There’s something exquisite about learning intimate details about a place. The constant laughter of a young shopkeeper or how light reflects differently off of the mountains in each season. I feel cheated visiting somewhere for a short period of time. Museums, architecture and famous restaurants are interesting, but for the most part, they don’t engage me emotionally. The surface of a town or city is only just that, and it is something anyone willing to take two days of following a tourist map can see. I’m aware that plenty of people find this enjoyable, which is great as most peoples’ lives do not allow for extended stays. Luckily for me, my passions and good fortune have allowed me more time in the lands I choose to visit.
Of course, I didn’t choose Mongolia. I wouldn’t have chosen Mongolia. But now that I’m memorizing the finer aspects of my soum, I can’t imagine living anywhere else for these two years. Of course, eventually I would have visited this country, as its history and nomadic culture are legendary. But as a tourist I would never have discovered the color of a ger floor right after an intense scrubbing, or that my little sister can’t roll her R’s. I strongly believe that these small details are ones I will remember thirty years from now; not what Chinggis Khaan’s monument looked like or my short ride on a camel. Instead, the lasting impressions will be those that others find odd and insignificant, because they will never understand the feelings associated with a particular shade of purple that can only be seen for two months a year on that one mountain range just east of my soum.