Woody Packard

Words + Pictures


View from our balcony
Heading west from Kalispell at 5:45am, it was still dark when we landed in Seattle. With pauses for layovers there and in Seoul, we followed the sun for another twenty six hours before landing in Ulaanbaatar at 10:30pm. For us it was one very long day, but because we had crossed the dateline, it was actually a shortened two-day flight. Either way, we were barely conscious for the final leg from Seoul.

Even before gathering our luggage, our adventure with the Department of Immigration began. We had received bad advice when we asked about the procedure for leaving the country last time, and that advice, which haunted us in our application for a visa, continued to haunt us. "Where is your registration?" the woman behind the thick glass asked. Innocently, I pulled it out of my wallet. (We should have surrendered them, I know now.) After studying this and my passport she shook her head, pointed to an office in the corner, and slid my documents under the glass. I joined Judy there, and was made to understand again that we should have gotten exit visas last time, even though those we asked said that it was not necessary. Adding to my troubles was the fact that my registration card had cracked. Shouting in Mongolian, she held it up for the rest of the office to see. "It is not permitted," she said to me. "You will have to pay a fine."

Eventually we were permitted to go back to the immigration window, where we were given printed instructions (in Mongolian) on what we would need to do to remedy our situation. We gathered our bags and met Erika, our embassy contact, for the ride to meet our university contact. Dugarmaa and her brother would show us our new apartment. For a long time they struggled to let us into the hallway, twisting the key, banging on the door, hoping to make enough noise so that someone would come to help. When we did get in, we were surprised to see our new accommodations. We were expecting something like what the English Language Fellow lived in when we were last here, but we did not find it that evening.

We still hope to get a different apartment, but the immediate issue was the key, which cracked the first time I used it (possibly from previous use) and was too bent to use. (Although we reported the problem with the key, the lock was fixed instead, so it was several more days before we could get into our apartment without outside help.)

Back at immigration two days later, we were fingerprinted and filled out several forms. We waited in lines, took numbers and then waited in chairs. I did not get a work visa, so I needed to supply a request to stay in the country for up to ninety days. On the back of another form, Dugarmaa wrote a few lines in Mongolian, instructed me to sign it below. For now the problem is fixed, but we must come back in twenty-one days. I don't know why. After nearly three hours we were mostly ready to go. Judy left first, and on climbing into our van, discovered that it was filling up with smoke. Once the driver had extinguished the fire, we headed back to the university, done for another day.

Close Story—Back to Pictures


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Flight Path



Balcony View


The Big Chair




Branch 5 of M.U.S.T.