Arriving in Mongolia

June 2, 2013


I’m in Mongolia.


It’s amazing how the types of challenges of my weeks prior to departure helped me prepare for the ones I am encountering now. I’ve been feeling in the middle of chaos, and relocating to Mongolia has simply upped the ante! First of all, it’s obvious I don’t know how to pack for this kind of trip. I thought packing was a hump I needed to get over, and then it would be finished. It’s ongoing because I’m living out of suitcases and moving around. Second, I had been eating differently than usual in the 2 months prior to departure. Well! That has really increased!! Third, irregular sleep came on a new level. Just last night I finally got more than 1.5 hours at a time. I actually slept 6 hours!! I feel better today. 


The flight to Korea was surreal. The flight from Detroit started on Thursday, and it continued for 13 hours. There was thick cloud cover, and it was so bright outside that the flight attendants asked everyone to close the shades. So we were hurtling through space in a dark cave. Time kept passing, yet the sun never set. When we arrived in Korea, it was Friday, and we had experienced no night between Thursday and Friday. It was a very long day. When the tracking monitor showed that we were over Siberia, I stole a peek. I was thrilled to see land, covered with snow that was melting. As we progressed into Russia and China airspace, there was less snow. Somewhere in China, when we again came close to ocean, cloud cover returned.



After a 4.5 hour layover, we boarded the plane in Korea and immediately were served a dinner unlike any we’d had up to then. We had a lovely meal, with real dishes, with lychee for dessert, and a glass of wine! As soon as the attendant took my tray, I reclined my seat. The next thing I knew we were landing in Ulaanbaatar, about two hours later, and I had a customs form on my table. We deplaned, and were crowded into the small customs room. There were two queus for natives and two for foreigners. There were more of us, so they opened more places for us. They took our passports and stamped them, and that was customs. No one’s bags were searched, no one was questioned. 


Our country director met us as we were gathering our baggage, and immediately rolled up her sleeves, helping us get organized as our bags appeared. It took quite a while to get the baggage, but as we proceeded out of the terminal, a huge mob of current PCVs (peace corps volunteers) cheered us each as we emerged. Then they stayed with us and talked to us outside. We were soon loaded into a bus after giving our luggage to someone with a huge truck. Spirits were high. We were taken to a ger camp, where we were placed 6 to a ger for the next several days. It was 11:30 at night when we arrived, and we finally got settled at 2:30am. 


I didn’t sleep at all, but lay there, grateful for a horizontal surface. I watched the space at the top of the ger for daylight. Before 4, I saw it getting lighter. By 4:30 it was fully light outside. By 5, I risked waking the others to get up and go outside. I just had to see where I was. Besides, I was hearing unfamiliar bird sounds. I put my sweats on over my pajamas, and piled jacket and vest on, grabbed my camera and binoculars, and went out. When I stepped outside, I felt immediately, despite sleep deprivation, hunger, jet lag, etc, that I’d come to piece of heaven! It’s intensely beautiful here. I say intensely truly. It’s not a word I would use to describe the beauty of Greece, for example. And there were birds!! The birds are for another post. We were in a valley with mountains everywhere. There were horses on the hillsides. I can’t begin to describe this special land. The sunsets and sunrises are stunning!! 



9 thoughts on “Arriving in Mongolia

  1. Wow Kathleen! What an amazing entry into your new life. It’s funny – your arrival into bag sorting, PCVs standing outside to greet you, everyone piling into the buses – that all just occurred here in Moldova too. Comforting to realize that Peace Corps really is a big family and that there are many sleep-deprived, disoriented, thrilled-to-death people sharing your emotions right now. Mongolia sounds as if it is the perfect place for you to land. Congratulations! I am so excited that your adventure has finally begun.

  2. I felt excited reading about this first part of your adventure Kathleen & look forward to reading more. I’m curious what your final destination is & what you’ll be doing… and many blessings to you…

  3. Beautiful pics, Kath! Wow! Glad you’re safely there. Sounds like it’s a bit chilly there. What’s the average temp this time of year? Keep us all posted.

  4. Kathers, how great to hear you are finally there. I envy your experiences in one of the last really wild places on the globe. Enjoy those sunrises and sunsets and think of me when you hear the dawn chorus! I’m looking forward to the post on birds. Enjoy it.

  5. Kathleen, what a total thrill it is to read your first post from Mongolia! Your description of physical/surreal journey in the dark cave through space….the pictures of snow/ice…how amazing. The sleep deprivation…the excitement of your first night in Mongolia, sleeping six to a ger waiting for the arrival of light in your new world…and the stunning dawn as you were welcomed by your first day in this magical land! I so happy for you! You sound good…strong and obviously on your right journey! I’m sending you much love from luscious Oregon…as I am beginning to unpack from my incredible journey to Italy. May the rising of each new dawn in Mongolia bless you!

  6. What a wonderful commentary. I felt like I was there with you! Blessings to you in your new adventure. I look forward to more.

  7. Kathleen, so good to hear about your journey. I especially appreciate your excitement and appreciation despite the lack of sleep and discomfort. Hugs

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