Getting To Zavkhan
Except for on three occasions in the past seven months, I have only been as far from Khovd as I can walk in an afternoon. So I was excited about an invitation to go with a team of our teachers to Uuliastai in Zavkhan Aimag to give some workshops for secondary school teachers there. It was a chance to learn a little more about Mongolia. As always, I learned more than I expected.
We would travel in an olive green фургон
(like poor-gone,) the Russian-made 4wd vans that can be found all over Mongolia. A фургон looks a lot like a VW bus from several decades ago, but that is where the resemblance ends. A Poor-gone is simple and rugged beyond belief, and after the brutal thirty six hours I spent riding in this one, it has my respect and admiration.
I learned that it is normal to put twenty or even twenty two people into a Poor-gone, that the fifteen people we would be stuffing into this one were no problem, though it's likely that twenty Mongolians the size of those in our van would be some
problem. "We will be leaving from the first university at 8:00," Davaa told me. "Maybe 8:30." By now I am not new to Mongolia. "I will watch out my window," I told him. The first university is across the street from our apartment.
At 8:40 I saw some activity across the street. The Poor-gone arrived fifteen minutes later. At 9:30 there were twelve of us ready to go. We went to the gas station just east of town, and got out. At 10:15 we drove a quarter mile up the road and parked. Someone opened a bottle of vodka, poured a few rounds. At ten thirty the last passengers arrived, with luggage. Fifteen total, and from what I could tell we were packed as full as we could get. But I am not Mongolian. There are twelve seats in this фургон.