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Summer of 2014 – Latvia (Part 1 of 2)

Hello everyone!

It’s been a very busy summer. We were away from Mongolia for 6 and a half weeks, in Latvia and Greece.

I’ll make a separate entry for both countries, though I took far more photos in Greece. Latvia was incredibly beautiful, but it rained most of the time we were there.

We arrived shortly before Līgo, Latvia’s midsummer holiday. It was very fortunate for us, because I love beer, and my wife loves good food, as you could expect any European holiday to have.

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Myself and my father-in-law, Eugene. We’ve got this covered.

Līgo was a great time, and by great, I mean we sat around a cottage house eating, drinking, and walking or driving around the countryside to eat and drink some more.

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Latvians know how to do smoked fish. Delicious.

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Poppies

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Stuck selling Līgo wreaths in the rain…

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Of course one of the great things about Europe are the old-world markets, and Latvia didn’t disappoint.

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You can imagine how good this cheese bread was when it came out of the oven.

You can imagine how good this cheese bread was when it came out of the oven.

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You can drink local beer right in the market. Canada... you have a long way to go.

You can drink local beer right in the market. Or take it away.

Riga is a very modern city, with the usual international brand stores. Here is some of the old city, which was incorporated in the year 1201 (although many of the buildings date at around 1900.)

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And of course, since Riga is a post-communist port city… what would any children’s playground be without a little fun on the back of a dying soldier?

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We had a great time in Riga despite the constant rain. It took a little getting used to for the sky to be “day lit” up until or past midnight, and made it hard to sleep since it came back up just a few hours later.

I have no idea where we’ll live next on our international agenda… but the food and beer alone has put Riga on the list.

Next:
Summer of 2014 (Part 2 of 2) – Greece: from Crete to Athens

 

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Posted by on August 12, 2014 in Life Abroad

 

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Spring in Mongolia

April showers bring May flowers!

Not quite, here.

Sandstorms and snowstorms in a twelve hour period bring havoc to sinuses and traffic.

It’s springtime in Mongolia, which is not as good as it sounds, but is still better than the cold, dark winter.

Just a couple of months ago we were going to work in the dark and coming home as the sun went down. The thermometer was frozen for a few months at around -32 Celsius, and the burnt, raw coal pollution was a thick, heavy fog on most mornings. I’ve been fighting sinus infections and respiratory illnesses since November. Such is the price of coming here with healthy lungs, the doctor has told me.

It was 20 degrees Celsius last week. Today it’s -8 with 6cm of snow on the ground. This is spring in Mongolia. “Don’t be surprised if you see snow until June,” I’ve been told.

My Canadian compatriots have been all over social media for the last month whining about the same thing. That they were fortunate enough to have some warm weather in April, and then complained in epic proportions when they got a reminder that winter is not quite finished. They seem to have forgotten that they live in CANADA, a northern country where one might expect winter to keep a few surprises. I feel somehow that the Mongolians could teach the Canadians a thing or two about heartiness.

It’s been a mostly quiet winter for us. Previous posts have highlighted some of our winter activities – dogsledding in Terelj National Park, seeking out the rare Takhi in Khustain National Park, and attending high end fashion shows. I was able to order some new studio toys and have a few photo sessions, but mostly I’m just looking forward to a few projects I’ve been lining up. I’ll write more on those as they happen later.

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Spring in Mongolia – life in Mongolia is not for the faint-hearted. I’ve had good days and bad days – mostly stemming from successes and frustrations at work, and adjusting to the… ahem… laidbackedness of Mongolian culture. Some days I get frustrated, and other days I have patience. For the most part I’ve continued to learn more about myself during this process, as living in foreign culture can do.

I’ve DJed semi-regularly at various clubs around Ulaanbaatar, with some hits and some misses. It can be difficult to understand the musical tastes of cultures that are not your own, and as a result, it can often be difficult to find the right venue the play the music I’d really like to play. Mongolia’s scene has heavily featured trance music in recent years, but from my own experiences, it seems to be quickly transitioning into a large demand for hip hop and pop music. In times like this, I like to offer something a little different, or I just make my own mixes to fill a void on the radar.

I’ve made some great friends, and have begun to develop a rapport with some local models.

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Tseku, Bela and I have done a few shoots together, and as I meet more people here, I look forward to more interesting projects. As previously mentioned, I have a few projects lined up this spring, and hope to get them started in the coming weeks.

