Nicholas Quirke was back on his mission 2 February 2020, to locate and buy Facemasks, hand gel, wipes. He had a limited supply and was using a surgical mask underneath his pollution mask, hoping that this dual war against germs infiltrating his system would work as protection. He hoped not to regret going out into the city, but with so few people around he still felt strangely safe. He had never been one for crowds, and the deserted streets had a great appeal for him. The promised snow had fallen and though it clearly wasnt going to stay around, it did give a magical quality to the Hutong. He had decided to wear his GoPro attached to his chest. It seemed easier than having it on a selfie stick. When he finally saw the results and discovered he had inadvertently left it running for 90 mind blowingly dull minutes, it seemed to reflect the flavour off the day. When it should have been off it was on and when on it was off. Today though, his intentions were to conquer the subway and work out how to negotiate the lines. Despite what he had read, the subway seemed to make sense and a new confidence gave him energy. He had help from his new friend, Peng who directed him to a supermarket and was in fact going to meet him there, so armed with an apple map, he knew what steps to take. Firstly though he had to get a transit pass to give him the freedom to move around the city on any form of transport, including the bikes, with which he had always associated the city. After attempting a little Mandarin and finding he was not making himself understood, he resorted to mime with a litttle more luck. The station was empty except for the guards who checked his temperature and let him through. Passing through every checkpoint, thermal detector pointed at his head was a relief. Not that he had any symptoms of the virus, but with so many layers And thermals to beat the cold he seriously felt over heated and was convinced that the sauna like conditions underneath his anorak was going to result in immediate quarantine. He got on the right train going in the right direction, though once WiFi connection was lost he was a little adrift, and was delighted when he reached the station. He almost bounded with pride off the carriage, he located exit F and got to the entrance at exactly the appointed time. No Peng. No Supermarket in Sight and he was surprised to see the Temple Of Heaven lurking in the mist. After a few minutes he looked at the name of the station and realised he had got off a stop too early. Fortunately Peng had had the patience to wait for him and after hellos and introductions through gloves and face masks they went into the Supermarket. It was large but there were no masks, and no hand gel and only wipes for the bottom, though he did buy those as a safety measure Peng felt uneasy about being in the market, though it was by no means busy, and as soon as they both had purchased what was needed they left. Nicholas suggested a tea somewhere but being in a public place made Peng uncomfortable and they parted ways. Nicholas to walk back 5 kilometres to the hotel. Half way and feeling weary he found an interesting coffee house and stopped for a green tea. At some point during settling down he accidentally started his GoPro which recorded the whole of his visit. except of course, the moments he wanted to record. He did find though a moment where he tried to work out how to drink his tea and had to be helped by the waiter, who then persisted in topping him up every time the mug emptied. Nicholas finally discovered the power of ‘No’. and went on his way. Tired and eager to get some food as once again he had not eaten he got the subway to his local market and settled again for noodles and garlic peas. He also called in to Family Mart to get a drink and discovered they sold a crisp similar in style to Pringles, but Avocado & mustard and Beetroot & Coconut flavours. Come on Pringles, he thought, get creative and get these delicious snacks on the shelves of British stores. He caught up with the latest news on the Virus and was pleased to see that the consulates advice was still recommending staying safe and protected and leaving China if in the Hubei province or if feeling unsafe. He felt safe in Beijing if he was careful. He made his film even though it was poor and wrote his blog. He spoke with Wei who was now not coming to Beijing until Wednesday. He had felt abandoned when he had arrived in China but now he already felt a little settled and with more job opportunities arriving through the InterNations app, apartments, apparently readily available with friends and contacts growing, he was starting to feel this could work. He chatted an bit more with his new friend, messaged his tenant and contacted his sister to help get the electricians in. It had been a bit of a messy day and now it was time for another Avocado and Mustard crisp.
