Saturday, August 17, 2013

New Year, New Ger

I am not a very social person.  I happen to be one of those super-spiffy individuals called "introverts" and a tiny bit of social stimulation is just about all I need most of the time (side note: don't come to see me after I've been left to my own devices for a month.  Engrish and Geek were afraid I was going to hump their legs, I was that happy to have friends again).  However, the start of a new school year means we had a LOT of new staff coming in.  It also means that we go on a big staff ger camp, and the most expedient way of getting to know ALL those people is, of course, to take them out to the countryside and give them a lot of booze (yeah, I'm Mormon, and I don't drink, but I think you learn a lot about people, pretty fast, when you put them in a big group with their coworkers and they all start learn who can control themselves, who's an ass, who's fun no matter what...all sorts of things), and since I haven't seen much of the newbies, I like spending time with Engrish and Geek, and - let's be honest - I was looking forward to an excuse to start fires, I went.

Last year the school took us to Hustai National Park.  The spring camp went to Terelj but I decided the people I DIDN'T want to be around when they got schnackered outnumbered the ones that I love to be around under any and all circumstances, so I gave it a miss.  What I had seen of Terelj, though, I really liked, and I was excited to get out and see more.  Unfortunately the bus I was on - which I was not exactly happy about because it was full of sedate people who, for the most part, I'd already gotten to know - went to the wrong ger camp.  Twice.  (There are only about a million ger camps in Terelj, so I really don't understand how he went to the wrong one.)  But we made it there in the end, and their food was pretty great - I could have eaten nothing but their bread, which was crusty on the outside, nice and moist on the inside and I swear had a hint of sourdough about it - even if it took them an hour and a half to serve us lunch this afternoon.
I had hoped to get up in the hills earlier in the week to find kindling, but in the rush to get ready for the new school year (which has upset me on various occasions, but that's neither here nor there) it didn't happen.  Fortunately our bus was 40 minutes ahead of the other when we got to the park entrance, which then gave me a little time to find some.  But there was a problem.  I don't know if any of you 6 faithful readers have tried to start a fire with wood that isn't completely bone dry before, but if not, it's not the best idea.  It rained a few times over the last week (it seems to me that it rains more here in August than other months), and the dead wood and pine cones I was able to gather were just wet enough to be a problem.  So helpful hint for pyros number one: make sure to get DRY kindling.  Helpful hint number 2: bring the FULL box of matches.  When you've got damp kindling, you go through a lot of them.  On the upside though (ain't I the optimist?) I seem to be getting used to the cold, because when I woke up at 2:30 in the earlimorn to the sound of some Mongolians blasting music out of the trunk of their car and needing desperately to pee, the ger didn't feel that cold, and neither did the air outside.  And when I had to go looking for the guy who (for once) was going to start our fire in the morning until I chased him off because I wanted to play ask him to come back and start our fire because this pyro ran out of matches, the predawn gloaming was beautiful, in a solitary, alien sort of way.
One of the most famous rock formations in Mongolia is in Terelj.  Can you guess what it is supposed to look like?  If you've got a guess, tell me what you think it is in the comments - I'll send a postcard to the first person who gets it right (unless I worked with that person here last year).  We stopped there when I went with Ecovoyage Mongolie to cook khuushuur this spring, but at that point I was tired, undercaffeinated, and wanted to get the hell home.  I still haven't climbed the damn thing (maybe next time), but I did get to take some pictures.
We went to Terelj Monastery before the rock, but I wasn't really into it, and stayed near the bus for the allotted hour, weaving flowers into a coronet (I've been reading a lot of faerie fiction this month - can you tell? - including rereading all of Seanan McGuire's October Daye series, which I LOVE and highly recommend if you're into urban fantasy).  I was more excited, upon arriving at the Rock, to look at their eagle and have a picture taken.  I didn't hold him for very long - he seemed kind of grouchy, and I can't blame him, since his handlers encourage the tourists to bob him up and down to get him to open his wings - but even in that short amount of time I was surprised by how much he weighed.  I've been reading up a little on eagle hunting, because I'm planning to go to the Eagle Festival in Bayan-Olgii in October.  These badasses can take down and carry off a young deer, which I find a lot more believable after feeling his claws through the leather sleeve and seeing just how sharp his beak was up close.  That close up you could see the difference in his eyes, as well - the one closest to me was clouded over, which is probably how he ended up getting the tourist gig.  Regardless, he was an amazing bird, and I only felt slightly ridiculous telling him how beautiful he was and thanking him for letting me hold him.


  1. a turtle?!? That's what it looks like to me, anyway.

    After seeing an eagle close up when I went on my Alaskan cruise, I'm not sure I'd want to get that close to one, you're brave, lol.

    1. Yep! Definitely a turtle. Message me your address and I'll send you a postcard. The eagle was more than a little intimidating, but still really cool - we're super stoked to be visiting the eagle festival in less than a month!