MONGOLIA and the Almost-Ugly-American

This was written September 1st, now it is the 5th, 1:10pm and I am on the train to Beijing. Meanwhile I want to finish all notes, thoughts about Mongolia and have them ready to post from my Chinese hotel…all out of my system for better—and worse.



The evil genii of bad trips can appear at any time. You must be quick to banish him before that first glimmer of gloom has occasion to take hold, before cranky complaining gets a grip on your day.

I admit to almost blowing it today. First time that my usual cheery disposition has been challenged for more than an hour or two on this whole trip. Eventually I had to sit down for a serious talk with myself that went something like this.

“So, Bad Marjorie, you’re not very happy today are you?”

“Are you kidding me, of course I’m not, Good Marjorie, there is no wifi in the wilds of Mongolia and it is #$@*%!?% cold here and I couldn’t summon my companion-named-sleep on my fifth train night and I didn’t have anything to eat except Lay’s potato chips all day and the ger I was scheduled to spend the night in is downhill a block or so from the toilet and has a wood stove and dad’s not here to keep it burning all night AND …”

“Okay okay, enough, Bad Marjorie. So I guess the best thing to do is insist the Camp drive you the forty miles or so back to town and you can just book a flight on into Beijing and meanwhile cancel your funny little hotel in the alley there and go straight to the Hilton so you’re sure everything will be familiar. You will be connected and warm and the toilet will be next to your bed practically. Let’s do it.”

“Hey Good Marjorie, I’m going to do exactly that. I’m too old for this sh… discomfort. The only reason I hesitate is that the girl who’s my guide here is a little new at her job and really really sweet and well-intentioned and I’m afraid it might make her look bad if I just cancel everything.”

“Oh for heaven’s sake, Bad Marjorie, what do you care? You’ll never see her again anyway and, at your age, isn’t your comfort more important than anything else.

“In fact with any luck you could be home in your own bed 48 hours from now. Think about it…more than enough heat, shower and toilet so near, instant grits just a zap away…maybe the new Starbucks on 12th is open by now…honestly does it get any better than that?”

“Okay okay…Stop Good Marjorie! Remember that book The Ugly American? That’s how you’re making me feel. I am not that, okay. Just had a bad moment there…which I already feel passing. Now we are one…Just you and me together. One Whole Good Marjorie. Here’s to Mongolia…”

     And, it is true isn’t it that I will never again be on mountainside in Mongolia, not so far from where Genghis Kahn set out to rule the world and almost succeeded and where many people still live in tent-like structures made out of felt called gers, and where the national drink is fermented mare’s milk (still in my future) and where everyone really does look quite beautifully exotically different.

 I declare today over. I’ve selected to stay in a room in the lodge, I’m living just a little luxuriously by having a few clothes laundered, I had two Tiger beers for lunch and it is somewhat reassuring to know that life without wifi is possible…still making me a little nervous but the Tiger and a long nap helped reduce the tension.

2 Comments on “MONGOLIA and the Almost-Ugly-American

  1. Well, at least it is better than a train car that smells like pee at one end, right? So is food service, as in dining car, nonexistent on a Mongolian train? Well, at least on the Russian train they had something, even if it was beet soup. This is still better than riding on the bus with chickens on top of it in African someplace. Right? So, you have experienced worse. Funny, the internet connection thing would not bother me at all…but I am a Luddite.

  2. Love all your funny impressions from trains to yurts.

    Here’s something…”.A yurt provides not only the atmosphere of a nomadic lifestyle but has many practical and enjoyable uses for people in North America and elsewhere in the world. A Mongolian ger (yurt) makes an ideal second or holiday home in part because it can be put to many uses. One of the pleasantest ways to make use of a yurt is as a pavilion in a backyard or another spot.” from the WELCOME TO GER website. haha.

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