Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Our return to Colorado marked three events – the return from our “long way home” through September, a return from an exciting and rewarding two and a half years in Asia, and the end soon to this blog. Our long trip home and our time in Asia made the world smaller for us. We looked into the eyes of people living their lives in many different ways, yet the looking and the smiling brought us closer.  On our return to the USA from Asia, many people asked us about our “vacation of a lifetime” as we attempted to travel from Singapore to Colorado with as few air miles as possible. Ricky said many times that this was not a vacation, but a journey.  A journey both physical - as we rode the rails across two continents - and emotional – as we entered more than just a new life chapter, but a
Part 4, with many chapters left to be written. Air travel has opened up this world to so much accessible exploration.  And, we have taken full advantage of it while based in Singapore.  This past month, rolling through the spectacular mountains north of Beijing, running parallel to the portions of the Great Wall rarely seen, and waking to camels in the eastern Gobi grasslands pacing to the 

speed of our Mongolian train, created an awe in us as we became aware that this was to be a different experience from a regular holiday based on air travel.  We were best prepared for Mongolia where we knew what
we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it.  The Gobi surpassed all expectations yet Ulaanbaatar surprised us with the vibrancy of the Mongolian urbanites and the intimacy of Mongolian Buddhism.  We bumbled into our weeks in Russia with little preparation other than train tickets and an equal number of days off the train winging it.  Yet, we stumbled onto a vast pristine wilderness, hundreds of miles of golden aspens and birch, jaw-dropping palaces and churches, and wandered through a forest, practicing the time-honored Russian tradition of picking wild berries and mushrooms.  We also traveled across 8000 km of Trans-Mongolian and Trans-Siberian rails, likely built and maintained by the enemies of the Soviets between 1919 and 1960 who were imprisoned in forced labor camps. Our faces were not buried in books as we expected but in the windows looking at a world we could not imagine.  We think we saw many of these gulags that had evolved into small towns along the route. And we
coasted out of Russia across the Baltic Sea through the striking archipelagos of Finland and Sweden on a Russian ferry where we were the only Americans on board. We certainly could have continued on the surface of the planet, but public transit options became sketchy and we wanted to begin the second chapter of Part 4.
We are thankful of new friends we made in Singapore who have enriched our life, and of old friends who have launched brand new dimensions within us. Singapooch is home to about 140 posts during our time in Asia and our return to the US. We have been astonished at the approximately 10,000 page views over the past three years. Thanks to all of you who have travelled along with us and enhanced our experiences with your comments.
In Tim Burton’s 1988 movie ‘Beetlejuice’, the Deetz family moved into the house of the suddenly deceased Maitlands.  The Deetz’s battled with the ghosts of the Maitlands’ for most of the movie only to reconcile at the end into a productive coexistence. We’ve changed from our
experiences – hopefully for the better- and in many ways we are both the Maitlands and the Deetzs – we are moving back into a house that was occupied by people who no longer who they were. We will work hard to take the best of the Daly’s who lived in this house until March, 2011 and the new Daly’s moving in from equatorial Asia.  There will be adjustments, but we are grateful to all our friends who make us feel like nothing has ever changed and have taken us as we are.

Why is Ricky Not Smiling?

No, toothy smile??

After never having to have any serious dental work performed because of her lifetime of excellent home care, Ricky needed a dental implant.  Maybe from a face plant on the ski hill years ago, maybe too much rough play with a special Labrador Retriever – the tooth could not be saved.  A few weeks before our long ride home, she got the treatment and was fitted with a temporary tooth that gave her a magnificent smile. Weeks later, on a stunning ridge at the northern edge of the Gobi in Mongolia, the temp tooth was more comfortable in a Mongolian vegetable dumpling rather than her jaw.  No pain, no risk
The Scene of the Crime
of infection, but Ricky wasn’t comfortable looking like a Russian hockey player.  We created cover stories (‘She lost it in a bar fight in Beijing” seemed to have the most traction), tried to call on a satellite phone to her dentist for advice, and the magnificent smiling stopped.  Well, at least slowed and mutated into a wide grin with lips firmly together.  Five days later, Ricky was in a chair with a Mongolian dentist who was very taken with the implant.  It is not certain how many implants have been enjoyed by the fine residents of the Mongolia capital – yet, she fitted Ricky’s tooth with surgical SuperGlue (really, the same as regular SuperGlue). $30.   Ricky asked her for some spare surgical glue, you know, just in case. A Premonition  “No, No, No!” the dentist said.  Ricky could smile again!  A week later, now in this beautiful place – and on
The Sun Rises for the last time on a full smile
our 17th wedding anniversary no less – all the work of that fine dentist in Ulan Bator was lost when the tooth again escaped into some hamachi sashimi. Back came the sheepish grin, and a speaking style best described as one sees when one is giving painful testimony before a congressional watchdog committee.  We pressed on to St. Petersburg where, five days later, we found an international dental clinic in the shadow of the Savior of the Spilled Blood Cathedral.  International, except that they only spoke Russian.  We searched for regular SuperGlue all over this city of 5 million but only found small bottles with cyrillic writing and a 
No, Ricky!  Don't make me do it!
poison tag. “No, No, No!” I said.  Ricky researched Russian for “tooth” (zoob), “glue” and “implant” – but found a less cooperative dentist here. “No gluing, but I’ll make you a full crown for a few hundred US” was the gist of what Ricky could understand.  The grimace and pained speech pattern continued, now coupled with a look of someone who just suffered a small TIA.  But the beauty of St. Petersburg, sailing the Baltic Sea, a day in Helsinki, the gorgeous archipelagos of Stockholm, and an upgraded flight to the US, occasionally brought the magnificent smile back from time to time. Without the temp tooth, but beautiful to me.  The grimace in all its glory returned upon landing in Newark – but for all the right reasons. I mean, Newark! Two days after our return, so did the tooth in its rightful position.
Oh, this is far from a Russian  Hockey player