Nicholas Quirke was feeling so relieved to have awaken knowing he had arrived in Beijing , to have eaten something and to have slept fitfully, that all thoughts of Coronavirus and how deadly it might appear seemed, after the arduous evening he had endured, to be of minor consequence. It was, however, of great significance when he came to get ready to go out and get himself sorted with money and some shopping. Dominic from InterNations got in touch and they had a great conversation about where to get certain things and where he might eat. He also added him to the expats chat, to Hutong Apartment chat and to the social network site. Even though Wei was stuck in Sichuan, he received enough help to get himself around. He was also welcomed by a Chinese advocate for the site Peng, who also gave him some good advice on shopping and Vegan food. He was delighted to receive message from his fellow travellers on the Express and relieved to hear from India and Elinor, who had to change their plans as no trains were allowed into Tibet. They were on a stopover in. South Korea before heading to Kathmandu and they were fine. Qui was on her way to Melbourne so he sadly would not see her in Beijing and Lyusaku was back in Japan, heading off to Firenze and another art education. Slava and Keszinya were still safe in Ulan-Barton but they were planning on Joining him in Beijing. Up to date with everyone, he set off, wearing a surgical mask and his face mask, his thermals and with hand gel and wipes, to find a bank, shops, protection and some proper food. Tasty as the noodles were the night before he was going to need something a little more substantial. As he walked to the bank following his route of the previous evening, he noticed that the area he was in had been the Olympic village from the 2008 games. Relieved to have money in his hand he walked into the main shopping area noticing that there was hardly any one at all out on the streets. Everyone that was had a face mask and were protective of their space. It looked vaguely apocalyptic, as if at any moment the walking dead might appear. He felt safe with so little traffic and people around, no one to jostle and push and crowd him out. He tried several department stores and couldn’t find anywhere to that sold face masks, or hand gel and the only placed open to eat that looked inviting and encouraging was the familiar sight of a Costa Coffee. After wiping down the table he sat and had a green tea, relieved to remove the face masks which were really uncomfortable and hot he was able to communicate with Wei in Sichuan, who recommended a good supermarket for him to go to tomorrow. It would mean negotiating the subway, but he could get himself a transit card, which meant he would be able to travel on busses, subways and even bikes. Nicholas found a supermarket where he was able toi buy moth was, more noodles, water and discovered an interesting g looking snack of garlic flavoured peas. He walked home via the Hutong that was opposite his hotel. It was very different from the smart location he had been in two years ago and seemed very run down and fairly dystopian, its winding streets and iregulatr buildings seemed a little baffling though his innate sense of direction bought him Back to the hotel without any problems. He had a field day with the photographs and managed to capture a grimmer world than the reality actually was.. When he got back to the hotel and WiFi, he had also failed to get a Sim, a message was waiting for him from his tenant regarding the boiler. It was going to mean getting the electricians in again. He also had a message from Peng asking if her had managed to get anything, which of course was a ‘No’ and made him feel suddenly inadequate. It was nice to have someone looking out for him and he enjoyed the chat. He ate his noodles and then discovered that the Garlic Flavoured Peas were just about the tastiest snack ever. After some writing he prepared his money and himself for the next day of adapting to life in the quiet, deserted streets of Beijing,
Nicholas Quirke was relieved to have reached China on 31 January 2020 and despite all the horror stories about the virus and the devastation it was causing he felt peaceful and calm and as the train chugged its way through the landscapes of the orient he was thankful he had decided to press on with his plans. He was disappointed that his friend Wei, who had gone to home in Sichuan for New Year, was now not going to be at Beijing to meet him at the station, particularly as he wanted to avoid another taxi wrangle. Initially on waking up, much of the scenery felt familiar, particularly from his ride on a bullet train to Xian two years previously and he was content to let the scenery, the landscape, the agriculture, farms, and houses, the cities and industry and tower blocks pass by him and feel the pleasure of being in a truly foreign land. However, he was not prepared for the grandeur, the scale and the beauty of the mountain passes that he found himself travelling through. The most thrilling gorges he had ever seen kept opening up as train 24 disappeared into tunnels blasted into the searing mountain‘S escarpments. The photographs and video did nothing to capture the sheer scale and beauty. Completely jaw dropping and he didn’t know what to do., film it, Photograph it, just sit and absorb it. In fact, the range seemed to go on so long, he got to Participate in all those activities. The conductor came and told Nicholas that he needed to fill in two forms for the rail company. It was in Chinese, so between them both they worked out the information that was needed and the conductor completed the form. He found it difficult to relax the last 30 minutes of the ride and felt maudlin that this stage had come to an end. He might be in Beijing for a while and Even put down some roots, if he got a job though with the Virus situation he may not last long. As he got descended from the carriage he could see that he was in fact, the only person on the Train. The station seemed unnaturally dead. Before he had left Moscow he had been in touch with a social networking group for ExPats Called InterNations. As a new member he was assigned a Person to welcome