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» UNDER THE ETERNAL SKY: Mining Boom Gains Momentum in Mongolia

Khan Kentee Protected Area, Gorkhi-Terelj, Mongolia, (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

by Brian Awehali

Nomadic herder in Gorkhi-Terelj, Mongolia, (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

After spending several months in the epic clamor of industrializing China, I went to Mongolia looking for open spaces and unspoiled nature, for clean air, for hiking and horseback riding, and for nights still dark enough to terrify. In the countryside (and most of it remains countryside) the Eternal Sky held sacred by Mongolians since well before the time of Genghis Khan levitates with majesty over wide-open grassland prairie, steppe, subarctic evergreen forest, wetland, alpine tundra, mountain, and desert. It stretches above yak, goat, reindeer, camel, wolf, bear, marmot, squirrel, hawk, falcon, eagle and crane, and above some of the last traditional nomadic peoples and wild horses on Earth.

The seemingly infinite Mongolian sky also hangs over the largest mining boom on the planet.

Candlelit Ger/Yurt in Gorkhi-Terelj, Mongolia, (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

On my flight from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar, I sat next to a miner named Tim. Tim had a wife and two children back in Nova Scotia, with another on the way. He was trying to convince his wife to relocate to Mongolia, but she wasn’t going for it yet. So his mining career kept him away from his family as he traveled to Colorado, Nevada, Australia, and now Mongolia. Tim kept his taupe outdoorsman’s hat on for the entire flight, but I forgave him for that because he shared his Lonely Planet Mongolia and enthusiastically told me about his work at a new copper mine in the Gobi Desert.

“It’s just a camp now, but we’re investing $40 million this year alone, and when it really gets up and running, it’ll probably become the second largest city in Mongolia,” Tim told me. “It’s going to be huge.

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Featured

» SNOW DAY IN ISTANBUL

Corruption is like a ball of snow, once it’s set a rolling it must increase.”
— Charles Caleb Colton

Photo EssayUnlike corruption, snow is growing rarer in Istanbul, but it doesn’t appear to interrupt the usual activities of the city’s birds, fish or fishermen. A few dogs seemed on edge, and cat sightings were fewer and farther between, but otherwise it was business as usual.

Galata Bridge fishermen on a snowy day in Istanbul. - (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

 

Galata Bridge fisherman on a snowy day in Istanbul. - (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Outside it was snowing, but under the Galata Bridge? Bağlama and simit! (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Outside it was snowing, but under the Galata Bridge? Bağlama and simit! (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Fishing the Bosphorus, on the Galata side of the Galata bridge. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Men working as shoeshiners on the Galata Bridge will try to hustle foreigners by acting like they dropped their polishing brush. When you bring their attention to it, they act overwhelmingly grateful and vigorously insist on shining your shoes. They’ll even say it’s free, no charge. But it’s not.

Two things: I like how the guy smiles when he realizes he’s been made. Also, and more significantly, notice the other guy who’s in on it, who looks like he isn’t. He’s in the right of the frame, watching intently, then makes a hasty exit when he realizes I’m filming.

» FIKRET MUALLâ: “COLORS THAT EVOKE DREAMS”

Fikret Muallâ’s statue in Moda, Kadikoy, in Istanbul. (c) Brian Awehali

Fikret Muallâ’s statue in Moda, Kadikoy, in Istanbul. (c) Brian Awehali

Photo EssayAvant-garde painter Fikret Muallâ (1904-1967) was born in Istanbul, but lived most of his life in France. Muallâ was a soul tortured by circumstance and self-abuse, but he understood his pain as a crucible for the perfection of his art, which he testified to in one of the last letters he was to write:

“In my opinion every artist should suffer hardship, anguish and hunger. Only after that should they enjoy life. After the age of fifty, people start to seek comfort and health, and to think. That is my fate. My life has passed in a struggle against poverty. Now in this quiet village I submit to living peacefully by myself waiting for the final period of my life as ordained by God. Apart from this I have no problems! No pretensions. We have seen every kind of circumstance the world has to offer, we have tasted very few of the pleasures of life. Today what is left but for my tongue to recall the past and my brush to paint?”

Fikret Muallâ’s statue in Moda, Kadikoy, in Istanbul. (c) Brian Awehali

» ACTUALLY AFFORDABLE CALIFORNIA COASTAL LIVING

Long-term encampment at the Albany Bulb in the California Bay Area in 2014. - (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Photo EssayThe Albany Bulb, just north of Berkeley, California, is a peninsula-shaped landfill created by rubble from an earthquake in San Francisco (background of the photo above) that’s existed for a long time as a kind of park, outsider art gallery and, until recently, semi-continuous community of squatters.

Three-eyed lavender Medusa painting-on-rubble at the Albany Bulb, (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Three-eyed lavender Medusa painting-on-rubble at the Albany Bulb – (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Now that the landfill’s grown less toxic and the terrain’s become nicely overgrown, the city of Albany would very much like to evict the squatters and figure out ways to beautify and monetize the area for its more upstanding, legible subjects.

The Birdman of Albany Bulb, feeding gulls in the parking lot of the adjacent horse-racing track. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

The Birdman of Albany Bulb, feeding gulls in the parking lot of the adjacent horse-racing track. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Like most bureaucratic functionaries in the U.S., Albany’s would like to eliminate the presence of people who aren’t legible to the modern U.S. surveillance state.

Side view of improv housing at the Albany Bulb, (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Side view of improv housing at the Albany Bulb, (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

But for now at least, a very small bit of actually affordable, still somewhat off-grid California coastal living still exists.

Land’s end! Just south of the Albany Bulb, at the Berkeley Marina. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Land’s end! Just south of the Albany Bulb, at the Berkeley Marina. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

» SCENES FROM ALICATI, TURKEY

Photo EssayAlicati is a town on the “Turkish Riviera,” and it’s a favored getaway for wealthy Europeans, especially Greeks. It’s almost certainly lovelier to me during the quiet off-season.

Shoe polisher and scooter in the off-season, Alicati, Turkey, (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Shoe polisher and scooter in the off-season, Alicati, Turkey, (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Alicati, Turkey street pottery. Note the lovely quiet emptiness of the streets. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Alicati, Turkey street pottery. Note the lovely quiet emptiness of the streets. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Kebelek storefront, Alicati, Turkey. The flowers aren’t real, but the flag is. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Kebelek storefront, Alicati, Turkey. The flowers aren’t real, but the flag is. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

“Stay calm and drink (buy) more wine,” in Alicati, Turkey. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

“Stay calm and drink (buy) more wine,” in Alicati, Turkey. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Alicati cats stake out A.M. rendering lessons at the fish market. It’s very important that not one, but two flags hang over your fish cleaning operation. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Alicati cats stake out A.M. rendering lessons at the fish market. It’s very important that not one, but two flags hang over your fish cleaning operation. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Visionally impressive but nutritionally disastrous Turkish breakfast. 80% of what you see here is a kind of “preserve” suspended in simple syrup. In the U.S., this would qualify as “part” of a nutritious breakfast. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali

Visionally impressive but nutritionally disastrous Turkish breakfast. 80% of what you see here is a kind of “preserve” suspended in simple syrup. In the U.S., this would qualify as “part” of a nutritious breakfast. (c) 2016 Brian Awehali