This bin was just off Peace Avenue in Ulan Bator, one of the city’s most traffic-ridden streets, with potholes, a lot of noise and dust and, often, no pavement. Mongolia was being renamed ‘Minegolia’ when I was there, because of all the investors coming to exploit its vast mineral resources of coal, gold and uranium, in particular the Chinese and Canadians. The streets themselves felt as if they were part of the mining operations. In reaction to this perceived excessive presence of mining prospectors, the Mongolian government was passing laws to protect its resources better. These were naturally not being well received by investors!
Mongolia is also a prime tourist destination for Japanese in search of vast open spaces (Mongolia has a population of 2 million, but is three times the size of France). On my second day I went riding in the steppes two hours outside the capital with two beautifully Burberry-clad Japanese ladies who gazed at the wide open spaces from their lazily shuffling ponies. I had a rather improbable tour guide while in Mongolia, a chain smoker in a worn-out charcoal-coloured suit, keen on betting and playing knuckle bones, trying to catch up with me as we did a very leisurely walk on the steppe to see Mongolia’s biggest statue of Genghis Khan. More than 700 years after his birth, the latter is still a big hero here, undergoing a fairly recent revival after being banned under Communism. Banks, streets, nightclubs and the national beer use his name.
The ‘Look!’ bin struck me because of its bright colour, and its slightly worried eyes looking the other way. « Look out ! We’re being overmined ! » it seemed to say.