Tuesday, May 12, 2009

"Doing your thing" behind an umbrella

Mongolia, the land of Genghis Khan, is a place like no other. It is a land where almost everybody can sing beautifully, where the best steaks could be had (Mongolian motto seen on a T-shirt for sale in an Ulaan Baatar steakhouse: Grass is for animals, meat is for Mongolians), where vodka forever flows, where the landscape remains flat for miles around.

On my first trip to Mongolia, we had to travel 7 hours by land from Ulaan Baatar (the capital) to Övörkhangai Province, whose livestock was decimated during the previous year's very harsh winter. As we traveled farther from the capital, we noticed that habitation was so sparse and that the land consisted of endless grassland (steppes). Every time you look around, it was the same scenery that you see. Halfway through the travel, we ladies (myself and two from Hong Kong) felt the urge and asked our driver where we could "do our thing". Perhaps the nearest "gher" or gasoline station? What gasoline station? The driver stopped the car at the side of the road and said, "Okay, here you go!" We turned our heads left and right but all we saw was flat, open grassland. There was no "gher" (the typical Mongolian tent), no outhouse, no trees or even a single shrub with which to hide behind. In other words, it was plain open field around us! We said, "Where?" The driver pointed some distance away and said, "There!" What did he mean "There!"? It was still open field! Then he handed us an umbrella.

As we were walking away from the vehicle, we were wondering how to do "it" with all the men smoking or conversing around the vehicle which was parked just a few meters away. We tried walking a bit farther away but, hey, no matter where we went, we were still gonna be exposed! We saw a lamb standing motionless ahead of us and one of us suggested hiding behind the lamb. Yeah, right! As if the lamb will stay motionless until the three of us had "done our thing"! It'll most probably move away while one of us was still squatting.

What to do? Well, we had no recourse but to use the single umbrella as a cover of our behind as we alternated "doing our thing". I was fortunate to have worn a 'salwar kameez' (the South Asian attire) at that time. With its long tunic, it immediately covered my lower half as I stood up.

Not surprisingly, none of us asked for a repeat of the process on the second half of the trip and neither on the way back.

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