This past week was strange because it was the beginning of the many “lasts” in Mongolia. Although it was exciting to go on an excursion to a desert area in southern Mongolia, I kept remembering that it was the last time that we’d travel as a group. It was in the back of my mind as we went to the countryside, but I had to keep shaking it off because how can I live life with such sadness in the back of my mind? For me, a large component of study abroad is remembering that it is temporary, but continuing to push myself to live in the moment. It was, and is still hard, but I keep telling myself that I need to present in every moment.
However, the great part about it being the last excursion was the fantastic group dynamic. As there were only 8 of us, we were predictably close at the beginning. But I felt that this particular excursion was different than the others. After the trip, many of us talked about how we liked our trip to Sainshand the best out of them all. When I look back in my memory, I remember lots of roadtrips, dumplings, and laughter in those few days.
Perhaps it was the relaxed, comfortable atmosphere that surrounded our group. Because there wasn’t anything to do in Sainshand at night, we spent our nights laughing at comedy skits on YouTube, watching movies, and just enjoying each other’s company. Just imagine the 8 of us piled on top of a bed watching movies!
I gave countless head massages every night. In general, we had more free time than ever before. We never had to get up that early, so we had breakfasts leisurely in a small restaurant across the street from the hotel. We had large chunks of time to explore the tiny town during the day, and even found a pizza place to order pizzas from later.
A big highlight of the trip for me was getting the chance to ride on the train during the day. We rode a train at night to Erdenet, but it was very different during the day. First of all, our program was quite determined to get us to be productive during the train ride. We had both individual presentations and Mongolian language classes, which I thought was hilarious.
With the 8 students and 2 program staff, we were stuffed inside that tiny train compartment. But it was a fond memory for me because we were able to bond even more. We were also looking forward to the “buffet” our program had promised us, but it just turned out to be a lady serving ramen and sandwiches from a cart. We had fun eating our cheap, unhealthy foods while wrapped up in our blankets on our cots. It’s funny how sometimes the journey can be just as fun as the destination itself.