him, Dominic. Nicholas had asked some questions about Money and he had signed up for Alipay but the response had not been terribly helpful, particularly as on arriving in Beijing he only had the equivalent of £12, thanks to Rita, and he was not sure where his hotel was located in relation to the station he had arrived at And would he have enough to get a taxi. He had two major tasks ahead of him and the first was to get some money so he could get to the hotel and get some food as he had not eaten since the day before when he had the remaining roll and cookies and fruit Left over from his breakfasts. The second was to get himself a Sim so he could get connected to the internet. He dragged his suitcase round the forecourt trying to get a bank or some place where he could get money. This took about an hour in which once again he was beset by taxi drivers. He did have the wisdom to check how much he would have to pay. And when he was told 160 yuan he knew that a proper taxi would be a lot less. At one point he was talking to another taxi Driver when 3 of them harassed him and he went into a mime about being intimidated and they laughed at him. He joined the queue and was still being harassed. By the time he got to the front they had left him alone and as he was about to get the next taxi the guys organising the queue asked where he was going and then grabbed his bag and said I will take you. ‘I want a proper taxi’ he shouted, “I am a proper taxi” the man retorted and Nicholas’s bag was in the car. “How much?”, “170” , “It’s not that much” “Yes it is” I don’t have that”. “How much have you got?”, Nicholas had lost the battle he was paying the Yuan he had and being conned by yet another Taxi driver. He wasn’t even going to get a snack with what he had left. He asked the receptionist at the hotel where he could get some money and she directed him to the top of the road he also asked where he could eat. He got to the room and collapsed from the stress of it all. He set off to find a bank, The streets were empty, the one he was directed to was closed and he walked and walked till night fell, and he still hadn’t found one. He was reluctant To go to a restaurant and he eventually found a small “Family market‘ that was open, he checked that they took Alipay, bought some instant noodles, water and a smoothie for the morning. He got home to the hotel ate his wares and drifted into a satisfying sleep telling himself he could get to a bank in the morning and get a Sim.
Nicholas Quirke was anxious once again as his journey resumed on 30 January 2020. This was the train that would take him to Beijing and not quite, but almost into the eye of the storm. He felt apprehensive on waking at 5 am; would the taxi turn up, would the train be ok, would he be sharing his sleeper with someone, would the train be packed, as anticipated, with Chinese, would he have WiFi. And as he dressed, to quell the now familiar low level anxiety experienced on a new start, he made sure he had his totems safe on him. He had intended to post an ‘Offline, On Train’ message to make sure no one following would be concerned if there was no WiFi, and subsequently no posts, but his ponderous, agitated under the calm, mind was so busy checking his packing that he let that thought slip his mind. He had time to check messages and saw on WeChat that Rosalind had responded and that she still had not heard back from the school as the potential job was on hold. Schools were closed. There was no follow up to questions either, where was the job, what were the schedules like. The taxi arrived early and feeling a twinge of sorrow at leaving, Nicholas departed. Once he was on his journey, had boarded the train, which was luxury compared to the basic conditions on the Trans Mongolian Express, and made himself comfortable, all worry evaporated. He looked out to see if he could see India and Elinor who too were due to travel on that train yet there was no sign of them. Did this mean that they too were casualty’s of the fear that was gripping China and the world outside. Was he mad to continue? Should he have changed his ticket too? Stayed for longer in Ulan Bator. There was surely room for him at the Azara Guest House. He did not know where the train came from and he did not see many people embarking. Only one other traveller in his carriage. It was still dark when the train fired up and left. The journey was afoot. He watched out the window as the lights of the City receded and all he could see were the silhouettes of the mountains, as they sped past the vast urban sprawl running along the foothills. He witnessed the dawn, the slow daybreak, he watched the light alter the landscape. From the snow and sun drenched Steppes of Mongolia and plains gripped by a thick frost to a wintry treeless vista. This then was the gobi desert? This plain unending horizon. He took Photographs and videos and had a sleep. On waking from his doze the heat in the cabin felt intense and his mouth was really dry. Time to go to the dining car. It seemed a really long way through at least 7 other carriages and the sight that awaited him was quite astonishing. Though the menu boasted vegan salads and soup the only things available on the menu were meat, meat and then meat. He had a green tea, He did get into conversation with a couple of the train employees one of whom thought he was Indian. The manager of the dining car insisted on taking his photo. Back in his carriage he initiated a conversation with his Chinese neighbour, who he learned was only going as far as Erlin, the Chinese border. It was a hesitant conversation but they both seemed pleased to have made the effort. He felt awed as he looked at the scenery, overwhelmed that this land and it sights had opened up for him and all his worries evapourated. This view, this experience, this other world he had discovered for himself, this was why he was making the journey. The sighting of occasional herds of goat or antelope, Golden Eagles, to see a small flock, of Vultures, feasting on carrion, touched parts of him that had lain dormant since childhood. At about 7pm the train stopped and there was an inspection. This then was the Mongolian border. He thought he should know