Mongolia's Human Weirdness
Mongolia is rough. The climate is freezing (0 degrees Fahrenheit in daytime is common), and the landscape is sparse—massive skies, massive rocks and massive distances between them.
Ulaanbaatar is the capital city and where over a third of the country's mainly nomadic population vaguely calls home. It's surrounded by hills and whole boroughs of makeshift gers [circular felt tents] and shacks that stretch up into them. Meanwhile, down beneath the crumbling concrete of the town, a whole subterranean population lives in the sewers [which house the city's hot water pipes] in an attempt to not freeze to death. It goes without saying that horrific burns and injuries are almost uniform.
The rest of the slums are home to a pretty aggressive Mongolian Nationalist movement: The swastika and "Neo-Pashist" graffiti daubed across the corrugated fences are an indication, but running into a bunch of Mongolian skinheads at night will confirm this notion.
Amidst the crashing poverty, crushing cold, and small pockets of the Kill Whitey brigade, however, I met folks who were warm and welcoming—in a totally tough and indifferent kind of way, that is.
I guess that's a pretty good description of the country in general.