This post started out as an email to a friend, and when he replied that it was like ‘a wee blog post’, it seemed only right to make it into one.
I was running out of ideas for my Chuseok holiday, and not feeling terribly excited about any of the potential destinations. I knew that I couldn’t cope with another action-packed, sight-seeing, city break right now, which seemed to just leave me with a lazing-on-a-beach holiday (not really my thing). Then I idly went on to Google Maps and just started looking at all the nearby countries and typing random city names into a flight search engine. I was considering Russia (Vladivostok), but it was a bit expensive, plus I figured I’d left it a bit late to deal with all the red tape. Then my gaze wandered down the map and I thought about how cool it would be to tell people I was going to Outer Mongolia.
OK, embarrassing confession time. You know the saying ‘might as well be in Outer Mongolia’ (also Timbuktu), as an illustration of how far away or obscure somewhere is?
- I might as well be in Outer Mongolia for all the good I am here.
- If you don’t behave, I’ll send you to Outer Mongolia.
- He looked so strangely at us, you’d think he’d landed in Outer Mongolia.
- I could’ve been in Outer Mongolia for all they cared.
Well, for years of my life this was the only reference I ever heard to Outer Mongolia. I never heard it mentioned in any other context. And the only other place I’d ever heard of starting with “Outer” was outer space. So I thought, until really not that many years ago, that Outer Mongolia was some far off galaxy or at least a distant planet. No, really – I did. This is why it amuses me so much to actually be going there. In fact, even now, when I can easily locate it on a map, and even tell you several little snippets of cultural and historical information, I can’t help but visualise clusters of twinkling stars on a black canvas, and a little Saturn-like spinning planet with cool sparkly rings around it, just because that’s the image I always had in my head when I thought of that almost magical-sounding distant place.
Anyway, I started googling, and discovered some really cool ‘experience‘ trips in Mongolia. It still suits my purpose of relaxation and there will be ample time for lying around with a book, since I’ll be in the countryside or the desert, and there’s nothing touristy to see, really, so there won’t be loads of mad racing around trying to cram in as much as possible. I really fancy the idea of staying with a nomadic family and milking the cows and watching the wild horses being tamed and learning how to make my own traditional food and drink for dinner. It all sound so relaxing yet so fascinating!
And so my flights are booked and my boss is kindly organising my visa for me. We had a mild panic yesterday morning when I gave her my passport and she suddenly asked “How long have you been here now?” – my Korean visa only lasts for one year! Fortunately I still have a few days after Chuseok to get back into the country before my visa expires, and can renew it then.
Without fear of being stranded in that mythical Outer Mongolia forever…
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