26 year old Canadian, Dutch resident travelling to every country in the world (111 so far) to become the first Canadian female to visit them all. Bestselling travel AUTHOR and founder of popular #TRLT Twitter chat.
“Where on earth did you get a horse?!” Mom then voiced the next obvious question. “And where’d the kid with the bike come from?!”
In our excitement, we hadn’t noticed the little boy trailing behind Future on a blue bicycle.
We loaded our 4 backpacks onto Chewy.
I turned back every so often to watch the van get smaller and smaller.
The ger was forty-five minutes away, “in that direction,” but we hardly noticed the walk at all. We’d been saved.
The family consisted of grandparents and their two grandchildren: the boy with the bike and a younger sister. The children’s parents worked in Ulaanbaatar to provide for their family and came home only occasionally to visit and bring supplies.
The smaller of the two gers was used for storage, and we found the grandpa busy cleaning it out for our use as we arrived. When Future told us that, my heart swelled in response to them and their unreserved hospitality.
Chapter #42 “Last Lap Before a New Start
On our way to the capital, we needed diesel urgently and finally drove past a very small town. Our relief turned into consternation when we found that the whole town was deserted, including the gas station where we’d hoped to fuel up.
Apparently, the entire population had gathered on the outskirts of town for their own local Nadaam Festival celebrations. He waved for us to follow him; he was headed to the same place.
It took a while to find the owner. We received various answers when we asked the spectators in the crowd if they knew who and where he was.
“He’s over there.” We chased down a number of such vague leads but eventually, by following a series of pointing hands and pushing through the throng of onlookers, we “found Waldo” and took him back with us to get refuelled.
It was completely dark when we finally reached the tarmac road on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar, only to have the van break down one last time. Yes, yes, yes – NOOO! And we were so close! The brakes had seized, but Future refused to give up.
Everyone in this kind of culture has to rely on one another. In such harsh conditions and scenarios, it is likely that their experiences and lifestyle make them all the more appreciative of their fellow man. I’d seen how quickly people who value family and help strangers became friends in this culture. I thought of the grandparents who had nothing but shared their biscuits with us anyway, all the families who welcomed us into their homes, Khongorzul helping at the border, and the many others who’d helped along the way, none of them expecting anything in return. I couldn’t forget their bountiful generosity despite their limited means. These were the most hospitable strangers I’d ever met. In all fairness I don’t think there is a word for ‘stranger’ in Mongolia. The closest translation would probably be, “friends that haven’t met.” After all, isn’t that what a stranger should be? I was beginning to wish I, too, lived in a culture where that’s what being a stranger meant.