May 16, 2008

Кочевая жизнь Джозефа (вторая глава)

The minute I announced that my blog was revived, I started to regret it. I've got way too much digging, sifting, planting and watering to do to write anything decent. Plus, there's a lot of little things i still want to do in Russia. I've haven't even gone shooting with the drunk neighbor at the dacha yet, or translated all the secret family recipes for use in America like my señora, in her insane culinary fantasy-world, thinks i want to.

So these next two entries are really for completists only. This one I wrote in early April, right after I got home from Mongolia, never finished, and never posted. It started with a real killer April Fool's joke, but I think the window for that has already closed. After this, it may just be a bunch of pictures without words. The final one I'll put a little more effort into. Enjoy?

~~~

My last post was mostly pictures, because I couldn't summon the creative energy to write a full entry. As I said a few weeks ago, Russia just didn't feel quite as exciting anymore. In one sense, it's a good thing - I've spent enough time here that I can see the country from a more balanced, realistic perspective. On the other hand, it meant I had begun to take for granted this unique experience, and forgot to find joy in the little things, like I used to. That was my thinking at the time.

Soon after that, though, I came to understand the real issue. There was nothing wrong with me, or with Russia - life was good, and I had no right to complain. I was safe, healthy, and learning every day. But safety and health alone aren't the only things man requires in life - we're thinking, feeling beings, and Russia wasn't providing for my deeper, psychological needs anymore.

In other words, in Irkutsk, my dreams were no longer getting happiness. So I packed up and made my return to Mongolia.

New semester, same sign.

The museum was as amazing as the sign itself. And don't immediately laugh this off as just another bad translation - they have their reasons:

Hard to read, but worth the effort.
~~~

Today's story will be a change of pace - it's heart-warming, but otherwise won't be of any interest to you. There will be pretty pictures at the end, but not many. See, all the sheep and goats had just had babies, so I blew all of my camera-battery power on baby sheep and goats in the first two days, and then missed 100 opportunities to take great photos. That is not a joke, and I can prove it.


~~~

This time around, I'd seen all the sights in the capital (the statue of Genghis Khan and the camel-is-a-living-dinosaur museum), and wanted to get right out into nature again. Right when I arrived, I dropped 240,000 тугриг (PAY-soze) on a five-day excursion into the steppe. That is to say, I blew all of the money I've made all semester teaching English and then some, for five days of walking around in a big field. It was awesome. I wandered with various herds of various animals, and ate various types of disgusting-yet-delicious-by-comparison Mongolian food. I already talked about the sheep-heads last semester, though, so today my story focuses on animals in their fully-assembled form.

I came to like the goats most of all, so I would walk out in front of a herd, in the direction they seemed to be wandering, then sit there for an hour while they all gathered around me and ate grass. Then I'd move wherever they drifted off to. This is what it looked like:


I'm not sure what the evolutionary basis for this is, but as we know, millions of years of natural selection have taught goats to eat clothing, garbage, and whatever else they can fit in their mouths. So every once in a while, a goat would come to taste my jacket. Eventually, one particularly friendly goat approached me and introduced himself. This is what he looked like:
Then I pet him. It looked like this:
He followed me around from that point on, and I tried to take pictures with him, even though he wouldn't life his face from the grass for more than a second, and when he did, he wouldn't look at the camera, only at the grass:


We spent most of the day together, and then another day when I returned to his owner's yurt at the end of the excursion. The only conflict in our relationship came up when some crazy Mongolian kid grabbed him by the horns and rode him around like a horse, yelling and swinging his arms around. The goat just patiently waited for him to stop, though. It looked like this:
The goat wasn't quick to forgive me after that. Just kidding. He's just a stupid goat, he forgave me right away, like it had never happened:

This is me saying good-bye to my goat. It was heart-breaking, especially since that night, and a lot of other nights, all the Mongolians were eating goats. But I checked before I left, he was still around.

In retrospect, I'm pretty sure he wasn't so much 'friendly' as he was 'dumb.' He kinda tended to lose his herd, and wait around outside the yurts for no reason, and eat more glass than the others... but friendship isn't friendship if there are conditions, so I like him all the same.

Basically it was the happiest week of my life. That's all. These are my non-goat pictures:
~~~

This statue was in the Russian border-town of Naushki. It's the T1000 from Terminator 2, in the scene where he pretends to be that one dude's wife, but then turns his molten-metal arm into a huge spike and impales the guy with it. I'm not entirely sure what the connection is to the town, but I'm sure the locals get it.


The average Mongolian, as you might imagine, is a thousand times tougher than any person you've ever met. They don't feel temperature, or fatigue, or any emotions, other than hunger, if that counts. If it were for all those guns we invented, they'd probably still be killing us right now. Our driver Bayaraa was no exception. This is him, standing in front of a huge cliff that I photographed last semester.

Mongolians tend to be very straightforward, sometimes even abrasive by our standards. This is Bayaraa, demonstrating not to drag sand into the truck. His English wasn't up to speed, so he just put some sand on his shoe, then kicked it into the truck. Then, he screamed, tore this enormous wooden pillar out of the ground, flew into a rage, and heaved it off the cliff.


How do you think the rest of the joke goes? Leave your ideas in the 'comments' section!


I recommend any of these pictures as a desktop background. At this point, back in April, I stopped writing. And I really don't have any free time now, so I'm out of here. You can keep looking if you want, I'm not gonna stop you.




This one is my favorite.