It’s mid-morning, and I have time on my hands. I’ve been awake since 4am, typical of the terrible jetlag I get when traveling. It occurs to me that I was in Berlin just 9 months ago and could show Dolgormaa’s dad photos, since he was there many years ago. I pull up my Facebook ‘Berlin’ photo album showing the sights and German food. I wonder if the city looks very different so many years later. Especially since I’m supposing he would have studied journalism in communist East Berlin. Mongolia lies between China and the former USSR, so it makes sense that it was communist as well.
Why am I Left Home Alone?
We scrolled through about 20 photos, when Dolgormaa’s dad suddenly stood up from the couch. He brought me to look out the living room window towards a corner of the apartment complex. He gestures for me to sit, motioning with his hands open and palms facing down and out, much the way I do when motioning my puppy dog to calm down. I sit. You would have laughed at the expression on my face– I clearly have no idea what in the world is happening, so I remain on the flower-patterned sofa and watch him leave the apartment, locking the door behind him. (Now I know how my dog feels each morning when I head out to work.)
Dolgormaa’s dad is a really nice guy, so I don’t feel very concerned, just extremely confused. Maybe he has some other plans for a bit that he suddenly remembered. After a few minutes, I wonder: can I get off of the couch for just 10 seconds and run to the bedroom to grab my book, as long as I’m still sitting on the couch when he returns? Will he be back soon? I hope so, since the apartment living room isn’t that interesting when I’m required to sit on the sofa alone in silence. There’s a TV, but considering I can’t even figure out remote controls in the U.S., goodness knows how I’d figure out a Mongolian remote. (In a hotel in some U.S. city I once had to call the front desk for help turning the tv on.)
The End of Boredom and Confusion
Finally, about 30 minutes later Dolgormaa’s dad returns. It seemed like an hour, since I was bored and began worrying that maybe I’d committed some really bad cultural faux pas. All becomes clear, when he unpacks the bag he’s brought home.
Of course, that photo album of Germany included a lot of food pics, since I love culture as it relates to food. Along with pictures of pizza and crepes, there was one of a smorgasbord — sausage, cucumber, bread, etc. Unbeknownst to me, some of those are common Mongolian city foods, too. Who knew!?!
As it turns out, he popped down to the tiny supermarket in the apartment complex and bought a big sausage and cucumber. He already had the bread and butter. Now I practice some food words in Mongolian as I chomp down on a German half-sandwich!
A Mongolian Lesson
I ask the name of each food item. My pronunciation is terrible, so he helps me repeat each word 3 or 5 or, who am I kidding? I repeat the words 20 times over, ’til I get them reasonably correct. I’ll have to tell C. that the Mongolian language is reminiscent of Russian as she’d guessed, with some ‘Kh’ sounds from the throat. It’s hard to move my mouth that way! But, I motivated by good food, I keep repeating “butter, blueberry jam, bread, cucumber,” like a kid in preschool. Did I mention the homemade blueberry jam? It is my favorite jam ever! It tastes nothing like the overly sweet jam I’ve had in the US, so I didn’t even recognize it as blueberry.
Want to see all the articles on Mongolia, Myanmar, photography or animals? Simply enter the word in the search tool at the top of the page.
Check out the related post on how I ended up speaking German in Mongolia! What?!?
Have a question or comment? Or, share your travel experience!
If you’ve visited Mongolia, how did you arrive? Or, would you love a visit? Share your story.