Thursday, August 4, 2016

Summer's Pace

The South African landscape
This first summer abroad has been an interesting mix of travel and relaxation. The last day of work for me was June 17. That night we hosted a barbecue at our summer house in Gunt. Many of my teaching friends attended, as well as people I've met through Mongol hiel (tongue) classes and my network of American Wives. Those first two weeks I was mostly in UB as I picked up a small editing gig and attended a friend's wedding. 

Then, on July 1st, Zorig and I headed off to South Africa for the grand safari with my father and cousin Greg. After all the stress and worry about whether Zorig would get his travel visa, it was MY visa that nearly kept us from boarding our first flight (OUT of Mongolia). I'm not sure what the issue was, as my Alien ID card was renewed and is good until July of 2017. Perhaps it was the name change, but either way, I paid $160 minutes before our flight departed to purchase a 90-day work visa. We are YET waiting for the results of the application for a spousal visa. We have submitted ALL they requested and were last told it was going before a committee for decision. So we wait. 

We went to the Apartheid Museum
South Africa was a good time. Zorig and I flew to Johannesburg and spent an overnight there before continuing to Port Elizabeth the following morning. Then a three hour drive north and east to our Mankazana Safaris camp outside the town of Adelaide. We spent 10 days with the following routine: Get up early and hunt a few hours, home for brunch and a siesta, then back out for a few more hours of hunting until darkness overtook the day. It was winter in South Africa, so the sun rose after 7 am and was down before 6 pm. Days were shorter, but always full. We'd all get back to the lodge around 6:30, shower, and enjoy a drink before dinner was served. The food was always good, but dinner especially so. We'd talk and share stories--the four of us, our two professional hunters and the landowner--over the meal and glasses of red wine. Usually around 9 pm and never past 10, we'd all retire to our rooms to get sleep before we repeated the routine. I loved the pace of the days. And each time we went out hunting.....within 15-30 minutes, someone spotted wildlife. The land was rich with it. The mornings and evenings were chilly, but the sun heated up the days and layers were always shed. 

Common Blesbuck, my first kill
We had four hunters and 10 days. A total of 14 animals were killed. Because of the aging process, we only tasted the blesbuck I shot on the first day (and Greg's nyala). We did try plenty of other game, but it was from the safari before ours. We enjoyed an impala pate, zebra steak, blesbuck fillets, and a number of dishes made from warthog (breakfast sausages, meatballs, lasagna). I'm truly a fan of pig--domestic, wild boar, warthog....whatever. It all tastes great to me!

Zorig and I arrived back to UB midday on July 16th. We spent the rest of that weekend recovering from the mild jet lag and unpacking and doing laundry. Oh yeah....AND dealing with a chest freezer that had somehow gotten unplugged at our departure. I'm sure I must have knocked it loose....but have no idea when. While there wasn't *much* in it, what was had defrosted and begun to rot in the heat. I nearly vomited when I opened it and the smell first hit me. So incredibly gross! We emptied it out and cleaned and sanitized it. Still working on getting the last remnants of smell out, though it is back on and functioning. Not a fun situation to return to. I'm sure I will forever now check the refrigerator and freezer before departing on all future adventures. 

On the deck in Gunt
The last three weeks I've spent mostly here in the city--catching up with friends, doing my FitnessBlender workouts, reading, writing, and preparing for the next adventure. I did spend a lovely weekend out in Gunt--just Zorig and I--fairly romantic, if you ask me, and our first time for it to really be just the two of us out there. Unfortunately it was at a time when the view was completely blocked out by smoke that had come down from all the wildfires across Russia/Siberia. My hike to the top of the mountain wasn't nearly as rewarding without the view at the end, but it was still nice to be outside of the city. I read a book. I listened to music. I watched a movie with Zorig. We had a nice barbecue on the deck. I colored and journaled. Yes, it was a very relaxing 48 hours. 

Tomorrow the last and final stage of my summer begins. Enji and I will head to Darkhan to spend a night with a friend and her family, and then on Sunday we depart on our own countryside adventure. We'll head to Khuvsgul for a couple nights, then come south and make a loop hitting the following sites: Khorgo--Tserkhiin Tsagaan Nuur NP, Tsetserleg, Tsenker Hot Springs, Orkhon Waterfall, Kharakhorum, and finally Khustai NP. Enji has been to Khuvsgul, but none of the other places. I've been to Kharakhorum and Khustai before (in 2014 with dad), but not the other places. I'm hoping we can hike and explore, take lots of great pictures, talk and enjoy time together. When we return, I'll have just less than a week before I report back to work for the new school year on August 22. I wish I could say I was ready.....but I'm not. Summer went by far too fast. As it usually does for us teacher folks. 

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