We returned to the bus at the appointed time, and headed for the Cultural Show. This is always a highlight of our stay in Ulaanbaatar, and I'm looking forward to it. We are not as early as I'd have liked, and end up sitting in the back. Next year, if I'm along, I'm going to push for getting there very early, so as to get a front-row seat. However, Eloise and I had a pretty good perch where we were seated. We were up a bit high, and the way the benches were arranged there was no one directly in front of us. We were on the last row, so the wall behind us was a welcome backrest. Also, I had a good place to park my left foot and found a comfortable position for my knee. I managed to get a few pretty decent pictures, too.
These young girls are able to twist their bodies into shapes that make your back hurt just to observe them. Their joints are so loose that I don't understand how they can even stand up. You'd think they would just collapse, like a marionette with the strings cut. They're extremely graceful, every motion is fluid and smooth. I'm sure they've trained since they were toddlers. You don't get that limber overnight.
Some of the entertainment seems strange to Westerners. There's a type of singing that is enjoyed by Asians, but that gets on our last Western nerve. It's a high, shrill keening which is no doubt very difficult to do, but which has the effect of fingernails on a blackboard to us. As I told Eloise, just a few more minutes of that singing, and I'd have confessed to being Jack the Ripper.
The music is different, too. Some very familiar pieces were played, some of the classics, but they sound very different when played on Asian instruments. I have to admit, I liked it. The music is strange, but pretty. There were some dance numbers, which apparently tell a story, and involve highly stylized and intricate steps and posturings, and very elaborate costumes. Then, of course, there was the throat singer.
If you read last year's journal, I told about the throat singer then, too. Throat singing is unique to Mongolia, and I'm not sure of the origin. It's very strange, and only a few individuals have mastered it. It involves a technique whereby two tones are produced at the same time, by one voice. I compare it to the sound you get when you whistle or hum in front of a fan. You hear a double tone, something to do with the Doppler effect, as the sound you are producing is bounced back to you at the same time. That's how the throat singing sounds. Two different tones, produced at once. I don't know how they do it, but it's very interesting. They aren't able to sustain it, it sort of pops in and out as they sing, but it's interesting, nevertheless.
After the cultural show, we went to dinner. We were ready! We've been here before, last year, and remember that the food is good. We were seated at a long table, and Eloise and I were fortunate to have Batsengel and Oyuka (Bubba and Bubbette) seated across from us. Oyuka is charming, well-educated and very nice. Her English is excellent, we had a good conversation, and enjoyed our time with them immensely.
Dinner was good, and the highlight was dessert. An ice-cream sundae! Yep, complete with a cherry on top. It was so good! Our bus driver was seated near us, and left before we were finished, saying he didn't want dessert. Well, no problem. Batsengel wasn't about to let that sundae go to waste, so he ate it! Oyuka just looked heavenward, stating that "he eats like that all the time!" It's just delightful to see them so happy together.
After dinner, we returned to the hotel, anticipating a good night's sleep. Big surprise! Our beds were as hard as marble. The floor couldn't have been harder, and indeed, I considered relocating, but decided against it. I found myself longing for my almost-as-hard, lumpy bed in Darkhan. At least I had learned how to conform to the lumps. This bed was just unbelievably hard. I told Eloise I was afraid to go to sleep, because I feared having a nightmare about being dead and laid out on a slab! It would be too believable. I don't recall the beds being like this when we stayed here last year. A good slab salesman must have come through!
Finally, through an effort of will and mind, and with fatigue a very strong factor, we managed to get to sleep. We'll be up early in the morning, to catch our plane to China.
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