how much distance he had put between himself and London but for him it was enough to know it was thousands of miles. His temperature looked to be 36 when they showed him but it wasn’t clear, the good news was he was below 38. The train had been so hot earlier he was down to his thermals, though he had noticed that the guards were bare chested, but now that people had boarded and the power and heating off, he thought it best to don respectable clothing. It took an hour and a half for them to clear Mongolia and once again Nicholas experienced severe butterflies in his stomach. As they crossed the hinterland between the borders, a bleak empty, cold dark view, the mounting anticipation was almost crippling. Firecrackers announced their arrival at Erlin Station and immigration centre. They waited 30 minutes as someone in a ….suit, sprayed the train interior. The health officials took his temperature 35.5, it looked like he wasn’t going into quarantine and then everyone disembarked. Nicholas breezed through the Customs and immigration process. He was asked to stand aside and was monitored by a guard before being led back onto the train. Only two of them re-boarded. He went to make a tea but the guard told him there was no power for at least 2 hours. He then appeared in Nicholas’s cabin with a packet of milk for him. Again, it was such a nice gesture he felt bad declining it. Once they had cleared customs the train was moved into a siding shed where all the carriages were separated, raised and the wheels removed and replaced. Nicholas certainly felt safe for the journey ahead even though had never seen anything like it. He celebrated his arrival in China with the remains of the Jack Daniels and at midnight thought it best to welcome sleep.
Nicholas Quirke was awake early feeling bright and breezy for his trip into the mountains on 29th January 2020. It occurred to him how nice it was to rise and take a shower. After 5 days in virtually the same clothes on the train washing was a really longed for treat. He really couldn’t believe how lucky he was to have found a host so generous with his time , and when Haji appeared 15 minutes late for the agreed 8.30 breakfast time all mortified and full of apologies, ‘I have a 3 month old baby’ , Nicholas Couldn’t care less and cooed to the pictures of the amazingly cute infant with an astonishing growth of jet black hair. He was pleased to be getting out of the City. Seeing beyond it limits made the stop in Ulaan Baator truly worthwhile. They set off at 10 after breakfast and after He had completed some pieces of outstanding administration that needed his attention. It was a really nice be in a car again and even nicer to have the opportunity to spend quality time with a Mongolian and really learn about their life and culture. He learnt that Haji and his family were Buddhist and listened as he spoke with passion about his faith and his Guru and how to live life, he learned that dentistry was not a respected, though a necessary, profession in Mongolia. He took him through a mining city, of which the roads they went down were literally dirt tracks. Nicholas actually laughed out loud at the absurdity of roads like that existing. He showed him the countryside, and then expanse of land bathers in snow. Really wonderful scenery and when they came upon the Genghis Kahn monument, rising like colossus from the mountains he was quite awed. When the communists were in power, Genghis Khan was a denounced character and Mongolian history subverted. In reclaiming their national hero, admittedly a ferocious warmongering individual, a genius leader, first Emperor and founder of the Mongol Empire, a monumental statue was erected to firmly assert the Mongolian heritage. To be able to climb inside the statue and emerge on the horses head to survey the wide inspiring landscape must be the equivalent Symbol, though maybe not as colossal, of the New World peering through the crown of the Statue of Liberty. Nicholas had a lovely time with Haji and despite the language difference they had many laughs, though that was halted when the police stopped the car and Haji was grilled for a good 10 minutes by them. They drove along the river which was completely frozen and was host to skaters and quad bikes.Once back at the apartment He decided that the last item on his agenda to see was the Gandam Monastry but as he set off he had an attack of the most painful sciatica so he had to turN back and go home. He had arranged to eat a last supper with Slava and Kseniya and they went to a traditional restaurant where he tried another version of the national dish. He was going to miss his new friends and he felt quite sad saying goodbye to them. On returning to the Guest House, he was feeling very morose. Sad he was to be leaving a place where he felt comfortable and safe, leaving friends and going off on his own. He asked Haji about getting a taxi to the station in the morning, as he needed to be there by 6.30 and Haji immediately called and set one up for him. Why were people so nice to to him, did he look like he was incapable and lost. Nicholas was nervous about what did lie ahead, about getting into China, the immigration process, The virus situation, to be going in instead of going out as everyone else was and he conveyed his uncertainty to Haji. He started to pack his bags and heard a knock at his door. Haji appeared with the gift of a crystal to wear around his neck. ‘This will keep you safe’ he said, ‘This will protect you’. Nicholas almost wept he was so touched by the gesture, Haji even offered to come and take him to the station but Nicholas was adamant he would be Ok. He spoke with his sister and Mother about the practical things at the flat and was relieved that the electrics weren’t going to cost thousands. They talked about going into China and the spread of the virus. He remained undeterred . He had come this far and the reports from Qi and Lyusaku were of a calm and quiet place In Beijing. He felt more cheerful after talking with his mother and sister and he now had his cross, his Jasper stone and Hajis crystal.; totems and wishes from family and friends to help guide and protect him into whatever he was about to step into.
