Well...it happened. I flew the coop and have spent the past two weeks traveling around the good old US of A, celebrating many joyous reunions with my most favorite people in the world. It has been wonderful to say the least. But before it happened, a departure from Mongolia happened, and some departure it was.
Let's start with the Thursday before I left: my final pub quiz. You see, pub quiz had become a tradition of ours, a Thursday evening welcome to the weekend tradition. It was always a fun time even when we didn't win, but it was made better - of course - by the fact that we were good. And we won. More than our fair share.
But anyways, this week it was slightly different because there was a Mongolian film crew at the pub filming scenes for some movie that they had originally filmed in Paris but now needed a few more shots for. That meant that the quiz was a little disjointed and took a bit longer than usual, but the rumor was that we were in the presence of Mongolia's biggest stars, so really it just meant that it was another one of those all too familiar "only in Mongolia" moments.
If you look behind Chris in this picture, you can kind of see the film crew:
And if you look beside me in this picture, you can see one of Mongolia's biggest movie stars making his on-screen debut with one of America's finest: Me.
Bah ha ha! Really. It just so happened that they needed a "European-looking" woman to film a scene with Mongolian movie star guy, and it just so happened that the owner of the bar knew us and liked us and also knew that it was my last pub quiz in Mongolia, so therefore it also just so happened that I got to be the "European-looking" woman (much to the chagrin of the actual European women in the room).
Oh, and the only instructions I received were to make casual conversation (note: Mongolian movie star did not speak English, thereby making said casual conversation slightly more tricky as it revolved around my broken Mongolian), smile a lot, laugh, and sip my wine.
Thankfully I excel at all of those things.
Also thankfully, we won pub quiz that night so the entire evening cost us not a dime. Lovely.
On to Friday, more going away festivities. A big gang of us went out for Korean at our favorite spot, ate lots of kim chi, drank lots of cheap beer, and then went out for more cheap beers. Nothing remarkable, but a glorious evening all the same.
Saturday our friends picked us up bright and early to head to our favorite little spot in Terelj: Bert's Ger Camp. We arrived just in time for tomato and cheese khushuur (think fried bread stuffed with tomatoes and cheese), eaten outside on a beautifully warm Autumn day. Following a giant lunch, we wandered off into the woods for an afternoon of fishing, walking and - brr! - swimming.
When we could hear the wine bottles calling our names, back to the gers we went, only to find the ger kids ready to play whatever it was we were willing to play. The game of choice? Baseball.
We set up a diamond, found some sticks, borrowed the little sister's ball, and away we went - baseball in Mongolia, complete with a picture perfect, most idyllic backdrop.
The following day included a lot of hiking, some more swimming, and a journey home to UB. Chris and I intended to spend our final days quietly...just some time to enjoy one another before I headed home. Unfortunately I wound up sick for about a day and a half of those last two days (and left him in Mongolia with the same sickness - boo), but they were nice nonetheless. We didn't really do anything...I tied up loose ends, went in to meet his classes...we cooked dinner, relaxed...just the usual...but that usual is what I love so much about him and what I miss the most now that we are standing foot to foot with a world between us.
But I won't talk about that schmoopy poopy stuff now; that's all a given. What I will talk a little about is Mongolia.
You see, it's a crazy thing to move your life to the other side of the world, to meet all new friends, join a new culture, live in a land where boiled meat is - so they say - delicious and people live in gers. It's a crazy thing for Minii to be synonymous with grocery store, Ikh to be the favorite neighborhood pub.
It's also a crazy thing for people to open their worlds to you, to share their customs and traditions. Sure, there are many things about Mongolia that I will not miss, and, sure, it's simply glorious to be back in the womb, BUT, there are many things that I will miss...the simplicity of life...the absolute quirkiness of every single day...the countryside...the cows in the city...the Russian vans and jeeps and every other vehicle that breaks down damn near every time you get in it...the juxtaposition of the old with the new.
You see, Mongolia is a quirky place...perhaps the quirkiest in the world...but it is those quirks that give it its soul, and those quirks that make it who it is. It is also those quirks that I hold most dear and those quirks that I will cherish most from my year in the land of Chinggis Khan.