Thursday, January 22, 2004

Wrapped Up Like a Guest Blogga: Shan-Bear (Part II)
It's once again time to hand the cleverness reins over to our illustrious Far East correspondent, who as you read last week, has trekked across the globe to make the world a better place through the use of very complicated supersmart science stuff that you could never hope to comprehend. Let's begin!

Hi there kids,

...Well, this country continues to amuse. With the country-wide appreciation for the vodka, I felt like I needed to try some, so I did as much last night. While I'm generally a beer drinkin' gal and therefore not so much of a vodka connoisseur, in my humble opinion it was awful. First off, this so-called vodka we were drinking was made from wheat. Isn't vodka by definition made from potatoes? Again, I'm not an expert, but that's what I was taught in grade school. I just don't think that you can slap a "Chinggis" label on a bottle of ethyl alcohol and call it vodka. They sure do enjoy it here though.

So, usually, when I go out [doing supersmart science work] there are two people with me: 1, the guy who goes in the house with me and tells the family what we are doing and helps me measure the
ger and weigh the fuel that we give them; and 2, the driver. Sunday we went to this ger, and I knew things were strange when, after Guy 1 went inside the gate, he had Guy 2 come into the ger with us. There was an older woman and two old guys, and the latter were drunk, and I don't mean just drunk, but F***ED UP. They were totally belligerent (it was 3 p.m., mind you), and every once in a while one of them would head towards me, but Guy 2 was standing between me and them and he would just puff up all big like and they would back off—I had my very own body guard. Then, when Guy 1 went to take the string down that had been holding up the monitors, one of the drunk guys started yelling at Guy 1 and then at me, and then the old lady grabbed the guy by the coat and threw him down on the bed and she started yelling at yelling at him even louder than he had been yelling. Then she turned to Guys 1 and 2 said some stuff and yelled at the drunk guys some more.

Of course, I speak no Mongolian (well, I am up to 3 words—the bad thing about being oft accompanied by a translator), but I was just imagining what this lady was saying:

"You good-for-nothing son-of-a-bitch, you're drunk on a Sunday and these nice people come to our house and you act like a complete ass, embarrassing me and them. Why can't you stay sober for one goddamn day?!" Turns to Guys 1 & 2: "Do you see what I have to put up with? And not just him, he brings home his drunk friends to cause even more trouble. I'm too old for this shit." Back to drunk guy: "Stay there and shut up until these people leave. Then I'm really going to let you have it."

The kids are really cute though, and they are all completely enthralled by my computer... [but] the other day, I remembered something very important: it is super-fun to pop bubble wrap. So I gave some to two little girls at the last house. They were very happy. I probably will come home with unprotected equipment. Whatever.

... It's the "9 cold days." Or so I've been told. When we arrived, we were told that it was going to be cold for 9 days starting on Jan 18. But last week, I was told that the 9 cold days had arrived early. They are, in fact, cold. I can't wait until the 10th day.

I lost my hat in a taxi cab. It was the best hat ever—the one that had the facemask thingy that you could pull down to use as a neck warmer. But I've been surviving with my fleece cap that I wear back home and my actual neck warmer pulled over my face (which makes my neck cold). But the story of the lost cap is really quite funny. I had to go [do supersmart science stuff] right after I lost the cap, but [Coworker X] was on its trail: The doorman got the number of the cab, and the hotel people called every cab company to see which one had a cab by that number. They found it and reported the fact that I was missing my cap, and they said they would have the guy come by and give me my cap. [Coworker X] was told that, in case the cap wasn't returned, she should type a letter to the police describing the circumstances under which the hat was lost. She did so, and the letter reads:

"To Whom it May Concern:

Today I lost a hat in a taxi.
The taxi was a yellow car, license plate #2546 with a meter.
The taxi picked up two women between the Ghengis Khan Hotel and the Flower Hotel, about 14:15 today.
The taxi dropped us at the Ulaanbaatar Hotel.
The hat is black. It is a style that covers the whole face. It was left in the back seat.
Please help find this hat.

Thank you."

The hotel staff were unrelenting in the effort to recover my hat. They provided daily updates on the status, which didn't change between Saturday and Tuesday: basically, they guy hasn't been showing up in the mornings like he's supposed to, and even the taxi company was very interested in the guy coming back because he owed them money. I was starting to think the guy had skipped town with my hat. But the driver of taxi 2546 showed up for work yesterday, and I was reunited with my hat! I like that hat. A lot.

... I'm really bummed because I have yet to see a yak. I was seriously considering brining one home, but I hear they don't travel well. But they seem like such a practical pet. You can make yak butter and sweaters. I haven't worked out the details, but I haven't given up on the idea.

... It's confirmed: I have SARS. Well, "confirmed" might be the wrong word because everybody keeps telling me it's a head cold. But it's definitely respiratory, and it feels really, really severe. If they quarantine me, will you find some way to smuggle me cigarettes and porn?

See you soon,