After several weeks I’d learnt some very basics, mostly how to ask for food and drink. Every lunch time I go with Moojii to a cafe round the corner from the university and practice the all important food ordering techniques. It’s a bustling place full of plastic garden chairs and a mixture of students and local workers. It’s what I will describe as real Mongolian food, all mutton fat, salt tea, pickled cabbage and rice and is therefore cheap as anything. A filling meal will cost you about two quid or four dollars. This all sounds great although I’m usually left sweating like mad and wanting to do nothing other than fall asleep, trouble is this is a typical lunch at work. After we’ve done the customary thing of hovering over a finishing table (that is the done thing, without this people will continue to brush past and take any available seat) Moojii and I sit for lunch. She does all the talking, usually on the topic of her one year old son and specifically, and wholly inappropriately, about him shitting himself in some funny way or another. She showed me pictures once of several different ways he’d covered the inside of his nappy and the whole of his legs in his own turd,even after just a few weeks of knowing her she showed me a few photos of herself completely topless “…he likes the milk from my boobs”. What are you supposed to say to that? “Mmm-mmm I just bet he does!”
At this stage I’d been in the country only a few weeks or so, still getting used to things. Anyway one particular lunch time the conversation strayed from a one year old I’d never met shitting his pants to Moojii’s previous job as a translator for western films that are to be dubbed in Mongolian. Wow, this is actually quite a cool job, “what sort of films have you done?”, I ask. Moojii reals of a few varied film titles, The Piano, Die Hard, Jurassic Park, Fast and Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, then quite excitedly reveals her favorite of the films she has done…. “The Boy With The Stupid Pajamas! You know that one?” Oh shit, I think to myself, you’ve fucked that one up. Anyone who knows the film will know it is a harrowing account of the friendship of two boys with lives that represent very different sides of a coin, one the Son of a prison commandant and the other an imprisoned Jewish boy. The latter is in a prison camp during WWII and wears striped pyjamas giving the film its less comic title than the one Moojii had assigned to the Mongolian version. Later on I couldn’t help laughing as I imagined what this version must have been like. But all this was a quick lesson on the differences between Mongolia and the UK. They have films and translations into their own language but, just like every version of any computer software out here, it’s not official. Instead someone, somewhere has managed to get a load of cheap blank dvds and has decided to hire his mate’s girlfriend’s sister’s mate to do the translation, he puts together some pretty convincing covers and that’s it, The Boy With The Stupid Pajamas has its (un)official dvd debut all the way out here in Mongolia where it can now be found in all good video shops, just down the isle from The Lambshank Redemption. This really is a good representation of how some things are in Mongolia, on the surface things seem quite modern (in the capital) but just behind that it is clear there is an air of the struggling underdeveloped trying desperately and hurriedly to break out of this and it does it by reaching out at the things it considers to be modern and high tech but with little regard for accuracy or, dare I say it, quality. At least for now, for all things technological, form definitely precedes function.