Finding Nemo

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sitting on a Coke Bottle at 40mph

Aussie: "Wooo! 6th of July mate!" Me: "Sure!"
Here's what not to do after celebrating the 4th of July with 5 Australians and 3 guys named Jim and Jack and Johnny: ride for 2.5 hours in a Russian minibus across mud-covered boulders, with an infant spitting up in your lap while you are simultaneously returning the favor.

Allow me to explain.

Mongols invented passenger air travel by strapping themselves to tiny jets
I had just made the mistake of taking a plane into the town of Moron to avoid a 20 hour bus ride. (Which I found later is well worth avoiding even if it requires selling your first-born son.) The mistake was going anywhere called Moron of course. Because to get from there to my destination of Lake Khatgal (pronounced like <spit up a loogie>-Gal), there was nothing but countryside. I had two interesting options: ride a horse for 4 days, or jump in a Furgan for 2 hours. Since I was going to Khatgal to ride horses for an extended period, it seemed prudent to avoid any unnecessary hind-quarter trauma beforehand.

 RAF-2203, ready for West Coast Customs
A Furgan is an interesting vehicle. Russians introduced many evils to Mongolia, including bad vodka and communism, but the Furgan might rank at the top. It was mass-produced in Soviet factories in the 60's as the RAF-977, and soon replaced with the newer RAF-2203 (which looks like something that must come with factory-installed shag carpeting), but what to do with the thousands of old chummy 977s? Well, the answer can be found in Mexico. Of course, the 977s never ended up in Mexico. But anyone from the US who has been south of the border, and suddenly finds themselves surrounded by rusty 1973 AMC Gremlins, cannot help but go, "Ah hah! This is where they all ended up!"

The same is true of the relationship between Russia and Mongolia.

(Full disclosure: I was forced to drive a 1973 AMC Gremlin to high school, which might partially explain why I'm still single.)

So, I dutifully boarded the 10-passenger vehicle along with 20 other Moronians and found myself sitting on a crate of Coke bottles. It turns out that this particular Furgan had its seats removed for more space, which any clever business-man quickly realized could be utilized for cargo. Thus, the cargo was loaded in rows, and then a crushing mass of unwashed humanity was loaded on top of the cargo. And I was quite happy to sit on a crate of coke bottles, because my unfortunate neighbor was sitting on a cage of 3 live chickens.

Chickens are fascinating animals. If they are clutched by their owners, as I learned in the Philippines, they are amazingly docile animals. During a long bus ride through the hills, I witnessed the owner of one chicken puke repeatedly into a plastic bag, and then a bit on the chicken itself, and the chicken happily absorbed the whole thing without a peep. But woe to those who are forced to sit atop a cage of strange chickens. I have never seen a bigger commotion of flying bird beaks and poo then on that ride to Khatgal, all underneath a poor agonized man's bottom.

Did I mention that it was the day after the 4th of July, that great American holiday that I discovered no one outside of the US knows anything about? My best new Australian friends that I will never see again treated me to quite a party, and I was feeling similar to a stir-fried cow patty.

I tried my best to look out the window, but that was difficult since my face was obscured by the very large matron in front of me holding a pair of squealing Mongolettes. Something began rumbling in my stomach, and my brain began to slosh around in my skull. After the Furgan bounced over each boulder, I was reminded in a traumatic manner that I was, in fact, sitting on a crate of pointy coke bottles. I found if I held onto the arm of the woman next to me, and kind of leaned over on one bum-cheek, I avoided any unfortunate, um, pressure points. The woman didn't seem to mind. In fact, perhaps she took this as an attempt at marriage, because soon she decided I was the father of her newborn baby. As she dozed off, the baby in her arms somehow ended up in my lap.

Now, I have only held a baby once in my life, and I'm not sure if it was more terrifying for the baby, me, or the mother. Its still unclear to me if you supposed to hold them by a leg or by the neck like a cat. So, to find a baby Mongolian staring up at me with expectant eyes while its poor mother dozed off against a window was a little shocking.

I had absolutely no idea what to do. I smiled at it. It smiled back. This was a good start. I crossed my eyes and said "Doo doo doo!" It laughed and kept smiling. This was easy. I got cocky and put my finger up my nose and wiggled my ears. The baby suddenly looked terrified and began clawing for its mother. Uh oh. I pulled a little on the mother's arm, which I was already holding onto, and tried to give away my only child. She looked over, smiled at me, and went back to sleep. The baby looked at me excitedly, and then something traumatic happened. It started coughing, and something slimy came out of its mouth. Was it dying!!??? I looked around frantically but everyone else was lolling their heads on sausages or cartons of milk.

Something about the sight of baby puke, and my current condition, triggered a reaction. I felt my stomach start to move in that way that signals it has decided to mutiny and reverse the ship. And I realized I was about to puke on a puking baby.

Well, in the end I managed to hold it all in until the halfway point, where I chucked the baby back into its mother's arms, staggered to a nearby bush, and baptized the beautiful Land of Blue Sky.

Hey, it was my first ever visit to the Mongolian countryside. A man has to leave a legacy somehow.

1 comment:

  1. Wild story- I like the image of the guy sitting on a crate of live chickens!