Food for thought but no stomach for Korean

It had to happen of course. I’d already had a fling with food poisoning earlier on, but this week nature decided to intervene. During my ten days in Ulaanbaatar I found it increasingly difficult to think. The city was crowded and so was my brain. I stayed at the Mongolian Steppe Guesthouse, a friendly place with ample opportunity to meet interesting people. However, stimulation was not what I was looking for, I needed space to organize my research. Fortunately I could stay the last few days with Froit from Euroyurts and his lovely Mongolian wife. He has an exceptional comfy sofa in a spacious and cosy living room and I finally got some rest. After I finished all the organizing and postcard writing I took the night bus to the Gobi.
I’ll be short about that journey: it was uncomfortable. It wasn’t a sleeper, it was a small city bus. After a series of gymnastic sleeping poses that would make Houdini proud, we arrived in Dalanzadgad, the only town of important in Omnigovi province.

Packed with twenty five kilogram of just-in-case madness I made my way through town. The plan was to walk up into the mountains, pitch my newly bought but crappy tent, and go back for a meal. Of course the mountains were not within my walking distance. After fourty minutes of ger-district I finally made it to the edge of town. What the hell was I doing? After a break, a pat on my back and a deep draw of breath I decided to walk into one of the nearest khasha’s or enclosure. After all, this was what I wanted to do, right? Meet local people, get to know them and write about them. I would have to do this everyday during my nomadic experiment in Amsterdam, so I might as well start now.
So I picked a nicely maintained khasha and walked in. To the left there was a big vegetable patch and next to it two tall gers. Next to the entrance there was a small wooden house overlooking it all and behind it I found a few surprised people building a ger. I was welcome to stay for a few days, and after I pitched my tent I helped with the ger. The ger was for the young couple with a baby who would marry coming Friday. Tonight they would spend their very first night in their own home. The family was well educated and the daughter in law spoke some English. They were kind and curious and after exchanging pleasantries I left the khasha to have diner with a tour guide I had met that morning.

Saihan took me to a nice restaurant that served good Korean food. At least, the taste was great. He told me about his life as a guide and English teacher and gave me a few handy tips. With a stomach full of pepper and a light spirit I walked the 2,5 km back to the family. That night the series Vomit with a View broadcasted a few new episodes. The first time was kinda funny with the stars shining bright in front of my tear filled eyes, I even wrote to Jos about it in cheerful tones. But the second time included a number two, and the third and fourth times were nasty.
The following morning I took a shovel and cleaned up the mess in a pace that would fit a religious procession. After an acupressure massage by both mother and grandmother I was brought to a hotel in the city. As soon as I touched the (kinda) soft bed in my quiet room my tears started flowing. What a bliss. And if I would stay ill long enough I would even make it to the wedding on Friday.

How to live a rich life with little stuff? When you are having a bad cold on top of food poisoning it is all about maximizing fun. iPod, cooking gear and (paper) notebook are my best friends. I cherish the trips to the internet cafe and the calls with Jos and my parents. I even made it to the wedding. But more importantly, my brain has finally shifted into gear again. My mind is constantly making up plans, recalling interviews, reflecting on situations and enjoying the prospect of seeing Jos again. I write letters to him about project, travel and inner workings. I even do some yoga and meditation, especially necessary as I am only slowly getting better. But the fun wears off after five days in a hotel. I have postponed my hitchhiking plans to Monday and I try to rest as much as my restless mind will let me.
To get healthy I need to lie down in bed and clear my mind. It is then that I finally feel bored and lonely and a little down. Jos and I agreed to call less, maybe not for a week. Our wireless lifeline distracts us from being where we are and dealing with being apart. And being on my own is what I travel for, right? Feeling lonely and getting through it? Yes. I suppose so.
When I will get back to the hotel room in a little while, I’ll draw another breath when I lay down. The big (doing) nothing is not particularly scary when you let come over you. There are very few monsters in the dark and I know that I am fine. Since I wasn’t going to take time for this of my own choosing, I’ll finish this story with a thank you to the universe for Korean food and cheap hotels. Next time I hope to write to you about weddings, crappy tents and crazy encounters of the third kind.

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