stairs themselves are warm to the touch, the hot water is still intermittent, however the heating is definitely on. I'm still trying to understand how that works, hot radiators but no hot water.
They tested the heat in the carpark a couple of weeks ago and opened the gates to the underground heated parking, though few have paid to use it yet.
It's not that cold - a little frost in the mornings, a nip in the air when the sun goes down, but still the heating is on. We did find the taps to turn the radiators off - no thermostat control here. On or off, those are the options. For the moment the radiators remain off, but still the apartment still has a warm glow to it - hot pipes travelling through the walls no doubt. It does make it a little uncomfortable with the windows closed.
It's an interesting proposition - sit around in a warm, slightly stuffy room, in shorts and t shirt with the windows closed, but have it relatively quiet or open the windows let in the 'fresh' air and put up with construction noise, dust and an ever increasing number of wasp like creatures.
We are working on finding a compromise - but that often depends on what is happening on the building site.

It's here!

Oh happy days.

We got a message at school yesterday, the shipment was in UB, to which Sarah's reaction was tears, much to the dismay of the receptionist who broke the news to her. A woman from the Monex company turned up in school to get some papers signed and left saying they would deliver it to the apartment but not when they would deliver. Gerel, the receptionist, bless her, then phoned to see when it would arrive but at 4:00pm there was no news so we did what all good teachers do on a sunny Friday, we went to the nearest pub and sat in the sun drinking beer.
Until, at shortly before 5, we got a call from Monex saying they would be at the apartment around 6. Needless to say we finished our drinks and left.
True to their word at 6 they arrived.

apparently we sent rather more than we thought

That's my bike that is
first things first - locate the whisky
both intact - nice

guard those bottle with your life Barkley

So with all that stuff and no shelves I was once more forced to improvise - a sharp knife - some sticky tape and a hey presto cardboard shelves.

...and then on to the important jobs.

Always wanted to be able to keep my bikes in in the living room, no other option here.

Got a bit of rubbish to get rid of though.
That said before the boxes were even at my door two old mongolians were chirping away about something. We had to call one of the secretaries to translate and he was wanting 50,000 tugrik £25 to take the boxes away - apparently we cant leave good quality boxes  on the stair, Sheep's heads, cigarette butts, and the occasional drunk are all de rigeur but quality cardboard is strictly not allowed and requires payment to move.
Anyway in theory he settled for 1500 and will turn up in the next few minutes. I'll update you on that saga later. (update: he turned up an hour late but at the time he had originally said he would and took the boxes away - handed him a wad of bills and off he went. Kind of worked I guess).

In the meantime I'm as happy as happy can be - except Sarah has gone off shopping for furniture to put all this stuff in so no doubt there will be more difficulties ahead...she's just back and found a couple of shops selling IKEA stuff - god help me - more bloody flat pack IKEA.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

what did the Russians ever do for us?

Well apart from thus obvious things like architecture, monuments and huge military squares, there are the transport modes.
Zaisan Monument
not everyday you see a T34
I promise a better picture soon - forerunner of the Mitsubishi Delica?

Old Russian vehicles for the backbone of the tourist fleet with the vehicle above being renowned for being able to go anywhere and be fixable with bailing wire and sticky tape. There are jeep versions looking remarkably like early Lada jeeps (unsurprisingly) but they are less common being only able to seat 4 and they do have a reputation for overheating in the summer when most of the tourists are here.

Below someone converted a Russian box van to a genuine camper complete with bed and ger stove providing heat and cooking facilities.
I wonder if he'd consider selling!
But perhaps their biggest contribution is with the candy!
There are great bags of candy in all the stores.
You are never quite sure what kind of sweets you are getting but few are unpleasant and some are really good.
Ah - yes - they were very good

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Honestly it's becoming an obsession!

The building that keeps us up at night with its gallopidaa gallopidaa machines, the banging, the shouts, and the straining of huge diesel engines as earth movements continue through the night in an effort, we think, to complete the concrete part of the construction before it gets too cold to do pour anything liquid.
It continues to grow and the more we watch the less plausible it all seems.

the ladies tie the rebar construction by hand

polystyrene insulation in place the concrete hose is brought into place 

while the final sections of rebar are hand knitted on top of the polystyrene
It's definitely labour intensive. If they are pouring concrete low down then it seems to be made on site but if it needs hoisting up to the upper levels then the concrete arrives by the truck load.

But it would seem the best pouring time is at night. 

don't stand still for too long dude or you'll be there for all time 
keep moving! 

and then in the cold light of day it all quietens down again.

...and spends the next 2 days under blankets which get watered if it gets too dry. Not a problem today as hail fell.
But then they mess with your head by drawing crop circles in the dirt. Or is it really the design for the next layer of low level construction, quite literally drawn in (or with the) the sand.

thank the lord for gift of ear plugs! Can't wait for the cold to shut them down, assuming of course that shipment ever gets here and we get some clothes to keep out the cold.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

The Bogdkhan Range

The Bogdkhan mountains are the mountains to the south of UB. It is those hills that are the easiest to get into and the closest to us and the school. We finally got up there yesterday.
It was an unpleasant, though interesting hour and a half, walking alongside the river and the construction and the housing estates before we reached the Ger camp a the foot of the mountains.

From there we climbed quickly, though not as quickly as we would have done in Japan, or indeed if we had taken one of the other spurs up. Suddenly we were once again breathing fresh air, and could touch trees. It came as a bit of a surprise to us that autumn was here. The birch were turning yellow and the whole area had a faint yellow tinge to it. The larch were still green but everything else was beginning to turn. In the city, there is virtually nothing to turn, everywhere you look building and concrete, no green spaces at all, nothing to tell you the seasons are moving except for the weather, the nip in the air in the morning and the chill as the sun goes down in the evening.
A home made hammer for knocking the tree to get the pine cones out and the pine nuts collected. The nuts are now officially protected in an effort to encourage regrowth but it doesn't seem to stop people.

The entire walk took about 6 hours, and finished as all good walks should in a pub. The general consensus (and there were a good few of us) was that while the walk was lovely, we could live without the slog through building sites and along roads so that maybe taxis to the ger camp at the base of the hill would be the way to go. The whole thing, home to hill to pub was about 20km so if I'm to use it as a run I may have to brave the roads.
Once up on the tops you could see a long way and it was beautiful.
Bogd Khan itself?

we were all pleased to be out of the city

The city though was never that far away, and as we swung round and back towards the north it once again swung into view.

A great day out ending in the Irish Castle, which served good beer, good food and good company.


I know we keep banging on about it but honestly it's astonishing. It's astonishing in the amount of construction, the scale of that construction and the methods of the construction.
view from the window last week with newly poured concrete on the left

Add caption
view from the window yesterday

The polystyrene is slipped between layers of concrete for insulation

A rebar frame is made, surrounded with coated ply wood and  concrete poured in

The rebar is cut and bent by hand

The yellow stack is coated ply waiting to be wedged in place or laid on top of newly poured concrete. These sheets are sitting where the wet concrete was last week.
It does make for a noisy and dusty existence but it is fascinating to watch the building grow.

Is it supposed to look like the end wall fell in?

Other buildings don't quite look 'right' and are somewhat out of place in their environment.

The workers often live on site in tents or in Gers while they build.
This one just fired up his stove as we walked past to go to work.