I emerged at 6:45 am this morning from a pleasantly toasty ger into the dark, frigid outside air in a hurry to catch the train to UB. On my way to the station, I ran into a woman and her young son. We began chatting, and I learned that her daughter is in my tenth grade class and that my khasaa mom’s birthday is today. We boarded the train, and after a long process of de-robing (it’s still pretty chilly here), we sat down. The woman, in true Mongolian style, reached into her purse and gave her son and me a lollipop apiece. Following a five minute struggle of Ariel vs wrapper, I started the lollipop.
During the first lick, I noticed an intense sickly sweet orange flavor and considered the fact that maybe, just maybe, I should have stowed the lollipop until a more appropriate time (…not at 7:14 in the morning), but I had already taken the first steps in the long process of finishing this particularly sour piece of candy, and man I wasn’t going to back down. After several minutes of hiding my wincing face behind a book, the taste of imitation orange gradually became less painful. Halfway through, I even started becoming more comfortable with the blend of fake fruit attaching itself to my tongue. By the end, I realized I was a bit sad my lollipop had vanished.
This experience, now named The Story of the Train Lollipop, and my evolved sense of tasting may be seen as a metaphor for my experiences in Mongolia. Because even if something strikes you as flat out unappealing, if you stick with it long enough it may surprise you. Now I’m not saying I fell in love with that piece of candy… definitely not. All I’m saying is I think I understand orange lollipops a bit better, just like snot rocketing and wearing obscenely tight pants are becoming more familiar territory as well.
Written in March, 2015.