Oogii’s calling me. I’m standing on the far end of Sukhbaatar Square and she’s telling me where they’re sitting. Directions in Mongolian have never been my strength. It doesn’t matter, because I’m certain they’re sitting in the shade and the only shade to be had is on the opposite end, past Axehero’s statue, underneath a few bushes popping over a short stone wall. Getting close, I see them all sitting in a row. They put their elbows over mine and kiss my cheek. We sit there together, hiding from the sun, talking about our health, the weather, America. Oogii’s wearing a sun hat, holding Zaluuhaa. Turuu’s facial hair is wild, even after he jokingly told me he would never let it go because he thought it would make him look like an “aa-raab.”Baagii and Mendee look sober, or recently sobered, and hot. Their middle school daughter dressed in white wanders around us.
Today's post is by Patrick Hunt, who is without internet access these days while on assignment teaching at a remote camp. He sent his post in early, along with a few photos that you will find here. -- sdh
Two months after I bragged to friends back home about what had been "without a doubt, the single most heroic moment of my entire life," two men broke into my home in the middle of the night and threw me out. They scared the living shit out of me, obviously, and also, pretty much, in that single short moment when the door broke open against all the strength I had – and the mental pyschokinesis it turns out I don't have – and I scrambled away to the back of my place, made me realize who I actually am. Which is very different from the person I thought I was and not anything at all similar to the person I was hoping I was. And that finding-who-you-really-are thing? That self-discovery? Well, 1) Not only does it make you feel pretty dumb when it happens at, say, twenty-six, because, you know, just like those other things that are suppose to happen in college – meeting people from other states, losing your virginity, coke, learning the word "hegemony" – it's suppose to happen in college; but also 2) For those of us born in the most affluent country during the safest period in the history of the universe, when the greatest threat to our safety is rush hour and E.coli in our spinach, we can probably expect to encounter those situations that show us What We're Made Of a few times during our entire lives, a handful more if you've chosen a loft in a gentrified neighborhood, more still if you've been to war, and still more if you rollerblade. And so when those situations do happen, and the resulting epiphany reveals that the person you were one hundred percent certain you were isn't actually there, you walk around all emo and insecure for a week, with a giant question mark over your head, uncomfortable and confused like you've taken your pants off to see you're suddenly wearing someone else's underwear.
But first, you need to know this: I live in Mongolia, in a small town called Uliastai, which is about 1000 km west of the capital[i], in the countryside, which iskind of the countryside, but kind of not, but is called "the countryside" because it turns out that even urbanites in Mongolia like to make sweeping and dismissive generalizations about everything outside the city limits[ii].