Sunday, October 2, 2016

Grey Skies Over Mongolia

"Choose your last words,
This is the last time.
'Cause you and I -
We were born to die."

The mournful strains of Lana del Rey floated across the valley from the other tourist camp as Five and I descended from our hike up to the source of the hot springs.  We - along with Engrish - had made the long trek out to Tsenkher because a.) I'd bailed on the school ger camp the previous weekend (because 24 hours is too long for me to be with my coworkers) but still wanted fresh air, and b.) I've been working on my exit plan, and wanted to be sure I got to go again.  A year goes by faster than you'd think.

I hadn't even gotten through my first year in Mongolia before I started to consider that maybe, perhaps, I would stay until my brats - those kids who were in my homeroom class my first year - graduated.  At that time, I'd never stayed longer than two years in one place at a time...and two years really felt like stretching it.  But I liked my school, and I loved my kids, and before I knew it, I'd been here for four. When you've been in one place that long, it seems like you could stay forever.  Or that's how I feel, anyways.  Going on five years, what's another?  Hell, another five, even?  My seventh graders get on famously with me...maybe I should stay and see them graduate.  Shouldn't I hold onto a good thing?  How do you know when it's time to leave?

Well, I know.  I can tell because my blogs have slowed to a trickle.  I don't get excited about going out and coming up with new stuff to do. I can tell by the way I feel the cold.  On the way to Tsenkher, we stayed the night with Enkhaa's friends again, as we did the last time.  When Engrish and I went with Geek 3 years ago, we had a measly dung fire that never got started properly, but I was warm enough.  Maybe I brought my sleeping bag that time; I can't remember, but since it's a pain to roll up, I probably did the same thing then as now - left it at home and shivered in the cold.  This time it was the longest night I can remember spending in a very long time, and it was only winter's opening maneuvers.  It snowed for the first time the day I started writing this. I can tell because I tear up anytime I hear a stupid song like "Born to Die," talking about endings.  But what is life except a series of endings?  You might as well embrace it and live a badass life with as few "ragrets" as you can manage.
The skies on the ride out to Tsenkher were cloudy, but Enkhaa the Fearless kept slogging through a week's worth of mud til we made it there.  Five kept insisting, "There's a bit of blue sky - let's chase it!" but although I appreciate a good Austen novel, I never really identified with Marianne.  Grey skies suited my mood as I contemplated the coming year - the hassle of finding a new job, the challenge of finding new challenges for myself.  It's ironic that I've chosen this life, because I hate moving, hate upending my life, and as much as I love diving into a new place and experiencing everything it has to offer, it scares the shit out of me, thinking I might flop.  Ever since my year in Bahrain, I wonder if I'll be able to find new friends, if my school will be a good one.  And that's assuming I can even find a job.  For the first time in my expat life, I'm not okay with going wherever the wind blows me, and I can't just go back to GDA failing all else, which was my old contingency plan.  This year, the wind damn well better blow me to Japan...but if I can't manage that before my decision date, what do I do?  Sign on for another year?  Or have a little faith?
Well, we did eventually get a little sun - even before we were on our way back, which is when I took this photo.  As amazing a driver as Enkhaa is, I admit I was a little worried that if it rained too much while we were in Tsenkher that we'd get stuck there, and so I prayed.  I prayed we'd be safe, I prayed we'd have a little sun, I prayed that I wouldn't be as cold the second night as I was the first (Five and Engrish claimed they weren't cold that night, but I think they're crazy.  I would have been cold even with a sleeping bag).  And everything was fine.  I'm Mormon, and I do believe in a higher power, that our prayers are heard by a being that cares for us, so I guess I shouldn't be as nervous about leaving Mongolia as I am...but I am. 

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