Tiger the rescued street dog and I spent a lot of time walking in the ger suburbs behind my apartment in the Micro district near the Mongolian TV station.
In many places the roads were carved out between the fences like dry river beds, a good four feet below the the fences. They were dusty with ash, dumped from ger stoves, to make the snow easier to walk on in winter. But as the snow evaporated and the spring winds started up, blinding eddies of dust and ash whirled around the streets.
As we walked along, local dogs barked at us from their yards in warning and welcome, some lunging out at us before they were jerked back by the end of their chains.
The fences and gates fascinated me. Many were painted sky blue and decorated with eightfold knot designs known as the Mongolian ‘ulzii’, symbolising infinite love and the interdependence of all things and one of the eight auspicious symbols from Tibetan Buddhism. These and other geometric patterns were found adorning everything from apartment buildings and fences, to buildings and cars and ger interiors, in bright blues, reds and greens with yellow and white highlights.
Many fences were made from reclaimed metals – the roofs of old train carriages, bonnets from cars or trucks, wrought iron bedheads, inner springs from mattresses. And old gas cylinders were stuck in the ground as bollards, looking like bombs that had landed but never exploded. And the trusty old water heaters from apartments, that look like expired truck radiators? They were used as very effective door mats for scrapping snow off your boots.
In Mongolia not much is wasted.