As my eyes adjust to the murky room and my ears receive deafening roar, I realize we have entered a disco.

The Disco

Ochma and her friend rush backstage to prepare for their performance. There are small children everywhere! As in any good disco, the music is so loud that the air vibrates the hairs on my arms. Without air conditioning nor a single fan, the air movement is purely due to the music. Thankfully there is no reek of stale cigarette smoke, since same as at home, smoking indoors in public places is illegal in Mongolia. I find a place to sit, and sweating alone on a vinyl-covered bench, I’m feeling the drowsiness of a jetlagged traveler who is rapidly turning into a deaf and dripping wet mess.

The event is in support of disabled people: to raise awareness and fundraise for an arts program. Initially I look around to get my bearings. It’s my first time in a public place without a babysitter (Ochma or Dasha) by my side, and so I try to see what other people are doing and how I can fit in.

The Sketch Artist

I watch a teenage boy moving from place to place every few minutes sketching. With his pencil and sketchpad and dressed in what might be a traditional costume, he is the most interesting character here. I think he looks as though he’s dressed up like a Native American, because of his red face paint.

About 20 minutes after my arrival he gestures at me, which I infer as meaning “I’m going to sketch you, so please hold still a little while. Ok?” I nod at him and stay still. The sketch artist sits in a chair about 5 meters in front and slightly to my left. In my stillness, I feel rivulets of sweat rolling down my back and pooling on the backs of my legs, connecting me semi-permanently to the cushioned vinyl bench. I think lovely thoughts, having nothing to do with the heat to distract myself. Lovely thoughts including “I’m so glad it’s not snowing!” No one else seems the least bit overheated.

Approval of My Face?

Kids and the occasional adult wander by, peeking over my sketch artists shoulder. After a moment they look up and smile at me. I assume this means that his sketch is going well. This is only day 1 of me never knowing exactly what is happening around me. Was everyone laughing at my pointy nose, or admiring it as several women in Cambodia had when I visited their country? I still don’t have a feel for this place, and I want to be liked, so that my month goes peacefully and easily.

sketch artist Mongolia

The sketch artist. Name unknown.


Next Chapter: Theater In Mongolia – Day 1, Event #2

Previous Chapter: The Talent Show & Gladys the Dog

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