In the meantime… summer is coming at some point, and every day inches closer to it. We’ll be enjoying a great summer in the sun, and of course, there will be a trove of photos to come of that later. It’s been a while since I’ve done a photoshoot with my beautiful wife Maria, and I have a few fun ideas lined up for her in mid-summer.

I hope all of you are well, and are finding the will to survive the extended winter. 🙂

To follow any photography updates, you can follow me at https://www.facebook.com/chrisdwyerphotography.

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2014 in Life Abroad

 

Pride of Mongolia Fashion Show

Some highlights from an exquisite show at Marquee 27 on January 17, 2014.

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Posted by on January 23, 2014 in Life Abroad

 

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Dogsledding in Terelj National Park, Mongolia

We went dog sledding and horseback riding on the Tuul River in Terelj National Park. It was a little intense at times, but well worth the experience. The dogs aren’t as vicious as they look in the photos, they were just really, really anxious to get running.

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Attentive Dogs

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Horses

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Posted by on December 30, 2013 in Life Abroad

 

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Khustain Nuruu National Park

Today we visited the Tahki, horses that were native to Mongolia and teetered on the brink of extinction in the last century. They had been reintroduced to Mongolia and can now be found (with a patient eye) in the National Park.

More on the horses here.

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Posted by on December 23, 2013 in Life Abroad

 

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Ulaanbaatar Fashion Week

Here are some highlights from Ulaanbaatar Fashion Week, which took place on November 23 – November 25, 2013. Presented by Urlakh Erdem Fashion Design Institute.

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Posted by on November 26, 2013 in Life Abroad

 

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Mongolia – So Far

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Well we’ve been in Mongolia a little over two months now. Mostly in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, but with a few trips out to the countryside.

We came here specifically for two purposes. Jobs, and to live in my next novel. Some years back, I worked with a great team of artists, photographers and writers to build the City of Necropolis, an online graphic novel built from our imaginations and limited only by what we could photograph around southern Ontario. I have long wanted to return to Necropolis in novel form, and Ulaanbaatar is the perfect place to rebuild that world.

The city here is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. It is a city on the edge of raw, where gridlocked cars thrust themselves forward with reckless abandon to gain a few metres in immovable traffic. Elderly men and women roam the city in traditional deels, while the young wear designer clothing. Women traverse eroded and erupted sidewalks in heels. From many places in the city you can see the ger camps that look like shanty towns peppered over the brown hillsides. Now that the winter is setting in, the smell of burnt coal from the camps is filling the air, beginning the toxic season where UB’s air becomes among the most polluted in the world. This city is built between hill ranges, and as the smog accumulates under the hard winter sky, the acrid air has nowhere to go but down into the lungs of the urban Mongolians and expatriates who have come here for various reasons.

Last year we lived in South Korea. The two countries could not be more different. In Korea, I always felt mindful of the proud sense of artificiality that pervaded the newly developed modern culture there. Cosmetic surgery, cream-whitened faces, all of the newest gadgets, and the height of artificiality; the k-pop industry. Koreans seem to revel in the two-dimensionality of their popular culture, and much of developing Asia looks on with admiration – like a little sister watching her older sister coming of age as she leaves the house all dressed up for her first cheer leading practice. To some extent, Mongolia does as well, but when I ask my students what they think of k-pop, many are not impressed. Although this culture has been growing and experimenting with these more modern expressions of new wealth, they remain deeply rooted in a visceral reality that they are reminded of every time they step outside their apartments.

The food here reflects that reality. Potato, turnip, beets, carrots, mutton. And repeat. Fermented mare’s milk. Delicacies made of dried milk, that though sour, provide a sweet aftertaste that makes you start to enjoy it just a few nibbles in. I’ve found myself eating and drinking things that I never thought I would have tried (though I did pass on the sheep innards and marmot – an animal known to carry bubonic plague. Not to mention it’s on the endangered list.)

Mongolia is a frontier in that little-known place between Asia and Russia. To the south; the developing tiger that is China. To the north, the vast wilderness of Siberia. The trains that pass directly behind our soviet-style apartment block every day serve as a constant reminder of this juxtaposition; coal comes from one direction, giant trees shaved and lain flat come from the other. Passenger trains take people from Asia toward Europe, if they travel the full four days to Moscow.

There’s much more that could be said; but for those who have been asking, I just wanted to give a brief overview of what life has been like here. Here are some images to fill in more of the blanks.

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Posted by on October 12, 2013 in Life Abroad

 

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