Quick! Another blog post before rushing off to Ulaanbaatar again!
Did we seriously have another round of visitors last month, you ask? And I sayeth unto you that the answer is yes. Behold! Ryan’s parents, in Mongolia, at long last:
It was extra nice to see them, because:
- This visit was a long time coming and, for a little while there, it seemed like it might not happen at all;
- When we go home, we’ll have two more family members with a pretty good idea of what our lives were like here;
- Charlie bought a fancy new camera for the trip and I relish it when people in my life drink the DSLR Kool-Aid;
- We had yet another chance to do fun touristy things; and
- Jan and Charlie possess secret magic powers and lucky shit kept happening, everywhere we went.
I shall now give a full account of the lucky shit.
Here we have Charlie, sippin’ on some fermented mare’s milk during our visit to Ryan’s host family in Zuunmod. Airag is a summertime treat, and we had warned Jan and Charlie not to get their hopes up about trying some (a visit to Mongolia without airag! Horrors!)(I am kidding but also kind of not kidding). But people freeze a bunch of airag at the end of the summer and then thaw it out for the Tsagaan Sar holiday, see, and so this was the very last bit Ryan’s host mom had on hand.
Sanja got down on some airag, too.
This is what duder looked like two years ago, by the way:
Aw. I imagine it is easy for Ryan to get wistful for little Pre-Verbal Sanja, but — and he mentioned this in his biannual blog post — he did have this delightful exchange with Post-Verbal Sanja during our visit:
SANJA, LEANING ON RYAN’S ARMREST
How’s my beard.
SANJA, SMILING FAINTLY
(Ryan and Sanja, watching two-year-old videos of themselves, GAH)
Look, it’s all my in-laws!
2. The coolest band in Mongolia
On Megan and Jay’s first night in Mongolia, when they were loopy with jet lag, we made them sit in a hot, smoky, loud restaurant for more than two hours, insisting that it was worth it, that they couldn’t come to Mongolia and not see Altan Urag. The band never played, though. Instead, there was a girl band that did Adele covers. This was bullshit.
When Jan and Charlie were here, though, we got the best seats in the house, the band went on right on time, and they played an extra-long set. This was awesome.
3. Photo ops with exotic creatures
On our way into Terelj National Park, we came across Kazakh Eagle Guy, who I remembered as a persistent roadside presence during my training summer in a nearby town. Here he is, putting a goddamned vulture on Ryan’s arm:
(vulture photos will set you back a few more tugriks than eagle photos, FYI)
And then on our way out of Terelj a couple days later, what should we happen upon but everyone’s favorite snout*:
*The Five Mongolian Snouts: sheep, goats, cows, horses, and camels
When we drove up, the guy holding the reins was hanging out in the ger camp by himself. Maybe he was a guard or something, who knows. When we pointed to the animals out in the field and asked him if Ryan’s parents could go for a little ride, he stuck his hands in his pockets and looked around, craning his neck. “The camel’s owner isn’t here. How much?” he asked. “How about 5,000 per person?” we said. “Yeah okay” he said, and then made the easiest money of his life, I’m guessing.
Sorry, rightful but absentee camel owner!
4. Eternal blue sky
In between the eagles and the camels, we spent a couple sunny, warm days in the park. The weather was incredibly mild for Mongolian spring.
Plus, there were kiddos who happily monopolized our time:
(Ryan is an expert hide and seeker)
And there were horsey rides, which I am not supposed to refer to as “horsey rides” per Jan and Charlie’s request but, I mean, let’s get real, children were leading said horsies for us:
And there was my favorite photo of the trip, which I will call “How many McGibonys does it take to light a fire?”
4. Random archery competition in Erdenet, oh man just look at these guys
Look at them! Holy shit!
Yeah so we came back to Erdenet and all these awesomely-dressed dudes were milling about in a field, having an archery competition. There were zero spectators besides us, for reasons I will never understand. We made some friends, as you can see. The guy in the gold deel with all the medals was 90 years old. Ninety.
5. Impromptu concert at the orphanage
Our fifth and final lucky thing: When we showed up to the orphanage on Saturday morning, it was mayhem; kids were running around, dressed in crazy costumes and frantically practicing dance moves. People from Coca-Cola Mongolia Headquarters were on their way, we were told. And so it came to pass that we got to sit in on the most adorable dance recital ever.
You will be seeing some of the kids’ moves very soon, because they have been incorporated into our Super Secret Erdenet Video Project that is almost ready to be unveiled. To prepare yourself, please watch this:
Thank you. And now we are off to Ulaanbaatar for our Close of Service Conference, where we will talk about feelings. Have a wonderful weekend, please.