SECOND MOVEMENT: MONGOLIA
This morning I woke up and packed my bags. I was leaving Seoul, bound for Ulaanbaatar – Mongolia’s capital. I met my contact’s parents, who agreed to drive me to Incheon International Airport. It was about an hour drive, though along the way I was fed tomato and melon slices, which was a most nutritious and tasty breakfast.
We arrived at the airport, I checked in, and then we had coffee and snacks. Eventually it was time to say “goodbye” and I passed through the security screening, immigration, and then made my way to the gate. Overall, I greatly enjoyed my time in South Korea and I am very grateful to my contact and her parents for having shown me around and for explaining many of the sights, as well as the Korean culture to me, which otherwise would’ve remained veiled to a foreigner like myself; the additional insight they provided gave me a deeper understanding and ultimately a more satisfying sojourn in Seoul.
The flight I took was operated by Mongolian Airlines and they provided an excellent service – actually, not counting the hassle of actually getting on a plane (which is a certain type of hell everywhere) and from what I’ve encountered in my life, the only part of the world where you don’t receive excellent service (free headset, beer, wine, hot blanket, snacks, and meals) seems to be the United States (I hope this proves to be true because I really am enjoying all these amenities). During the flight, I read some of the ‘Nick Adams’ short stories, listened to classical and jazz music, and drank a few cans of Warsteiner.
Eventually we landed and I took a taxi to my hostel in Ulaanbaatar. We drove mostly on a road with one lane in both directions, though the motorists managed to make it three or four lanes at times; also, everyone honks their horn all the time in this city, it’s background noise like leaves rustling in the air. After arriving at the hostel and situating myself, I went out into the evening for some Mongolian food; I had a traditional Mongolian pasta with mutton and a few Chinggis Khan beers; I also got a free show with my meal:
Nikki, a little girl of about four, was completely in a world of her own, on stage with the curtain closed, nothing from the outside could distract nor harm her.
“Why did you hold my hands down? Do you see what happens when you hold my hands down?! You’re not very bright are you?”
She was wandering around the main room of the Gourmet Restaurant & Pub, climbing up on chairs, booths, and exploring every nook in the room. Speaking to imaginary characters and responding to their actions.
“Why’d you let your husband get hit? Because you’re a dumb cunt?” This is the third fucking time you’ve hurt me; that you’ve held my hands down when someone punched me.”
Nikki was completely oblivious to the very real world events around her, still preferring to play in an imaginaryscape full of joy and happiness.
“You let me get hit in the face. Are you my partner or what? Can’t even keep your fucking mouth shut.”
Finally, the curtain parted briefly, she ran to her dad and asked, “You love me daddy? Daddy, you love me?”
“Yes dear. Who is going to take care of Nikki, send her to a first rate school? Not you. Did you ever stick up for your husband? You fucking cunt!”
Nikki went back to playing by herself, the curtain never fully opened, and it won’t open for another two or three years, even only then it will open slowly; it will not be until seven years down her life that Nikki will face the full reality of her parents’ relationship, what type of man her father is, and what type of woman her mother is.
“You dumb cunt. Why don’t you just leave, go away?”
“I will go back to Cambodia tomorrow. I will buy two tickets for me and Nikki. Come on Nikki, we’re leaving.”
“Nikki, you want to stay with Daddy?”
“I want to stay with Daddy!” Nikki exclaimed. After an hour of listening to her husband’s expletives, Nikki’s defeated mother then left for the night. At this point during the evening entertainment, my heart was completely sunk and I thought Nikki’s fate was sealed like so many unfortunate women, but there was still hope for her. With her mother no longer there to be berated by her husband, her father finally turned his attention to Nikki, interacting and playing with her, while also trying to explain to her that her mother makes poor decisions and is not always a good person. During the finale, this man, who spoke to his wife like no man ever should, displayed great love and affection for his daughter.
Nikki’s future did look brighter by my meal’s conclusion; it was her mother’s fate that concerned me now.