Sunday, July 10, 2016

A Few Well-Considered Reasons to STAY OUTTA THE WOODS

I doubt I would have visited Khuvsgul again if I hadn't won a free trip.  It is, without a doubt, the prettiest place in Mongolia, but I already experienced it, two years ago, in fact.  I've been in Mongolia four years now, and for a city girl, I think I've been an incredibly good sport about the fact that its attractions are almost exclusively in the wilderness, but the fact is that I'm pretty much over it.  When I entered the Harmonic UB photo contest, I was hoping to win first place - not because I wanted the glory, but because it was a trip to the Gobi, which is the only real destination I have left to venture forth to.  Unfortunately - and I know I sound like a baby saying this, but - unfortunately, second place is sort of what I do, so it was a free trip to Khuvsgul for me.  First world problems, I know.

That said, it could have been worse.  The tour company actually put me up in the ger camp that my former student's mother runs, Nature's Door, which is very comfortable, has excellent food, and ecologically sound waste practices (meaning they haul your poop off site for composting so it doesn't pollute the lake, and it doesn't smell very bad because they provide saw dust to dump in when you're finished).  And it is very pretty, don't get me wrong.  But unless I can find time to visit the Gobi, I'm so done with the countryside.  Here's why:

I don't care enough anymore. 

I went to the so-called reindeer festival at the ger camp next door, and it was too much of a bother to sit in the sun, reapplying sunscreen and sweating into my hat to watch the wrestling they'd set up.  Apparently I'd missed whatever reindeer events there were.  I was looking forward to the scheduled Shamanist Fire ceremony, and even came back over at 9 pm to watch it.  But then it turned out that they changed it to 10, and weren't set up until 10:30, at which point they started a BLOODY DANCE PARTY, and I'm not staying up past midnight to watch a bunch of drunk morons dance the macarena OR Gangnam Style.

I could have gone hiking but I don't care enough to deal with the bugs.  In fact, I'm done with bugs in general.  I found three spiders in my bed - THREE!  This has nothing to do with the management of the ger's just a fact of life in the woods.  There will be bugs. 

I don't care enough to want fresh air in more than small doses.  I don't want to say the "A" word, because I feel like the human body is a delicate thing and susceptible to suggestion, but I sniffled and sneezed and scratched my way through the last three days, and I'm starting to feel that mildly polluted air - or even heavily polluted air - is a small price to pay for not having to scramble for tissues for three days straight.

It's nice to go without the internet, to have time to catch up on my reading (which, in my case means binge-reading two books without stopping for breath) and doing some sketches in my travel journal, and feeling closer to that divine being that I believe is out there somewhere watching over us, but I don't care enough to do it to myself on purpose.  Especially when it means dealing with a girl's special time if I can't access shops or flush toilets.  Nature's Door at least has showers, but the last time I went to Khuvsgul I had the same problem and it is JUST NOT WORTH IT, showers or no. 

As I mentioned yesterday, I wasn't really prepared before I went to Amsterdam, and I spent more than a few minutes on the flight over (mostly because Aeroflot didn't have seatback entertainment, those jackholes) worrying that I couldn't hack it badass traveling lifestyle.  I wasn't that excited for Amsterdam, so maybe I was just over the whole traveling thing.  I've had a few existential moments like that over the last couple of years.  Then I got into Amsterdam, and it turned out that, oh yeah, actually, I can.  I'm awesome at this.  I broke my tablet the second night - ha, yeah, that happened - and it wasn't the end of the world, because I don't need to have ALL THE INFORMATIONS! at my fingertips, all the time.  I can get by with a cheap tourist map, my memory of the streets from the previous day, and a couple of notes in my journal.  But that's because Amsterdam is a city, and I am a city girl.  Give me traffic, crowds, pollution and all the wonders of modern technology that go with them - museums!  High speed wifi!  Electric fans!  You can keep the country.

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