Monday, October 10, 2005

Late night Chess

It's night time. Everyone went to sleep and Tegshe invited me to play chess with him. It is going to be a night of chess and vodka, and not just any vodka, Mongolian vodka, and not just any Mongolian vodka, one of the worst Mongolian vodkas - "ICE vodka"! Well, what can I say, I like chess and I like drinking, and mixing them just sounds like a great idea.

The vodka is starting to take its effect on me as we are in the middle of the first game. Tegshe looks like he is still focused and he pours us another cup and fill it to the end. I lose the first game. Tegshe looks at his watch, shakes my hand and says "happy birthday". Walla... I forgot :) it is my birthday cause it's midnight now. I told Tegshe three days ago that my is coming and he actually remembered that.

Many bugs are flying over our heads. Tegshe is starting to get pissed off. He really hates bugs. He is starting to kill them, one by one. At some point he loses his temper and start hitting the table. I tell him, Tegshe you will wake up the guys! He can't see me, he has this weird, mad look in his eyes. He is hitting the table again and again, almost dropping the chess board off the table, and then it happened. He hit some sharp thing on the table and cut his hand. It was just a small cut but for Tegshe it was a big humiliation. He stands up, goes to his jacket and pools out his knife. Every flying bug or butterfly he manages to catch, he puts on the table and stab it with his knife. For more than 5 minutes I am sitting there, watching him and laughing. As he comes down and sit back on his chair I tell him "man, you are crazy :)" and start laughing. He says "It's your turn, play", as if nothing happened.

The solar lamp has been beeping for hours now. I tell Tegshe that the sound of the lamp reminds me the last days in the hospital with my Mom, when she was connected to the monitor and me and my brother were sitting there, starring at the screen, watching the numbers going a bit lower every day. Tegshe said he is sorry to hear that my mother died and then he told me that his mother died also, and after taking a few seconds to calculate he said it was 26 days ago. It felt strange, like something got us here together, sharing the same loss and the same pain.

We start another game, Tegshe playes very strong but somehow, I don't really know how, I win. We decide to have a third game that will determine the winner of this drunk chess contest. It is a tight game, we both have almost no pieces left, but Tegshe has a queen so I surrender.

Fish in the International Space Station

The next morning we got up to our first day at the White Lake.

I swear, I don't know why they call it the white lake. If it was up to me I would call it the green lake maybe, or the brown lake or "God's little toilet lake". But anyway it's a nice lake :-) We had a day off, which means that Tegshe and Wire'e went to town and left us alone. It did feel like a day off and I guess it was because of Tegshe's bossy behaviour. We spent most of the day lying on the sand, writing, drawing and talking, until they got back in the evening.

We told Tegshe about giving up on the Gobbi desert. He was very disappointed, for him it was a failure, being a bad guide. He tried to understand why and we gently explained our "being zombies" reasons. He said he understands and that it is our trip and he is here to make us happy, but it was obvious that he felt blame. Or maybe, he just really wanted to see the Gobbi, maybe he was never there... who knows...

At night, me Shlomit and Rami took our sleeping bags out of the Ger and lied on the ground to watch the stars. The sky were clear and it was a perfect night for watching stars. We saw many falling stars, I think maybe 20 or 30 of them. Being outside in the nature and watching the sky at night is something so basic and yet so rewarding, it feels so great and I just wish I was able to do it at home, in the city of artificial lights.

I went into the Ger to get my jacket and I found there Tegshe and Wire'e, standing around the table, the solar lamp over their heads beeping to let them know it will soon go off, and they are just standing there cutting the fish they got today with great pleasure. This funny couple is just so in love with fishing and anything related to fish. They had a pile of fish slices and another pile of fresh fish just waiting for their skilled hands. They looked happy, busy with their work, telling jokes and laughing. I got back outside and lied again on my sleeping bag to watch the sky. We saw something who looked like a star that was moving slowly in the sky. I told Rami and Shlomit that I've seen this thing a few times before and that I think it is probably a surveillance plane because it is flying so high. Rami said that it isn't a surveillance plane and that it's the International Space Station. He got really excited and started explaining us about it. We believed him even though after two days he admitted that he just saw this moving star again and this time he actually saw two of them going in different directions :)

We continued watching the sky and I started imagining Teshe and Wire'e, standing in the middle of the international space station, between two piles of fish, one pile already sliced, the other floating a few centimeters over the table, waiting for their loving hands and funny jokes.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Zombie no more!

When we first started to plan the trip in Mongolia, we decided to go for 21 days to the countryside, all the way from the capitol, Ulan-bataar, up to "Hofsgol" lake in the north and down to the "Gobbi" desert in the south. We didn't realise then how big Mongolia is and how slow and hard the ride in the Russian van is.

As I explained before, we had some hard time inside that van. The gasoline smell, the bumpy road, not being able to sleep and not being able to digest the scenery. In one word - Zombie. Well, a week after we started this trip I decided - Zombie no more! I decided that I am not that interested in getting to all parts of Mongolia and that I can easily be satisfied with just the north part of it. I mean, the Gobbi is probably just like the "Negev" in Israel, or maybe a little nicer, but I'm pretty sure it is more appealing for Europeans or people from other cold countries who have never seen a desert before. Another thing is that when you move so fast and spend 8-10 hours every day in the van, you don't really get to see or be in Mongolia. A typical day during that first week was: Get up in the morning, cook breakfast, get everything in the van, go on the van for a ride of 8-10 hours, sometimes stop on the way for 10-15 minutes of sightseeing, get to the next station by evening or night time, build up the tents, cook dinner, eat dinner, wash the dishes, go to sleep. That obviously wasn't seeing Mongolia, or being in Mongolia. I decided to leave the group when we get to the next city.

I told Rami about my decision and he said he feels the same but he is not leaving the group yet. A few hours later I told Shlomit and Avner and we all set together and got to the conclusion that we are giving up on Gobbi. With that new, shorter and slower route, I decided to stay in the group. From that moment I started to feel great. Before that I was quite depressed, I felt like I'm missing Mongolia while staying in it. On one side I did want to leave the group, probably cause I'm not a group person and I really like being on my own, but when they all said they want to give up on the Gobbi, I thought that things can get better also for the group dynamic that was starting to get tensed.

We decided to tell Tegshe, the guide, about our decision, the next day.