If you’ve ever felt a bit of an outsider (hasn’t everyone?) and particularly if you were brought up under the thieving male gaze of a Catholic god then you’re familiar with the sensation of being scrutinised. Being in a place where people openly stare then is somehow a relief: you weren’t imagining it. See? They’re looking at me. They know I don’t like dill/think about death more than is healthy/truly believe I have a tail. Or is it just the yellow suit and huge bike? No one can be sure about that under all this Gobi dust.
Sitting sweating in the desert sun next to a huge bike stuck on its side in twelve inches of sand is a fine time to prod life’s knots (given plenty of water and acceptance of indeterminate wait for assistance). Oh yes, there’s been scratching at why some people with the option of relaxed sedentary lifestyles actively seek out unpredictable peripatetic hardship. An irritatingly low-maintentance type, (expensive hair products aside) I’d triangulated we simply replace the attentions of others with viscera such as fear and movement to get that ich bin thing working But I thought a peek into traditional nomadic culture for some context…
By the dinosaur park in Bayankhongor, central Mongolia, there is a small but steep hill with 426 steps up one side. Of an evening, folk climb them to watch the sun slide behind the mountains, hold hands, walk around the stupa, make deals, chew the fat. New in town, tail causally tucked in elasticated waistband, I skip up to get my bearings after another day of affirmative terror. Come with. First look back at the centre lighting up, petrol stations and karaoke bars burn brightest. Moving clockwise round the crowded summit brace yourself for a cold fist through your round window. In the valley below thousands upon thousands of neat little plots arranged in tidy little rows stretching for an eternity in a perfection of suburbia. Inside each plot a yurt, a car, a garden, the tough nomadic life joyfully cul-de-sacked. WHOOSH polarity reversed on the big wheel. No wonder my tail is sore. Here people can see it too and can’t resist giving it an incredulous yank.
1st August 2014