Initial Observations of Anak Ranch written as of the 4th day here

Posted: November 14th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: ATW Updates | No Comments »


Though the mere idea of spending three weeks living in a ger on a Mongolian ranch in the middle of nowhere does tend to scream "RURAL", I don’t think we were initially prepared for what we were getting ourselves into.  Stumbling bleary-eyed out of the truck at 4:30 in the morning in temperatures so cold it sucks the air straight out of your lungs and prickles your skin even underneath 3 layers (admittedly 2 layers were rather-thinish) of clothing into a warm lit ger was heaven, at least until the throwaway comment right before our host, Martin, left us for the remainder of the night, "Oh, the outhouse is back there."  That first morning, we shivered awake, poking and prodding at our dying fire without a clue.  We stumbled outside, our shoes crunching on a light layer of snow and discovered that yes, there indeed was an outhouse.  Peering inside, I was reminded of that scene in Slumdog Millionaire (I won’t go into it.  Suffice to say, if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know which outhouse scene I’m talking about).  I was staggered with the horrible thought that staying here for 3 whole weeks could be a terrible mistake (though a fantastic deal, monetarily).  I mean, Rick and I are Southern California kids who’ve spent all our lives living comfortable middle-class lives in suburbia where rural often meant the petting zoo at the annual Orange County fair.  And this is before we discovered that there’s, for all intents and purposes, no internet.  Unless you go into town a couple miles away, at the train station they picked us up at. 


But, now, a few days into our stay, I have to say that I’ve come around to this life.  Martin, a strong grey-bearded German twinkle-eyed character of a man, and his plump round-cheeked sweet Mongolian wife, Minjee, are kind, friendly, English-speaking, and very hands-off sort of hosts, letting us come and go however we please.  We have three hearty and heavy meals a day, delicious homemade concoctions that we down completely (If you’re vegan, however, I would reconsider visiting Mongolia).  It was my first time eating horse meat, which tastes a lot like extra-lean beef.  I’ve learned a few tricks on how to maintain warm fires, with a mix of collected sticks and compressed cow dung (more commonly referred to as cow s**t here).  Everyday, I take a short walk around parts of the ranch, wandering wherever my feet takes me, often with a cat following along behind. 


Recently, Rick and I spent an hour trekking across a partially-dried partially-iced riverbed as a herd of cattle munched on dried grass not more than 20 feet from us.  And now I finally have the time, to really work on my writing.  Maybe later, when we feel up to it, we’ll go for a ride on the horses. I will admit that there are moments where I still lie awake thinking, "What the hell have I gotten myself into?".  Moments like when the cat I was nice to earlier in the day decides to claw at the plastic sheeting of our roof at 2 in the morning, or when I wake up with a freezing face because the fire has died overnight and I have to debate whether to leave the relatively-warm confines of the bed to poke at it for half an hour or not, or when I get a face-full of cow dung smoke, or a milky-yellow spider crawls across my bedcovers in the morning (and I remember that old "Scary Stories to tell in the Dark" story about spiders laying eggs in my brain…an urban myth, according to Rick).  And of course, Rick catching the cold I’d nurtured all the way from Ulaanbaatar. 


But more often than not, I find myself at peace.  I like typing away, completely focused, with the snap of the fire in the stove and lowing of cattle in the background.  I like not having anything that must be done except curling up in a cushy chair with a cup of strong sweet tea and a paperback book in hand.  I like breathing in cold fresh air and watching the baby goats for fifteen minutes straight, a cat twining between my feet and a wagging black dog pressed against my side. I think there are times in my life when I must retreat from the world, a funny thing to say from an introvert like me.  You must be thinking, "Well, you retreat all the time from the world.  It’s what introverts do."  But, in a constantly-connected world full of responsibilities, it’s hard to completely detach myself from the mundane necessities of life pulling at me.  I have moments, such as laying in a hammock in Chiang Mai or taking a nap in the middle of the day for no other reason than I can.  However, I think it’s a necessity, at least for me personally, to get away from it all for an extended period of time, to breathe, to think clearly, to focus, to figure out myself and my place in it. 


This has only happened once before, while home from college.  I once told my mom I needed a personal retreat.  She helped me book a motel room a couple miles from home for the weekend.  I stayed there for one night, alone, no internet, no telephone, no TV, just a blank notebook, a couple pens, and my thoughts.  At first, I sat there thinking, well, this is boring and stupid.  But, I started writing in my notebook, nothing special, only the ramblings of whatever popped into my mind, and then I couldn’t stop.  I wrote for hours, stopped to rest my cramped fingers and aching wrist, then kept writing.  By the next day, I’d come to a new understanding of myself, of the foundations of many of my fears and the motivations guiding me forward. 


Now, I feel, Anak Ranch is another sort of personal retreat, except, this time, I can share it with the love of my life.  Perhaps I’ll come to understand myself more by the end, perhaps I’ll understand Rick more, or perhaps we’ll both remain unchanged.  It doesn’t matter.  The only thing that matters is the peace and calm I feel right now, typing these words.  I’ll let you know if I still feel the same by the end of our stay.

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