Right now I’m home on an unexpected afternoon off from work. About fifteen minutes ago I looked out the window and noticed a dog sprawled unnaturally in the snow, on the shady side of the street. Because I hate myself, I stood there and watched him for a good five minutes. First he struggled to get up, then he staggered around for a while, whining and looking around, and then he crumpled onto the snow again. This sequence repeated itself a few times before I muttered “oh fucking jesus christ” and threw on my coat and shoved a slice of bread in my purse and left the apartment.
I went downstairs and was just about to walk out the building when I looked to my right and saw him there, under the steps, lying on the floor and drooling and wheezing. He’s a big German Shepherd-type dog and he looked at me like I was going to kick him. By this point it was kind of obvious that he wasn’t starving, but I tossed the bread towards him anyway. He looked at it, looked back at me, drooled, wheezed, and put his head down between his paws. I stared at him for maybe ten seconds and then came back up here.
So happy 2011, everybody! My only resolution at the moment is to get rid of my blog post backlog. I think I might work on that right now, to distract myself from the horrorshow going on downstairs. We’ve seen plenty of strays since we got here: Dead dogs, dead puppies, screwed-up looking dogs, soon-to-be-frozen puppies. Whatever. But this is my first encounter with one that’s actually in the process of dying what looks to be a long and painful death. I can’t wait to walk past his corpse, and that stale piece of bread, tomorrow morning.
But more importantly, for christ’s sweet sake I did things and saw things over the last couple of months that you don’t even know about! This shameful situation cannot go on. And so:
November 25, 10:31 p.m.
I’m on the overnight train to UB with Ryan and our aimag-mates Laura and Carolyn. Ryan’s in the bunk across from me; the ladies are below us. One of my coteachers is on the same train car as us, randomly — she’s going to the city to see about her sister’s new apartment, or something. And elsewhere in the car are a few new friends, ranging in age from 1 to 4. I’ve forgotten everybody’s name except Temujin, the little stinker with Chinggis Khaan’s childhood name.
He was the first one to toddle over to our compartment, hoisting himself onto a bench and busying himself with our empty tea cups.
Then the rest of them invited themselves over to our compartment and set up camp for a good hour. One guy was wearing a sweatshirt that said “BEST blue KIDS” and “AMERICAN competitor EDUCATION.” Our Mongolia Lonely Planet was on the table, so we pointed at the pictures and had a nice round of What Is This, Mongolian Language Edition.
What is this?
What is this?
Good! What is this?
(Look at that face! He had a laugh that can be most accurately described as ‘demonic’)
Earlier, the tea lady came through, then the sheets lady, and finally the juice lady. Now it’s quiet and hot and dim. People are curled up in their bunks and kids are padding around in their long underwear. The windows are black, ice and snow roll beneath us, and we’ll be in the city by morning.
When our train started to pull away from the platform in Erdenet, Ryan pointed out the window and said, “Look.” There was a jubilant-looking middle-aged lady outside. In one hand, she had a box of milk from the supermarket; in the other hand, a spoon. The train slowly moved forward. We all crowded around the window, craning our necks to watch this woman send off a loved one, throwing spoonfuls of milk on the train and calling out her farewells.
December 4, 1:50 pm, on the bus, waiting to leave for Erdenet
UB men and Erdenet women seem to do a lot of long-distance relationships — many a boyfriend/husband has dropped off his ladyfriend/wife on this bus. I’ve heard “I’ll text you!” at least seven times already.
Outside my window, a father-daughter pair is standing by a pile of luggage, passing the time by playing rock-paper-scissors. When he loses, she gets to punish him by flicking him on the forehead.
HOLD THE PHONE: We’re pulling out of the bus station right now, and everybody just put on their seat belts. My seatmate looked over and motioned for me to do it, too. Two questions:
- What country am I in again, and
- Exactly how dangerous must a bus ride be perceived to be for 40 Mongolians to buckle up?
A funny thing:
We’re watching a video of a lady singing old Mongolian standards, but jazzed up and syncopated. She is also scat singing, here and there.
Less funny things:
We’re barreling along. There has been maybe four inches of snow in the last few hours, and the road is completely unplowed. Things are rattling. The bus is oscillating. The driver is taking the turns pretty fast. When I look out my window, there is nothing but blackness.
In an attempt to distract myself from how we are all about to die, I started looking through the pictures from this week on my camera. Guess what I noticed?
I took a picture of neo-Nazis! That’s right: Neo-Nazis. I saw a bunch of uniformed dudes pose in Sukhbaataar Square on Independence Day and I thought, “Oh hey, it’s some policemen or whatever, I think I’ll just wander over there and snap a picture.” And then I did that, and walked happily, stupidly away, like a big foreign dumbass who had just stuck her camera in the faces of a dozen (violent? Douchebaggy, at the very least) nationalists. And then it took me a week to notice the non-Buddhist swastikas and the SS uniforms.
Oh god please don’t let me die on this stupid bus.
[Editor’s note: I didn’t]
December 9, 1:30 p.m
Alone in the middle school teachers’ lounge, reading, waiting for the bell to ring. One of the Mongolian language teachers, on her cell phone, marches into the room.
TEACHER, INTO PHONE
No, there’s nobody here.
TEACHER, WITH PANICKED EXPRESSION, STILL ON PHONE
UUUUUH I mean, the American teacher is here! But, uh…nobody else is here. Heh heh. Sorry.