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The гэр of the Mongolian grasslands

The Gers at Three Camel Lodge

The Mongolian гэр (ger) are all over Mongolia and we saw them frequently in the Buryat (autonomous) Republic in Russia north of current day Mongolia.  These are a construction and cultural marvel.   More commonly known to us as yurts, these are called “ гэр “, pronounced “ger”  in Mongolian, meaning “home”.  They really haven’t changed much in over eight hundred years and date back over three
the Basics - partitioned floors and lattice
thousand years -  as long as the nomadic life in Mongolia has been, and remains, the centerpiece of their culture. “I was born in a ger and I will die in a ger”, from an urban Mongolian we spoke with.   
They are the home of choice for the nomadic people of Mongolian who follow their herds of horses, cows, yak, sheep, goats, lamb and camels as they follow the grasses and grazing lands.  In a land like this with a harsh continental climate (90F in Summer, -30F in Winter), the grazing
No nails - all secured
 with cured tendons
herds need to keep moving to find enough feed. Why roam?  Take the USA as an example.  In the lush Mississippi basin, ranchers plan for two cows per acre in a managed pasture to sustain a healthy herd.  In drier Southeast Colorado, those same two cows need about 75 acres.  Go north to drier and higher climates with shorter growing seasons,
sections secured with
tendon ropes
maybe 150 acres of growing grass for those two cows. Mongolian nomads have no concept of this math.  They have the whole of the Gobi, the sea of grasses, with lands of no fences and no land ownership.  We were told that today over 800,000 Mongolians are nomadic herders that live in many of the same ways already well established by the time of the clans of
The structures is supported by
horse mane rope strengthening
the round walls
Genghis Khan in the 12th century.  Their gers up quickly, pack tightly, pulled by a yak cart (old school) or Toyota pickup (new school), are incredibly stable and quiet in the ferocious Gobi winds, and warm?  Well, maybe.  No windows to let in the cold air, but the ventilation stack at the top center of the ger is open to vent the stove that is the center of activity in the nomadic ger.
The center roof support
stove vent on the south
  We stayed in five as we drove over a thousand miles around Mongolia and visited two nomadic families (blogged in earlier posts). Our nights dipped into the 40’s F
85 roof beams come from the center cap
and we woke to gers with interior temps in the 50’s F.  Our stoves were tourist accessories – used for heating, if you asked, and not for cooking – and fueled with wood.  Wood never lasted through the night and the nomads use dried dung and coal – unfriendly oders perhaps to western visitors.  Those stoves last the night.   The construction without nails and, as is typical with the nomadic culture, uses as much from the animals they herd as
and radiate out to the top of
the lattice walls
possible; ropes from horse manes, ties for the lattice work  from cured tendons and muscle, and felt covering from the wool from goats and sheep. All that felt keeps em quiet in the wind!  One night I awoke thinking, “hmmm.  I don’t recall putting in ear plugs like I was wearing
Outside - wrap with felt, secure with
horse ropes, and load down
with rock weights
on the train…”.  I hadn’t.  We liked them enough to talk over whether we want one for some property we have in southern Colorado.  You can spend well over $10,000 for ones constructed in Montrose, about 2,000 euro for ones from Scandinavia, or we can return to Ulaanbaatar and buy a kit for $1,000 and ship it back!  I am not quite sure how our homeowners association may take to this…..
Inside - a quiet heaven