Day 1: REGISTRATION
Thursday was officially the first “work” day of the Arkhangai Trade Fair. It was basically a day of balloon blowing, streamer hanging, stall/booth setup, explaining to participants that were early that registration would begin at 3:00 pm, last minute runs to the Technology & Industry School for 40 extra tables, shots of vodka in the parking lot to celebrate before the event started, and any other activities that would be necessary to put on a 2 day trade fair for nearly 120 companies.
Of course everyone was tired before Registration even began, but a team of 4-5 women handled the throng of eager participants who all wanted to register first and have the pick of the best booths.
I’m not sure if you’ve heard before, but Mongolians do not queue in the sense that most Americans would recognize. Rather than forming lines, waiting your turn, and occasionally allowing people to jump ahead of you in line if you feel compassionate, here it’s a free-for-all. Everyone is leaning on other people attempting to give money to the staff, yelling information about their company, and even signing paperwork on people’s backs. Just because you are the closest to the table does not guarantee you will ever get signed up for this event – unless you start pushing/yelling as well. It’s entertaining to say the least, and there were many times that I would look over at my co-workers and see them just laughing at the craziness. I was glad they recognized the chaos around them.
Soon after registration began, someone realized we’d forgotten to get tables for about 40 stalls. Unbeknown to me I was about to take a 20 minute trip into the country-side to a Tech & Industry School for the necessary counter space. The reason I mention this trip is not because of its significance but rather because of the transportation. Take a look at this –
We did manage to lose one table on the ride back into town in this beast of a truck. My co-workers got a kick out of telling me that its name is “MARK 150” – definitely a Russian transport. Anyway, we got back, setup the tables, and called it an evening.
Day 2: OPENING CEREMONY & MY “ROLE”
Speeches, songs, dances, and a mad rush into the Sport Hall that was housing our Trade Fair made up the morning of day 2. I was tasked with camera duties. I have suspicions it was because of my height…well, and largely because they had little else for me to do. However, my “role” at this Trade Fair was to manage the events that were put on by various fair sponsors. For instance, three competing banks each had activities for kids or adults. It was my job to make sure they stuck to their schedule. One bank had a bike race for kids, another had a Trivia contest (each correct answer would gain you 5,000 tugriks, or roughly $3.50), and the other bank had an Airag Drinking Contest (airag is fermented mare’s milk, a slightly alcoholic beverage).
Sometime in the afternoon, one of my directors decided it was time to take me around to all of the stalls and introduce me to the many Airag producers that are from the area. Six bowls later I found myself outside being led toward the animals that were on display behind the sport hall. Interesting side note: the winning goat weighed in at 86 kilos.
We didn’t spend long watching the cattle, rather we found ourselves enjoying a 7th bowl of airag and a bag of onion kimchi – which by the way was the hottest stuff I’ve eaten in a long time. By now my bladder is screaming at me, and the airag/kimchi mixture in my stomach is churning. I finally found a reason to head back to the Sport Hall, needing to shop for some veggies for dinner later that night. Kara met me after work and we were tortured by the smell of pizza coming from somewhere in the trade fair. Eventually we found out that a local restaurant had made pizza, brought it to the fair, sold all of them, and then just bailed. Missed out on that chance.
Day 3: FINALE
When I got to the Sport Hall on Saturday morning I was greeted by this on our registration table:
Supposedly my work had purchased it the night before, but Kara and I had left just in time to not have to be involved in what was supposed to be a late night delicacy. The reason it was still there in the morning had to do with over-cooking and the meal just never actually occurred. Oh, too bad.
I chatted with my director and supervisor about the previous day’s sales figures. First of all, we had a record turnout of participants with nearly 120 booths full of products from all over Mongolia. We also brought in about 1.5 million tugriks in registration fees (last year was 900,000 tugs). But the less impressive figure was the sales that were generated by all of the companies – only 36 million tugriks on day 1. I told everyone I thought it was because many people were looking at items that day and would be back to purchase things on this final day. This proved true, as the latest figures were roughly 105 million in total sales over the 2 days. That’s exciting. The numbers are down a bit from last year, but that’s due to economic issues that are still being overcome in Mongolia in 2009.
Here are a couple of photos of the awards ceremony that followed the trade fair.
Obviously I can’t talk about everything that happened during the past few days, there is just too much information. I chose to focus on the entertaining aspects of my weekend. Hopefully you can find some time to check out the myriad of photos that will paint a picture of the 2009 Arkhangai Trade Fair posted here: