I’ve been in America for 30 days. I spent my first 7 nights with a good friend and her family (also friends) and then Michael and Sam returned to Colorado and we spent the next 15 nights with some other good friends. This first 3 weeks felt very vacation-y, with out being an actual vacation. We’ve been in our house for the last week. Sleeping on the floor. We didn’t have to move to our house. Our friends were still happy to put us up, but we were feeling the need to try to establish a routine and try to make progress. Our container was supposed to come 22 Aug, but we were selected for inspection so it didn’t. Lucky us.
I’ve lived here before. I’ve lived in this exact city, in this exact neighborhood, in this exact house. So why is it so hard to return? Somedays it feels impossible. Like I don’t know how to do it. I’ve found a gym. I don’t know how I feel about it. It is nice to be working out again (a month off makes for some really painful DOMs), but it’s not the same as CrossFit Chiang Mai. I didn’t really expect that it would be, but I was hoping a bit. The other day, after the workout, two ladies were chatting with me and being really nice and I froze. Like a deer in headlights. I had no idea how to be friendly. So much for making new friends. I left the gym and found myself doing what I seem to do a bunch of lately. Crying in my car.
The day after this I was running errands and swung by Target. I saw a dress I wanted to try on so I parked my empty cart by the dressing room and went to try on the dress. It wasn’t right so I grabbed my cart and went off looking for stuff. Stuff I didn’t need. About the time I realized he only things I really needed were groceries I also realized that I’d grabbed the wrong cart. I had no idea what to do. A) Push the cart back to the dressing area? It had been probably 15 or 20 min. If it had been my cart that had gone missing I most likely would have already grabbed another and replaced the items. B) Abandon the cart right where I was, near the tablecloths, and walk to the front of the store and grab another cart? Yes, that made sense. (For some reason I never thought to take the cart to the front of the store with me and tell someone about my mistake.) About 20 min after I abandoned the cart a store employee comes up and asks me if I took the wrong cart at the dressing room and when I said I did he wanted to know where I’d left it. He was plenty friendly, but still I managed to walk away from this interaction in tears. I finished my grocery shopping and paid and left with a new awareness of my inability to be nice. And cried in my car. I should probably get some kleenex for my car.
In other news, we made this decision.
Up at 5am – or rather awake – finally got out of bed at 5:30a. I was picked up at 6am for my 8:55am flight. My route was Ulaanbaatar to Tokyo to Denver to Colorado Springs. I’ll be picked up by my friend, Sherilyn, and spend the first week with her while I’m waiting for the rest of the family to arrive.
The flight from Mongolia to Tokyo was a bit rough. Turns out Mongolia Air leans towards the bare bones side. There is only one working toilet for all of economy and the line was 15 deep for most of the flight,but I got where I needed to be so not too many complaints. I arrive in Tokyo and need to get my ticket for my next flight at the United counter. It doesn’t take long to remember why American airlines aren’t my favorite. It takes way too long and by the time I’m done there are 20 people in line. Once I board my flight I discover that there is an entire class of 6th grade Japanese students and lucky me I’m on the aisle blocking two of them in and they really, really liked to get up.
Eventually we all make it to America. I arrive in Denver, go through customs, recheck my luggage and make it through security and board my flight to Colorado Springs. I make it to Colorado Springs, but my luggage doesn’t – at least not when I do. It arrives about 6 hours later and is delivered to the door.
I was up at 7am to get ready for an 8am ride to the Chinggis Khan Statue Complex. This is the largest horse statue in the entire world. It’s in the Guinness Book of World Records.
We toured the museum (four of us horse riders were on this excursion) and then made our way up to the observation platform. The statue is impressive, but there’s nothing else to do there so we headed back to town.
We were dropped off at The State Department Store. The first thing to do is eat. I go for mutton dumplings. I’m running out of time for Mongolian food and it turns out I like it. After lunch I try to do some souvenir shopping. I run into some friends from the horse riding and we finalize plans for dinner. I head back to the hotel to rest a bit and then it’s off for my last dinner in Mongolia. We eat at a really good Mongolian restaurant. Again I have mutton dumplings and a salad.
After dinner I head back to the hotel to finish sorting my luggage. It’s hard to get to sleep. I’m nervous about flying and nervous about what’s to come, but I finally fall asleep at 1am after setting two alarms fro 5am.
