Even though there was some interesting movement (or non-movement from another perspective) on the mining agreement this last week, I unfortunately have no new updates at this point. That's because I was out of the loop for five days of relaxation in the khuduu (countryside).
I returned to Khotont Soum in Arkhangai Aimag where I was a teacher from 2002 to 2004. A lot has changed there since my last visit in the fall. New babies born, gas stations erected, a paved road laid, other improvements here and there. But, I was also sad to learn that my dog Bankhar passed away about 10 days before I arrived. He was an strong old soul, and accounts of age are arguably questionable in the countryside, but he was approximately 18 years old! That is fairly amazing for any type of dog in any type of environment, and that's 18 Mongolian winters outside! True, horses can live that long, and they do it outside, but somehow dogs get a little more credit for doing it because they generally live a more pampered life than livestock.
Bankhar was notoriously vicious to strangers and lovably sweet to those living in the khashaa (fenced in yard). Once in the middle of the night a jeep arrived at our khashaa to call upon the school director for some reason (I lived in a ger next to the director's house), and Bankhar literally jumped up on the hood of the jeep barking and spitting all over the windshield. No one in the vehicle would get out to pound on the gate, so they slowly backed up the jeep until Bankhar jumped off and then drove away. The story was relayed to us the next day by the driver of the jeep, and we all agreed that Bankhar was not to be messed with. At the same time, he was there every morning to greet me and was always ready for a little play. I felt very secure having him around.
My former school director is not one to get taken by sentimentality, but last week he spoke at length about how great a dog Bankhar was. He talked about how impressive it was for him to live so long and how both his strength as a guard dog and kindness as friend made him great. I have to agree. Rest in peace, Bankhar.