Defending the 12th century since the 14th; blogging since the 21st.

Catholicism, Conservatism, the Middle Ages, Opera, and Historical and Literary Objets d'Art blogged by a suburban dad who teaches law and writes stuff.

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Who was Cacciaguida? See Dante's PARADISO, Cantos XV, XVI, & XVII.

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Sunday, August 20, 2006
I am now in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and I've just finished my first class. (It's Monday 8/21 here.) Note to self: constitutional law takes longer to get translated into Mongolian than it does to say in English. I must keep that in mind in order to cover my syllabus.

The local pronunciation of the city's name is close to "Lahn Bahtr." The sounds that are transliterated as single vowels are barely audible. Perhaps "Uln Bahtr" would be as close as we could get. It definitely rhymes with "Potter" rather than with "Babar." (I know all this b/c I made Monkhuu, a student who is one of my hosts, give me a pronunciation lesson in the cab coming in from the airport. Every gens in the world, except the French, is pleased when you try to speak or learn their language.)

Backing up a bit: I had a brief scare when the Mongolian immigration card they hand you on the Seoul-Ulaanbaatar flight turned out to contain a space for "visa number." I had been told I didn't need a visa. But when I got off the plane (the airport here is small but perfectly modern, btw), there was a visa booth right near the passport control desks. Seeing me looking around in perplexity, a friendly Mongolian visa officer who had evidently studied English at the New York Police Academy waved me into the booth. Looking as Mongolian as Chinggis but talking like one of my old pals down at Puglia in Little Italy, he said, "U.S. passport don' need no visa for a short visit. But if ya stay longer'n toity days, it's gonna cost ya!" Smile, wink. And I'm on my way.

My students here are mostly Mongolian; a few of them speak fairly good English. Others are Korean, and there's one young lady named Caroline who's from Cameroon. She speaks English and French.

My hotel? It's in an old building but it's completely refurbished inside. It lacks little of what the Best Western Incheon had. Way better than an average American Super-8, if that gives you any perspective. It even has that "insert card here" doodad for the lights, except that the appropriate card seems to permanently inserted in it, and we guests have traditional keys (and can control the lights via knobs near the bed). The place is in an unpromising side street -- an alleyway, really -- but it's right near two of the city's main boulevards, and a five-minute walk to the Ikh Khural (parliament) and the National University of Mongolia (NUM), where I teach in the morning.

Right now I'm in an upstairs office at NUM, and I can see from the window the cafe where we're going to have lunch, and the Cuban embassy. I can also see a building that's a poster-child for Soviet-era disrepair, but there are also spanking new modern office buildings.

Oh and it's cool here. Elevation is about 1000 feet above sea level, and you can see mountains just north of town.

More later if possible. If I get a mid-morning break in this particular office, I may be able to blog every day. If not, not. Till next time, Chinggis Khan wants you!