Mongolian Night Hypertext

Mongolia, land of the clear blue sky, transforms at night; her blue skies fade to reveal the blackness of empty space, overwhelmed by a silent swarm of stars, frozen in a distant dance. The moon, if she is out, burns with epic brightness, casting a cool glow across the shuffling herd, who peer at me with amazingly complete incomprehension.

The Steppe at Night

I stood outside the doorway to our ger, toothbrush hanging from my mouth. Gazing at the chaotic swarm of stars blanketing the night’s black. Mongolia, land of the clear blue sky, transforms at night; her blue skies fade to reveal the blackness of empty space, punctuated by the glow of distant stars.

In-Class Exercises: Found Objects and Marco Polo

5 minute short, “Boxes”


  • Navy block letters, lined in white a la found object (a scarf for FC Bayern München)
  • From found writing: Reading the great works, Knows someone from Boston
  • Something related to the game MASH et al.
  • “Marco devoted his prison time to composing his book.”
  • Object: A paper ‘fortune teller’

The title may, or may not, have been printed in navy blue block letters, lined in white. Marco Polo never played MASH in gradeschool, perhaps explaining the unnatural wanderlust that sent him to the East. When he was released, assume he must have committed the work to writing, while the composition was still fresh. The manuscript was delivered to the publisher in wooden boxes, 4 in total.

Closer narrative distance

I once read that, “Marco [Polo] devoted his prison time to composing his book.” I wonder if prison time is what I need to empty the boxes of stories locked in mental purgatory. Sometimes they flit through my mind’s eye, like a striker from F.C. Bayern München. I figure Marco Polo probably read the great works; did they help him relate? What were the hot books in 13th century Europe?

Written on an actual box (white, cardboard) in Purple scented marker (smells like artificial grape)

Inside of box bottom
So. You found it. What were in the boxes that Marco Polo brought on his quest to the East? What does a 13th century traveler need to make a trip comfortable? Did he bring his favorite scarf? The one he got at the FC Bayern München match?
Inside of box top
Perhaps he presented it to the Great Khaan as a gift after he was invited in for milky tea and bortsog. The nomads must’ve laughed with pity at his poor porters, whose backs were breaking under the weight of all his material goods, stuffed into boxes. “You should learn from us!” They’d say, “Why have so many things?”
Outside of box top, orange crayon (glossy surface)
That would be no chance; to self-reflect or reject.
Which did he choose?
Did he have a fortune-teller by his side, reading the wishes of the fates?



I gingerly held on to my seat as we bounced through marmot holes and over patches of grass, feet perched solidly on the footrests of my host father’s motorcycle as we sped through the night. The cool air soothed my skin, each molecule a reminder of the authenticity of the moment, and my very mortality. The motorcycle’s lone headlight danced its way across the steppe; I leaned back, resting my hands on my knees, and gazed up at the endless starry dark. My stomach full of боодог (boodog, Mongolian roasted goat), сүүтэй цай (suutei tsai, milky tea), айраг (airag, fermented mare’s milk) and архи (arhi, vodka), I smiled at the uniqueness and beauty of this experience, and drank in the Mongolian night.

[From Delgerhaan Homestay]

Reflections on Mongolia


With perestroika and the decline of Soviet power in the late 1980’s, Mongolia entered the first period of its post-communist development. This romantic period was a time of hope; Mongolia was to become the next Asian Tiger. Yet with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the halting of related aid money, newly democratic Mongolia was faced with an economic crisis of epic proportions. The fruits of democracy were enjoyed as well; newspapers sprang up, their variety reflecting the budding of Mongolia’s new multi-party democracy. Churches tripped over each other to send missionaries to cultivate her fertile sands, and Buddhism re-entered the public sphere. However, the lack of visible progress led many Mongolians’ to enter into state of now-familiar disillusionment.

Elections brought the young Democrats into power, who hastily implemented an intensely neo-liberal plan to shock the Mongolian economy into complete liberalization. Despite optimistic forecasts from policymakers, the life of the average Mongolian took a serious turn for the worse. Problems that had been forgotten during the times of Stalinist ‘utopia’ ravaged the country. Unemployment, massive inflation (as much as 350%), shortages of essential goods, and an almost complete collapse of the Mongolian economy were among them.[^m1] Social ills soon followed, with Mongolian males and their fragile egos faring worse that the women; alcoholism and violence, especially, spread amongst the growing population of unemployed young men.[^m2] Such chaos swept the MPRP back into power, beginning another dark era of de-democratization, though with some economic recovery.


Big Brother is watching, don’t say the

Wrong thing, look the Wrong way.

Traditional systems dis-

Integrate. Morals, ethics, freedoms and structures of life on the steppe.[^m3]

Continue reading “Reflections on Mongolia”

On Poop

There are some things people just don’t like to talk about.

No matter how close a friend or significant other, poop perpetually exists as taboo, reserved for only medical emergencies (or kinky sex? Let’s not go there). If it exists at all.

When a group travels beyond the realm of bacterial familiarity, into a land where gastrointestinal integrity is no longer taken for granted, a special bond is formed.

Anyone who has traveled to a distant land can attest to the magic that is travelers talking about their GI lives. At home, people talk about work lives, sex lives; but in Mongolia, we had whole soap-operas worth of material and drama pertaining to nothing more than diarrhea and its many relatives.

A: Hey Kevin, how was your day?
K: Good, but I haven’t shat in 3 days! I’m gonna go try now…
A: Damn! Well, good luck! Give ’em hell!

[10 minutes later]

A: Well?
K: Great success!!
A: Hallelujah!

Such a situation was quite plausible, if not normal. This extreme take on a traditionally sensitive subject (flexibility borne of necessity and increasing familiarity with said subject’s less desirable territories) exposes the opposite extreme in which we are perpetually trapped back in the 1st world. Sure, once a healthy rhythm is established, and things stop being interesting, it fades from view…

The Arrival of Winter

10/9/07, 9:24 pm:

UB is a different city now — the cold has arrived; there is snow by the sides of the street and blanketing the flanking mountains. the air is crisp, yet clean; not yet soiled by the sulfurous belching of the thousands of ger district stoves. We wear our wool hats, careful not to catch the wind — the one piece of Mongolian folklore that none of us dare scoff at, lest we be stricken with yet one more bout of Montezuma’s Revenge. Yet the Mongols carry on as usual. The vendors on the streets are now gloved, but the public seems dressed for autumn.

As winter begins to make it clear that no, she won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, the winter clothes begin to appear. Suddenly I am not the only one on the bus to be grasping the plastic hanging handles with gloved hands. My breath grows thicker by the day, and I begin to see and feel the first signs of smog, clouds hovering outside our front door, waiting to be drawn in. After a few weeks I have a smoker’s cough, nothing too violent; just a persistent aggravation. Even the night sky becomes clouded, and the familiar stars fade from above. And then a warm smile, Oh, but this is just the beginning! Winter doesn’t start until January, they tell me.