Last night I was crossing the street right near the intersection where I live, and this woman makes the mom-gesture of reaching out for my hand even though we hadn't even made eye contact. This is what I'm talking about--aside from the proliferation of angry/restless/homeless/alcoholic men that's become here since the Big Freeze that killed the nomads' livestock two or three years ago, Mongolians are the hidden Californians: the culture in the public sphere is very west coast--people are really pleasant and sociable with strangers. The lady of course walked with me til we had to go off in different directions. By then I knew the names and ages of her children and her job and she had my phone number. Every street we crossed, she reached for my hand.
During the day I visited the Asia Foundation, which 80% of the time has fast and free internet. They had my passport in their safe. I needed my passport to check that I had an okay chinese visa--other Luce Scholars are going nuts trying to procure theirs (for the November 13-17 midsession for Luce Scholars in Honk Kong) in the next two weeks in Bangkok or wherever they are. My Chinese visa was organized for me by the Asia Foundation in August and has been in my passport since then. It is for a year, and multiple entry. I don't know how I got so lucky. I am very grateful. I am also lucky to be in a country with lax..well, everything is lax here. Indonesia and China scholars were all given single-entry visas, which doesn't just mean Hong Kong is a headache, it means they can't go hit up the couches of Luce Scholars in other countries. I, on the other hand, can leave and come back whenever I want.
Today is a lot like my jeans on the sidewalk day. This sad thing happened when I went to Mexico in February (or Russia in June? How did I get to have this life?) --my favorite pair of jeans that had a rip Mom thought rather unladylike disappeared. They were like hundred dollar jeans I got handmedown from Anna. I wore them all year. And when i got home expecting to find them there (I had left them behind so nothing would happen to them!) they were gone. I was all, dang dude, I have way too many clothes to warrant getting any new ones ever again, but I'm bummed not to have a well fitting and comfy pair of blue jeans. And then I was walking with my cousins Chris and Darcy in the week before taking off for Asia, and there was a new pair of Miss Sixty jeans on the sidewalk. Chris and D were like, yeah, there's a sidewalk culture here. Leave it on the curb for those who want it. So I took them, and have worn them 80% of my time here. And I also was wanting a journal and not to pay for one, and Leslie Thornton and I found a pile of no want ems on the sidewalk in Brooklyn and there was a little blank journal that fits in my purse. And today I was like, it's cold. I would like some hot soup. But I don't want to pay for any, or make any. On my way home at twilight i decided to duck into this 5,000-per-pair-of-boots store (read: less than 5 bucks for a pair of boots! all pairs in the store!) and who should be there but a girl who is also 23 who asked me how old I was and where I was from and whether I could be her English teacher. She was all, how much do you want? and I was all, this chick is a salesclerk at the shoe equivalent of big lots, so I said, just be my Mongolian teacher and it will be an exchange.
Long story short, she invited me over for dinner--had a friend bring me over, actually, and the friend didn't even stay for dinner or talk to me during the cab ride but she did of course hold my hand from outside the taxi to the doorstep--anyway dinner with her ten year old cousin, and dinner was, of course, hot soup. The walls were peeling off and we ate sitting on a bare floor. She showed me her tourism school diploma. We did my word cards--worked for both of us, since she was looking at one side and I at the other. She noticed that I liked the bread her mother had made and sent me off with a bag of that and a plastic jar of the soup. She and Monkhbaatar, her cousin (WHO IS SUCH A BEAUTIFUL LITTLE BOY) walked me down, caught me a taxi, and told the taxi how to get all the way back across the city to my house. When I thanked her for walking me to the taxi she said of course, you're my friend. I am going back for dumplings on Saturday. Her name is Chigmee.
The taxi dude did not have enough change, so I ended up giving him like 1 dollar and 40 cents instead of 1 dollar 25 cents. He may well have been lying, but I still think the gods are weighing heavily in my direction lately. I am concerned about money, but for instance I would not take back my purchase of cute warm $4.75 boots today for anything.
Really detailed dreams including this one guy Jargaal and his nice wife Pagma, who the former Ambassador in real life connnected me with, who were in my dream the recipients of my song dedication for being my Mongolian parents--i was getting all ready to sing Angel from Montgomery by Bonnie Raitt and beating down my nervousness by chatting with the crowd, who were really nice, and telling them Jargaal's name was Erdenesukhbaatar, which is isn't (Angel from Mont I sang to my boss and a bunch of drunk Mongolians in real life the night before my birthday) There was also this...place where there were all these awesome clothes to try on, but you had to IMAGINE your fitting room or none would be there, and then if you stopped willing it to be there, the fitting room would just disappear around you. Also dreamt I was stocking up on my favorite shampoos and hair ties to bring back to Mongolia with me (funny, since that's not what i wish i had brought. I wish I had brought a lint remover and lots of chapstick! and more pajama pants!) There was one that had something to do with adding on to my tattoo with a line that mimics the shape of my hips when I lie down on my side. Anyway I didn't get to the part where I actually sang Bonnie Raitt, but there is something rather empowering about my dreams lately, no?