Monday, August 07, 2006

The Steppe Inne

On Friday, I was invited by one of said older banker persons to the Steppe Inne, which was described as "like an eating club." As someone who is more used to eating ramen than anything, I was a little intimidated before going, and the barbed wire, guest list and mandatory i.d. check didn't help any.

As it turns out, the Steppe Inn is the British Embassy's kind of private bar, and, on weekends in the summer, they have relaxed barbeques....for people on their guest list.

I was talking to the woman flipping burgers (it's embassy staffers and their spouses that do the cooking) and she said the Steppe Inne opened in September 1988, which is really early (still Soviet-era) and even before the Peace Corps arrived (they're at year 17). Early in the sense that I was amazed there were enough of a scene in Mongolia at that time to warrant an exclusive bar at an embassy. I expressed surprise, because there is a bar on every corner in UB, and Mongolians are notorious for their vodka-swigging, and so she said, "well, you know, it was because there was nowhere to drink here then." Then she got kind of embarrassed, and I realized she meant there had been nowhere for Westerners to drink without Mongolians around.

The crowd at the Steppe Inne was mostly British Embassy folk, American embassy people, UN staffers, and people from the World Bank crowd. There was one Mongolian there. He seemed to know no one, and, spotting me (I can only assume) as someone else seemingly out of their element, came up to me and, finding out I was from New York, asked if I had ever climbed to the top of the Statue of Liberty (I had) and how many steps it took (I had no idea). The only other non-White person there was, randomly, the owner of one of the best Indian restaurants in town.

As someone who has now been on the guest list, I can apply to be a guest member of the Inne, provided I get my boss to write a letter attesting that I do work here, fill out the application form, photocopy my passport, and provide them with two passport photographs. We'll see.

Oh, and when I was talking about the expat scene, I forgot to mention the Christian scene. It's huge here. Most older Mongolians are Buddhist, but a decent percentage of the younger generation is converting. The Mormon Church is the only church here legally allowed to proselytize, but there are a lot of different christian groups here that do less proselytizing, but maintain large public exposure by owning some of the big television stations, working with homeless kids, and generally doing a lot of civil projects around the country.


At 7:29 PM, Blogger samraat said...


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