Last weekend, Other English Teacher and I received a series of apocalyptic text messages. They went something like this:
Store water. Charge phones. Tomorrow, Russians cut electricity seven days. No power, Russians.
Thinking we were being invaded, we tore off to the store to stock up on water, non-perishables, and a metric crapton of pasta, to be cooked in advance, flavored with fear, and eaten while cowering in sadness as Russian tanks rolled down the street on their technologically outdated but nevertheless terrifying way to world domination, starting point Western Mongolia. Our doomsday impressions were heightened when we ran into our boss at the supermarket, who saw the paltry 20L we were buying between us (i.e., all that we could carry), and informed us in no uncertain terms that we should buy more and put it in her car. 40L of water and so many packages of noodles later, one of us threw out a desperate “…Why is this happening to us?”“Winter is coming. Russians fix things.”
Wait, what? It didn’t sound particularly reassuring for the people of Westeros, but it also didn’t sound like WWIII for us small people in Khovd. “We’re not being invaded?” “No, they just turn everything off and fix things. Might last three days. Might last a week.”
As it turned out, it lasted zero days, at least initially. We woke up the next morning to find that everything was working just fine, and by “just fine” I mean water and electricity went off multiple times a day but we could at least count on them to be there sometimes. But the day after that, the Great Russian Shutdown began in earnest, and it lasted for five days. Five days of carefully rationed Wheat Thins, Pringles, and chocolate-covered raisins. Five days of eating at
Weiner’s Winner’s, Altai, and other local restaurants with gas stoves, ordering goulash because it’s the only dish I can order in Mongolian (hint: the word is “goulash”) and eating around the animal fat. Five days of half-showering in bottled water, wearing a headlamp at 6 PM, and wondering whether I should have reread My Side of the Mountain in order to learn how to make a lamp out of all the animal fat I’d been eating around.
The good news is that the Great Russian Shutdown has finally come to an end, and we are left with a greater appreciation of technological miracles like electricity and running water that isn’t hot. We have gained a practiced ability to survive on crackers, and we will never be fazed by a future power outage unless it with comes with zombies attached. As the Russians say, “What doesn’t kill you doesn’t kill you,” and we are still alive. Victory!