Details, By Foot
We've been in Mongolia for more than a month now. In that time you would think I would be able to tell you something important about this country. I have already snipped off a few little pieces to write about here, trying to give you a sense of what several interesting aspects of it are like. But the more snipping I do, the more bits and pieces I end up with that defy my ability to sort them. It turns out that saying something important about Mongolia is just as difficult as saying something important about the United States.
Although I am very happy about the news of today's election (already yesterday here), I will not leap to conclude that the results justify a broad conclusion about Americans. I have been on the other side of the bias between the electoral vote and the popular vote, know the division such an outcome causes, and just feel fortunate that even though close, they agree today. But the popular vote results are close enough that broad conclusions about us just don't carry much weight. We are still a people who worship our constitution and despise our government. We want to both control our government and abolish it. We want to “get the government off the backs of the people,” yet bring it into the most intimate and private aspects of our lives. We are Americans, we feel strongly about politics, and we are confused, hypocritical, and contradictory. It's a perfect day to say something important about Mongolia.
Among the things that I read before coming here was that "Mongolians, especially the nomads, live totally in tune with nature and don't rely much on scientific data." Clearly there are contradictions, and they don't stop with the relationship between nature and science. I read of a reverence for the land, but here it seems that this reverence is expressed practically and not aesthetically. If there is a concern for the effect that human habitation has on the appearance of the land, I have not noticed it. As I watched the installation of trash cans, pedestrians walking by dropped garbage next to them, either unaware of their purpose or in defiance of it.
This is a collection of snippings that have not found a suitable category yet, in an order that will give you some sense of how things unfold here and how difficult it is to come to solid conclusions. The common thread is that these images were all found while exploring by foot. Of course “by foot” is the only way we travel here. In a month, I have yet to hear or see a plane flying overhead.