We left off just after dinnertime in the ger camp in Mongolia…. The ladies and I are preparing for bed after a satisfying day of hiking, horseback riding, and a cozy viewing of Breaking Bad in our yurt.
Ambushed by Anxiety
As we go about our bedtime rituals I feel the slow, quiet creep of anxiety washing over me. Though I’m not an anxious person in general, Anxiety and I have certainly tangoed before – and I can sense his cat-like approach. Like an unwelcome houseguest he arrives unannounced, often at the most inconvenient times (like say, now), and gives no sign of when he might depart. As I try to arrange myself comfortably among the blankets, I remember my inevitable return to my “real life” back in Boston and feel uneasy. Normally, I would suffer in silence but this time I surprise myself by doing something decidedly un-Malia-like: I talk about my feelings.
“Do you guys ever….. get nervous about… you know… going back home?” I venture timidly. Sabrina stops rummaging through her toiletries and looks thoughtful. Sarah stops folding her clothes for a moment. Then, much to my relief, there is a chorus of agreement.
Maybe it is here, dear Reader, that you begin to wonder what, exactly, is so terrible about my life back in Boston. Nothing, really – in fact, it’s pretty cushy. The only thing I can offer by way of an explanation is that, much like many people fear the unknown, my fellow travelers and I occasionally fear the certainties in our lives – #moreofthesame. For tonight, we console ourselves with thoughts of tomorrow’s adventures.
Archery and Open Air
Each summer the Great Nadaam (or “games”) takes place in Ulaan Baatar. During this celebration, Mongolians compete in three traditional sports: archery, Mongolian wrestling, and horse racing. After breakfast at camp we try our hand at some archery. The bow and arrow have been around since time immemorial and were used by Mongolians as weapons, hunting equipment, and for sport. As for me, the last time I tried archery was in high school gym class and… it shows.
On our way back to UB our group makes some pit stops to search for yaks and check out the Genghis Khan statue. The stainless steel statue depicts the Great Khan on horseback and is the largest equestrian statue in the world (or so I read). It is certainly impressive and offers gorgeous views of the surrounding steppes. The sheer beauty of wide, open space on this trip has been one of my favorite things.
We spend our last few hours in Mongolia traipsing around the city, buying last minute trinkets and dodging oncoming traffic. The drivers in UB are the most aggressive I have seen absolutely anywhere! I notice there seem to be no regulations about whether the steering wheel is on the left- or right-hand side of the car.
After several perilous street crossings, Ashley and I stop by the post office to send out some postcards. I think back to the first day we spent together in St. Petersburg and am amazed at how close we have become. You learn a lot about a person over several cups of coffee and an inquiry about their postcard recipients. We send off our mail – knowing too well that we will arrive home before our postcards do! – and head back to the hotel to pack up. Next stop: Beijing!