One of the bigger unofficial milestones of the year in Ulaanbaatar is the turning on and off of the heating system. The whole city is still centrally heated, and individual houses and apartments do not have thermostats- you are as hot or as cold as the state decides you are. Usually, this means you are walking around in shorts, as the heating engineers seem to err on the side of tropical.
The heating comes on the 15th of September, an event preceded by unannounced workmen stomping around the attic (in old Russian buildings, plumbing is in the roof) at 11pm on Sunday night, followed by heavy hammering, rotary saws cutting through metal, and welding. Given the quality of Mongolian construction, this usually leads to plaster falling on your face as you lie in bed, wondering if you're about to be invaded by wrench wielding maniacs. It's like that film Brazil, only in Mongolia.
Once the dust settles and banging subsides, the heating comes one, one radiator at a time. And despite all my caviling about the State of Things, on the morning of the 16th, we awoke to heavy snowstorms and zero temperatures. The picture above was taken on the way to work. A neat bit of scheduling. Almost-almost too neat….
The heat will remain on until 15th of May, no matter what the weather does between now and then. Whether the blowtorch wielding roof marauding casuals will return between now and then depends very much on the creaky pipes holding it together for another season. Let’s hope together, shall we?
Gadaa huiten bain (outside it's cold, viewers)