Postcards home (les petits mots)

I decided it might be neat to collect a few lines from some of the postcards I’ve sent home from these thousands of miles away. The type of person who still marvels at the ability of jumbo jets to lift themselves miles above the ground, I find it pretty neat that I can send a postcard from the other side of the world, and shuffled amongst the millions of other pieces of mail going in a million more direction, it will in all likelihood find its way to its addressee in 2-3 weeks. In childlike amazement, I am awed.

Perhaps, in finding snippets (or some variation thereof) from your own postcard in the compilation below, you’ll all feel in some way, a part of my grand, unexpected journey. I hope you do, because you are.

My dear             ,

Fieldwork is…wow!

I won’t bother to ask how your summer is going because I’m sure you’re having an awesome time.

I’ve been in Altan Bulag, a small town two hours outside of the capital, Ulaanbaatar, since last Wednesday.

I’ve been waiting for the homesickness to set in, but my work is helping keep it at bay.

Most of the Land Cruisers are outfitted with burly tires, expedition racks and intakes, and look like they might at any moment take part in a trans-continental rally.

The car ride out here was foul. I felt like a bean rattling around in a tin can. The road running out of Ulaanbaatar is decent up until the airport, but it quickly crumbles away because there is nothing beyond an initial good idea to keep it together. The rest of the way, it’s dirt road and tire tracks running like veins to guide you across the countryside.

I know there’s climbing in the national park where this photo was taken, but going there isn’t in the cards for me this trip.

Fierce Jacques, missing an ear he lost at a card game.

Where I am staying, the large rocks are meant to be thrown at the crazy dogs that guard home and livestock and look like they’re a snarl away from a street brawl. My field-site is amazing in its “everyday-ness,” and I find meaning in the mundane.

We help make breakfast on a dung-burning stove and drink milk tea with herders.

I think most foreigners who find their way to this place are either missionaries, Peace Corps workers, or are lost. Everyday life is extraordinary and ordinary. I fall asleep to the sound of rain falling on my ger, and in the morning to livestock being taken out to the countryside. Since there’s no running water, Chimidee and I take a cart to the well and fill 50L drums with water.

From a nearby hilltop, I can see the Tuul River winding its way a few kilometers from here.There isn’t too much separating the inside from the outside, just the felt hanging on the wooden ribcage of the ger. The immensity is just outside, one needs only to step across the threshold.

I think you’d dig living in a ger. It’s like a round wall tent.

I don’t think I have the skill to describe all that I’ve experienced here. Indeed, I’m not sure I even understand or realize the depth of those experiences.

The homesickness has finally set in, aided by actual, physical sickness. All the things I miss are singing me a siren’s song, calling me home.

I left Altan Bulag today, and I’m due back in the States on the 25th. I wonder if this kind of life is for me, or if I can have some peace from the wanderlust for a little while. All this searching for meaning…frankly, it’s exhausting!

Hope you are well, I think you often.

Love,

Ash

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