Woke up at 6:45a. We ate breakfast and broke camp. We needed to be on the road by 10am to be sure we got to the airport on time.
The drive took us over passes and through valleys. For a long time there was not a road to be seen.
We arrived at the airport about 2:30p. Our flight was at 5:30p. It was the only flight for the day which meant the airport was pretty much empty. So we wait for the employees to arrive. Once they do, we weigh our luggage and carry ons to be sure we are under our allotment. We are. We also become aware of how much we stink. It’s time to board which means it’s time to say goodbye to the drivers and the translators. They will make it back to Ulaanbaatar in the vans.
We arrive in UB about 7p and head to dinner. We have a great Indian meal and then head to the hotel.
At the hotel I say goodbye to Jenn, our trip leader. I won’t see her again before I fly out. Once I get settled in my room the only thing I want to do is hear from my family. It takes a while to get connected to wifi, but once I do I send messages to everyone and then I hop on a hot shower. A hot shower is amazing!
It’s difficult to sleep, the room is hot and there is a lot of street noise. I keep checking for messages on Facebook and finally hear back from Michael and Aly. I fall asleep about 2am.
Woke up at 6:45a, but since there were no horses to ride I took a while to actually get up. I read a bit and listened to 3 seperate mobs of sheep as they were shepherded through our camp ground.
After breakfast we had a lazy morning sitting around the camp fire – reading, napping and chatting. As we were just hanging out we had several visitors drop by. Two boys who live in a nearby ger brought us milk and yogurt. We gave them chocolate and fruit cocktail in trade. Then two ladies dropped by with more milk. We gave them noodles. Two guys on a motorbike stopped by and had a seat near the camp fire and they were soon joined by another neighbor. We had a return visitor from last night and then another man rode up on his horse.
Since we’re good hosts we cooked for them (by we I mean the Mongolian guys). Because we had enough milk to share they prepared tea – bortstea (dried meat tea). I wrote down the recipe as it was prepared. The first thing you have to do is make milk tea. I don’t have the recipe for that, but I’ve got the rest.
Over high heat (like the flame of a campfire) –
- one handful of mutton fat
- whatever cooking oil you have on hand
- one handful of flour
- big spoonful of butter
- 1 big cup of rice
- milk tea
- handful of salt
- a few handfuls of dried pulverized mutton
Melt one handful of mutton fat and if you need more fat then you can add however much oil you have on hand. Once the fat is hot add a handful of flour. Stir viciously. Then add butter and stir more. Add some milk tea and stir. Add a handful of salt and stir. Add a few handfuls of dried pulverized mutton and stir. Add the remainder of the milk tea and stir. Add rice and stir. Put the lid on and let it simmer. Add water as needed and add more salt to taste.
This was served to all our guests, the translators, drivers and any of the riders who wanted. I think I counted over 20 servings. It was quite good – and heavy.
After we ate we spied more visitors. Two small girls were very nervously approaching. They were holding hands as they crossed the field and stream. Turns out they were the 4 year old twin daughters of one of the herdsmen who was visiting us. They were welcomed with chocolate. Another guest arrived by motorcycle. About this time I started worrying that we might run out of provisions. One by one the guests leave. Many of them had been with us for hours.
After lunch there was time for us to bathe in the river and then it was time to pack up camp. Lavaa’s, brother lived somewhere between where we were currently camping and Murin, where the airport we were flying out of the next day was located, so we were headed to his ger. He didn’t know we were coming. We were truly traveling off road and off the map. There were frequent stops for directions and a few u-turns, but eventually we make it. Our van arrived just after the one Lavaa was driving, but we got there just in time to see Lavaa greet a young boy in a very heartfelt way. It turns out his wife and youngest son are spending the summer with his brother.
Once we’re out of the vans we enter the ger and are served milk tea and bread with clotted cream. Then we set up our camp. We prepare our dinner and eat and spend a few lazy hours hanging out while it rains. We also have the opportunity to milk a yak.
We spend the rest of the evening playing mass in the ger and being offered what seems to be an endless supply of Mongolian vodka. (thank goodness it’s weaker than the stuff from the store.) We had an amazing evening and I’m feeling like I could live this life, but I’m also aware that this is not real life.
Headed to bed about 11:45p.