Steve McKechnie - News from the North

Wednesday 16 January 2013

Steve McKechnie - News from the North

Merry Xmas and Happy New Year from Mongolia to all our family and friends in FNQ. I hope everyone had a nice relaxing time and enjoyed the best the tropics have to offer including all that fantastic seafood!
My wife and I experienced our first ever White Christmas. We celebrated in the South Gobi with our Mongolian and Expat friends and colleagues, and while prawns and Corona’s were not on the menu, the roast turkey with cranberry sauce was with warm red wine in the evenings to help keep the cold at bay.

It is a bit strange reading all the press on the heat wave and bushfires in Australia at the moment when we are getting excited if we get a day that is warmer than -20.
Christmas is not a traditional Mongolian celebration and has no historical or religious significance to the majority of Mongolians but they have certainly warmed to the celebration with Christmas decorations and Christmas lights everywhere, and really enjoy the social side of it and celebrating with us.
Of far greater significance in Mongolia is the New Year celebration which is huge, and as expected in this part of the world, always includes lots of fireworks with both organised displays and just as many random fireworks shows for a week either side of New Year at any time of the night.
There is a real sense of looking forward to the new year rather than any reflection on the past year.
From an astrological perspective it would appear that in Mongolia, 2013 is the Year of the Female, with the element of Water and the animal Snake so this year it's 'Female Water Snake'. Not sure what to make of that, I will have to read up on it!
2013 will be a busy year for my wife and I, with several trips back to Australia to visit our new grandson at Wonga Beach who is by far the cutest baby born in North Queensland in the last year! (NOT a biased opinion)

I am also in the planning stages for a 500km horse ride from Ulaanbaatar down to the South Gobi on the tough little Mongolian ponies in May.
I would also like to fit in a few trips to try and land a Mongolian Taimen which is one of the world’s biggest fresh water fish. Unfortunately, like most people, work keeps getting in the way of my recreational activities.
In 2013 we are also looking forward to a visit from friends from FNQ who are coming over for the Naadam Festival in summer. I am looking forward to getting them out to the country and stretching their comfort zones with some salty tea, fermented mares milk and dried yogurt, as well as letting them see the traditional hospitality and culture of the herders first hand. They are truly an amazing people.
One of the most important things that will be happening for us in 2013 is continuing to support the 'Children of the Peak' project in Ulaanbaatar which is a small, family run charity trust looking after the children of some of the most disenfranchised people in Mongolia.

There is a large population that make a living scavenging at the rubbish dump in -30 degree temperatures. There are several children in this group that were actually left at the dump as babies and found by a woman who has taken them in as her own.

For those people in Port Douglas who have never travelled anywhere particularly cold, the winters here are much colder than your freezer will ever get. Can you imagine scavenging in a rubbish dump wearing clothes you found at the dump in that sort of weather?

I have seen one family burning the old shoes they found at the dump in their stove to cook on and keep their one room hut warm because they do not have any fire wood and cannot afford to buy coal.
Check out the Veloo Foundation web page or contact me if you are interested in helping with, or supporting this need in any way.

The pictures in this article are some of the kids we are helping by supporting this charity.
If anyone is considering a trip over this way and is after any specific information or advise please feel free to contact me and I will assist where I can.
Till next time
Steve McKechnie