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Merry Christmas - 24 December 2007

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For the last few years in London, I have been volunteering at my local section of Crisis Open Christmas, that great institution which shelters and entertains thousands of homeless people every year. I was wondering what to do now that I am a full time volunteer in Mongolia, and with so many homeless people in Ulaanbaatar.

On Friday we had a very enjoyable little birthday party at UB Deli for Zuhura, a Kenyan-born English volunteer, with some Mongolians and international friends, including our newly arrived Kenyan volunteer Nickson, and lively conversations in English, Mongolian, Contact signing, and American and Mongolian sign languages.

Returning after the party slightly merrier from a few glasses of red wine, we noticed at our neighbouring apartment block on Bariilgachni Gudamch (Builders Avenue) a chap on his back on the cold gravel, inadequately dressed in t-shirt and open cardigan for the -20 degree night. A merry Mongolian trio walking just ahead of us shouted back to him, presumably along the lines of 'what the devil are you doing, fool? - get up, you will freeze to death there, where do you live?'

I was hesitant after an earlier experience ... but I watched on as the two women, despite their male companion's reluctance, came closer and shouted again, without a satisfactory response. Another Mongolian woman, well dressed in furs, then came walking up to the group. Through some sort of non-verbal communication, she and I then took an arm each and dragged the staggering man to entrance ten of block 23, where we live at entrance five. After some negotiations by the group with the guard at the entrance, the guard seemed to agree to his need to recover in the warmer stairwell. I hope he survived the night, to remember that he was somebody's father, brother, son or friend.

Meanwhile we will have a peaceful and quiet Christmas at home, thankful that our family, friends and colleagues are warm and happy.

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