© 2007 jim

Back in Mongolia

Many people get nervous during takeoff. I once flew with a woman who had to get very drunk very quickly before a flight because the takeoff scared her so much. But to me, it is the best part of the flight. The moment the plane rotates and its wheels leave the ground is the most relaxing part of any air journey. As soon as I feel that we’re airborne I put my seat back in the fully reclined position and relax. The G-forces experienced during the take off make it seem as if you are fully reclined, like the seat is a soft giant hand holding and slowly lifting you. Suddenly its like being in a first-class seat. I always have a hard time sleeping on planes, but I can very easily fall asleep in the minutes between when the plane takes off and when it levels off at 15,000 feet.

This happens to me on my flight from Seoul to Ulaanbaatar. Of course, falling asleep is so much easier when you have already been awake for …. I don’t know, lots of hours. I left Salt Lake City at 9:00pm the night before (actually, two nights before, but one of those is because of crossing the International Date Line), and here it was 1:30pm Seoul Time, thousands of miles and lots of timezones later. One more little flight, three hours over the Yellow Sea and the Gobi Desert, and I would be back in Paradise, or as the locals call it, Ulaanbaatar.

Of course, no one actually ever refers to UB as Paradise, except ironically. But on my arrival the scene is actually not too hellish. It is the Lunar New Year, and the majority of Mongolians are off visiting relatives and many stores and businesses are closed. Consequently the traffic is uncharacteristically light. Furthermore, the weather is warm (a balmy -1 C) and the smog that usually blankets the town and makes it difficult to see across the street is much thinner.

On my last trip my friend Joe joined me in UB to work on my project, and the experience nearly killed him. He hacked and coughed constantly from the smog. Strangely, he’s the one who used to live in the LA area; perhaps us Utahans are made of sterner stuff, or perhaps all my cigar smoking has made me immune to smog. (If this is true, I should consider quitting….). He arrives again on Friday; perhaps he will be able to stand this lighter smog. More likely, however, the temperature will go down, the Mongolians will finish partying and get back to work, and the air will be opaque once more.

One Comment