I arrived in Erdenet at night and was graciously hosted by a friend of a friend (Note: for purely selfish reasons, I love the Peace Corps. They’re really nice, and they’re everywhere). I got up bright and early the next morning for along, full day of Running Around.
First order of business: the hill with the Buddha on it. I couldn’t find the way up so I had to sneak through someone’s property to get there, but this being Mongolia, no one cares.
Followed by assorted memorials, statues, and carnival rides.
Other than my various hikes, nothing of major interest happened in Erdenet. As a city, I liked it better than Darkhan, and the area around it is really pretty, but the smaller cities I visited were still my favorite. Two days after I arrived, I caught a shared van to Mörön where my best friend in the world was the twelve-year-old who shared her chips at me and didn’t laugh when the van eventually got around to Mongolia’s third-favorite national pasttime, Making Fun Of White People.
Mörön was the first and only time I checked into a hotel–I didn’t have super high expectations and was pleasantly surprised to find that the hotel my van dropped me off in front of was actually really nice and had a hot shower. No English channels on the television, so I put on the Portuguese channel(?) because it was the closest I could get to home. The good news is that I hate the Portuguese Price is Right just as much in Mongolia as I do, well…everywhere else.
My first full day in Mörön was spent walking around checking out the sites. I found a stillborn amusement park:
Assorted monuments and statues:
And what looked like a miniature golf course (sans the golf) devoted to all of Khovsgul Province’s villages:
Khovsgul was one of the loveliest places I’ve yet seen in Mongolia.
And, as I quickly discovered, also kind of dangerous. Mörön is surrounded by pretty low hills, so I climbed up to the top of the first one:
And then noticed that the next hill was just a little ways behind me, and just a little taller than the hill I was currently on. And seeing as how the views could only be enhanced by the three foot height difference, I climbed the second hill.
And then realized that the hill behind me was so close, and just a bit taller, and wouldn’t the extra two feet make for some even more spectacular views?
And the next thing I knew it was getting dark and I was two hours out and nervously trying to convince myself that the tracks all over the hills belonged to giant dogs. As opposed to, you know, wolves.
The next day I headed down to the market to meet up with my ride to Khatgal. When my ride turned out to be a douche (and doubled his price as soon as I put my stuff in the car), I wandered around looking for another ride while he followed me in his car and yelled at me, which was joyful experience I highly recommend. I eventually did find another ride, but he wasn’t leaving for another few hours, so I loaded my stuff in his car and walked around eating chocolate raisins and admiring the wolf carcasses some dude had propped up on a piece of metal.
At some point walking around got boring, so I parked myself in front of a shed to read until it was go time. And who should appear but the woman who owned said shed, wanting to know what I was doing. In my broken Mongolian, I explained that I was waiting for my ride to Khatgal and pointed at the van. She made understanding noises, and then became very concerned over what she perceived to be my inadequate footwear and pants for the weather. I attempted to tell her that no seriously, I was good, but she forcibly dragged me into the shed, plopped me on a stool, and built me a fire.
Next to which we hung out. For three hours. Just me, the nice lady, and a pile of dead animals.
With my limited Mongolian, we talked about her kids and my job and then I ran out of things I know how to say, at which point she pulled out her phone and enthusiastically declared we were going to listen to English music now. And that’s how in the depths of Northern Mongolia, sitting in a hut next to a pile of dead animals, I jammed out with a Mongolian grandma to Taylor Fucking Swift. Our dance sesh was taken to a whole new level when, right around the bridge to Blank Space, someone dropped by with a dead horse.
And that was Mörön. Stay tuned for the next installment of Kulturschock, when I almost freeze to death in a tent.