29 June 2010

Steppe 12: a College Reunion and a New Friend and One Giant WTF Moment

The day after Jaisri's wedding, my dear friend from undergrad at Butler, Amy Willis, arrived in Mongolia for a week long visit to me! We hadn't seen each other in 2 years, but have always been the kind of friends that didn't spend every moment together, but when we were together, we always had a really special connection. No less so on the other side of the world after 2 years of separation! It was as though no time at all had passed. Amy has been in South Korea for the last 8 months teaching English, and when she heard I was going to be in her neck of the woods, she was determined to come visit me, and rearranged her schedule in order to do so. She was the sun and the relief in that last month of teaching which felt something like the throws of the black plague most of the time.

So she arrived in Darkhan, and we walked around and saw what there is to see. Then we spontaneously took the 7 hour midnight train (as opposed to the 4 hour bus ride) splitting a single bunk. We arrived early in the morning to UB, and made our way to the guesthouse where we picked up an overnight trip to Terelj, a national park just outside UB. We traveled with 4 Brits, a German, and another American. We stayed  in tourist ger camp, where they cooked us what to me was evidently the tourist version of Mongolian food. That afternoon a boy took us riding, herding our lazy horses. Amy and I pulled out our teacher skills, and the 2 British guys who were our age followed suit, until we had the boy singing to us and teaching us Mongolian words and showing off his horsemanship. The following are only the pictures I took--Amy is a photography wiz so she's got oodles of amazing pictures, but I don't have the files yet so here's just a sampling...


After Terelj, we returned to the guesthouse and picked up a driver, a car, and a new companion, Meg. She was another American who originally traveled to Mongolia to visit a friend in the Peace Corps there, and then travel on to China... not many of her plans went through like she thought, but boy did we luck out having her along cause she rocked!
Our first night, in Kharkhorin... actually like my 4th night spent in that city, but this time, everything was green, snowless, and warm. Basicly I saw only one new place on this trip, but everything was transformed from the frigid, miserably brown and white winter, into green and budding spring, along with the miserable sandstorms that make Mongolians hate spring. There were baby animals evvverrrrywhere and cranes in pairs, often performing mating dances.

The above is the happy spring version of the steppe to the south west of the ancient capitol.

It was crazy windy!

 Yaks!!

 The waterfall melted!!

 My awesome travel companions.

 It snowed that morning!

So I got deathly ill that day, my stomach wanted to kill me. It was lovely. We spent one night at the waterfall and traveled through Khujirt to the Mini Gobi of which I only have one pic:
 Because I was sick... so I slept the afternoon away. The other girls rode horses they had prepared for us through the sand with a crazy old man who apparently took a nap and wrote crazy pictures in the sand... The next morning he had a horse for me waiting, and so I did get to ride for a minute.

We headed back to UB after our stay in the mini Gobi, and by the time we reached UB I felt 10 times better. Meg, on the other hand, began to fall ill in a similar way I had been. By the time we got back to the Guesthouse, she collapsed on the bed, and Amy and I went out to get food and souvenirs, for ourselves and her. We successfully did some shopping and I arranged to meet Jizo later for dinner. When he finnaaally arrived, Amy and I ate some food, then went back to the guesthouse to check on Meg, before going somewhere else for Jizo to eat... Meg was gone from the guesthouse! She had been taken to the S.O.S. hospital in UB, because she had fallen terribly terribly sick. Jizo was awesome and took us to the hospital in his car, where we reunited with the poor girl, now doped up and feeling much better. We left with Jizo, got him some food, and all parted ways for our respective sleeping quarters.

The next morning, I took a walk around UB with another guest at the guesthouse, a Spanish guy named Alejandro. Saw a Buddhist temple in the city that's very beautiful and full of happy Mongolian children... Amy was sleeping, as she also wasn't feeling very well, but was recouped when I got back. We then went to a nice hotel where Meg had transfered and hung with her for a while. I also had a chance to see my friend Boorak while Amy and I ate lunch, as he had just been transfered to work in UB from Darkhan... Anyways, we basicly hung out with Meg all day, also saw Jizo at one point, before he headed back to Darkhan. I stayed the night and parted with Amy the next morning, then took the bus back to Darkhan in the afternoon. I spent the day with Meg, who had to cancel her China plans, and take a flight back to the States.

So that's a rather haphazard telling of that story... Amy has many many pics of it, hopefully I'll get them up here someday.

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