Nicholas Quirke was happy that despite the disappointment of Ulan Baator’s delights being closed to them the previous day, on 28 January 2020, Slava and Kseniya still agreed to join him on a re-run of the lost itinerary. They were meeting earlier and hopefully if they got through the exhibits in time they could also join him for the plans he had for them to go to the Gandantegchinlen Monastery or, though it was a little further afield, the Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan. On rising in the morning, Nicholas was touched to see that Haji and Bobi had gone to the trouble of getting him Vegan rolls, Cookies and some fruit for his breakfast. It was a much colder start to the day, Slava and Kseniya feeling the chill of the coldest city on earth, apparently, through their jeans. Nicholas was surprised that being from Moscow they didn’t have thermals, maybe the cold was more bearable there. Apart from his hands and ears occasionally feeling the temperature bite, when he would don his gloves and pull up his hood, he was so layered up he did not feel the freeze. They made for the Choijin Lama Temple Museum, pleased to see it open for business, there were concerns it might be closed due to the Coronus Virus scare that was taking hold of the city. Nicholas was told he could take photos inside the Temples, but he would need to pay extra. He was happy to do this, but needed to give the money to the temple curator. Once inside the ancient, revered spaces, it seemed disrespectful to photograph the exhibits which were kept in remarkably cold conditions. The effigies, The fabrics, the copious religious instruments, the often wrathful seeming Buddhas over two hundred years old were amazing sights to behold. For such a seemingly peaceful and caring religion the images of anger and carnage were surprisingly prolific. Of the six temples his favourite was the Yidan which was a space solely for the Lama’s use. The monks hurried ahead of them opening each temple. But so cold were the spaces they hurried through the last couple. A historic, beautiful and reverential space. He was glad he had got to see it, and it was the first inkling that he had of the effects of communism on Mongolia, an oppression bought to them by the Russians. Rather than take a break and have a coffee or tea they pressed on to the National Museum of Mongolia. Here was a beautifully laid out history with exhibits dating back to prehistoric times. Fabrics, drawings, clothes surviving over a thousand years.; costumes and stories of war and occupation right up to present times. It wasn’t the first time on his journey that he encountered a society recovering from the trauma of occupation and once again the story of the fight for freedom, reclaiming a national identity really emotionally affected him. How shallow, and trivial the machinations and demands of Brexiters, to be free from Europe seemed to him, when they had never, ever suffered the indescribable tyranny of loosing their democracy, their individual rights as people. He was enraged as the deadline drew near and it was the first time since embarking on his odyssey thoughts had returned to the privileged Isle he hailed from. They also encountered a film crew preparing to shoot outside the Yurt, Gur instillation. Nicholas was absurdly interested in their activity and surreptitiously photographing them. They lunched again in Loving Hut, adding a Bocha to their order at Kseniya’s instigation. And how right it was. Delicious. He ordered tea but they didn’t have any and the waitress/chef offered them a tea with Gobi berries. It came with what looked like bits of tree floating in it when he asked what they were, she just shrugged. It was tasty though. Intrigued by Communism and its benefits; when the Russians invaded only 5% of the population could read and by the time it was in its death throes that had become 95% of Mongolians. Nicholas suggested they continue to The Winter Palace but it was a a walk too far and they declined. He suggested meeting to go to the Chinggis Khan Monument the next day, which would require a trip outside the city. He offered to research and let them know. He knew already that there was a tour which cost $190, which was truly prohibitive but he thought there would be a Cheaper way of getting there. They went their separate ways, Nicholas for a 30 Minute walk to the Bogd Khan’s Winter Palace. Had he not learned anything. Was he really so unconscious of the lessons repeatedly thrown at him. The ‘Winter Palace’, ironically in the winter is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Back at the Guest house he was pleased to see Haji and immediacy berated him with questions. Chiefly, is there a bus or means of transport that could take them to the Monument, cheaper than the $190 dollars or 522,283,4 or £143.00. ‘I will drive you” Haji said ‘for 100,000 Togrog’. That’s about £28 for the three of them. His friends declined but he was not going to miss the opportunity and thanked Haji and said just he would go. He really needed to make the most of his last day in Mongolia and thanks to the Amazing hospitality of the Azara Guest House, he would have the privilege of seeing beyond the city confines. He agreed to an 8.30 breakfast and a departure of 10am. That thoughT took him to bed and another night as the sole guest.
