Sunday, February 24, 2008

My Trip to Mongolia

***I wrote this originally for a blog contest, but didn't win. Oh well, you can still enjoy the story!

When I was living in Japan, I had a friend, Lisa, teaching in Mongolia. I decided to go visit her, figuring I would have few opportunities for a trip to Mongolia in my lifetime.

I never really had any problems with traveling, so I anticipated a somewhat smooth journey. I was flying Miat, Mongolian airlines. Just about a week and a half before my trip they canceled my Wednesday flight and re-booked me for Monday. Initially, I was filled with the sort of rage that accompanies this act by an airline, but I was able to quickly arrange for the additional days off work. I cheerfully packed some Japanese goodies for Lisa, confirmed my arrival date with her via email, and set off on my trip.

The flight over was interesting, since they started the movie late and it wasn't finished when we landed. I chalked it up as another good story to tell friends. We landed at the smallest airport I've ever seen in a capital city, and I got off the plane. Waves of gratitude overcame me. I was tired. It's a long trip from Western Tokyo to Ulan Bataar Mongolia, and I was getting in quite late at midnight. I tried to get through customs, but unfortunately, I was a naive traveler and had not brought along Lisa's contact details. The customs lady did not understand when I told her I had no earthly idea what it was. A kind Dutch man in line (with perfect English) saw me, had pity on me, and suggested the information I could write down. At this point, I was the last person going through customs. With that troubling ordeal over, I confidently marched out with great anticipation. I scanned the crowd for my friend, and watched the joyful reunions of family members. Unfortunately, I did not see Lisa. Figuring she was a bit late, I fought off the offers of taxi drivers and sat on my suitcase to wait. And wait. And wait. I started to feel a bit discouraged and lost when the airport crowd thinned out and then disappeared and still so sign of a friendly face. Discouraged to the point of tears. I was in a foreign country, I didn't know the language, I had no idea how to contact my friend, and I have the sort of naive and young face that screams, "take advantage of me!"

But, alas, my Dutch friend was still there. With great kindness, he offered to let me come to his apartment and search his internet for Lisa's contact information. This is the point of the story where everyone freaks out, because without a doubt in my mind, I accepted his offer. Sometimes, you just know the goodness of a person in your gut. I felt safe and do believe that this is how God provided for me.

I stayed that night in his apartment since Lisa lived three hours away. Can you guess what happened? Since I arrived at midnight, she got the dates confused and thought I was arriving the next day. I had never been so happy to see anyone as I was to see her the next day. The rest of the trip was full of fun, sandstorms, pine nuts on the street, Mexican and Indian restaurants, interesting Mongolian food, culture, and souvenir shopping. But, I always bring contact information with me now and triple confirm arrival details!

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