Nicholas Quirke was experiencing deja vu on 27 January 2020. Echoes from his 2018 odyssey resonated through his head, only this time he was dragging an innocent Russian couple into the maelstrom of travel disaster. The day started well when he discovered, on waking, that breakfast was provided. He felt bad though when he saw Haji’s crestfallen face as he stopped him from cracking an egg on announcing his Vegan lifestyle. He discovered that Rainbow and Lisa were leaving that morning, a fact of little consequence, until he discovered later that evening he was the sole guest and and had the apartment to himself. Winter is clearly a good time to travel through these parts if you prefer a more private lifestyle as there are so few people journeying. People are probably put off by the temperatures and potentially adverse weather conditions. He appeared on this score that he had been lucky. Was this mild winter that Russia and Mongolia were both enjoying the result of climate change , Global warming and pollution or was he just lucky. On his journey to date, sporting his thermals he had not suffered from the cold. The temperature in the coldest city in the world, Ulaaan-Baator was about – 6 degrees during the day with skies of blue. Nicholas saw that there was a washing machine and asked Haji what the procedure was for a small wash and Was immediately given the opportunity to get his clothes laundered. Clean smalls which Grace W would be veery pleased about. Arrangements had been made with Slava and Kseniya to meet them in front of the Genghis Khan statue, Sukhubaator Square at 10 30. They found a place to drink and Nicholas ordered a green tea. When it came it was a pale green colour, and peppered with strange Green flecks. It looked suspiciously milky. Having researched a number of activities, and place to go, he took the lead and suggested they go to the National Museum of Mongolia and the Choijin Lama Temple as they were in the area. It wasn’t a long walk, but once they arrived at the museum they discovered it was shut on a Monday. Memories of the Taj Mahal loomed large in his memory. Undeterred they made for the monastery which was a little more difficult to find, and once again on arrival they discovered it was shut. It appeared that on Mondays Public buildings aren’t open. How had he not learned his lesson! Always, always check opening hours. It really can save a lot of wasted time. There was little point in them continuing the debacle which had also led to the loss of one of Nicholas’s favoured tote bags, a black ‘American Eagle’. There was nothing of value in the bag but it had been a trusted item on his first odyssey. He hoped the tote found a good home in Mongolia, and was not just consigned to rubbish. Instead they set off to locate a bank Slava could use and a Vegan restaurant, the familiar sounding Loving Hut. He learned that Slava and Kseniya had only been learning English for 4 months so when Kseniya revealed she liked ‘punching other peoples food’, causing much merriment, she could be forgiven.. They ate a vegan version of a National Mongolian dish, which was delicious. He was really glad he had some friends to share the experience with. In the two days he had been in the City, he had come to like its streets a lot and finding his way around it was surprisingly easy. They went to the department store so Slava could buy some gloves and Nicholas could finally change the fistful of dollars back to togrog. The Mongolian currency is all notes and such large amounts`that he was continually confused by what he was spending. They went their separate ways Nicholas brought some groceries for the evening and went home. Haji’s sister Bobi was there and he noted that all his laundry had been through the drier and was now hanging to air. He felt oddly touched. No one had done his laundry for him for at least 30 years. Bobi showed him the hand gel and face masks for him to use, checked what time he would like breakfast in the morning and left. As there was little for him to do he settled in for the evening to write, make videos and contact a variety of family members. He spoke too with Rosalind about the potential job that opened up due to an unfortunate situation that was affecting Debbie Bridges. It was for 18 months and wasn’t in Beijing but not much was discussed as Nicholas pointed out that he had been unable to apply for jobs due to his age. Rosalind would check the situation and get back to him before any other matters were discussed. Once she had gone though he thought of about 20 other questions he needed answers to and wrote another text and went to bed.