Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Not-quite tourists

I want to tell you a story about a bunch of Westerners I met in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Carrie and I spent our first night there in a guesthouse, which she and I have already told you about. Most of the guests were guys in their 20’s and 30’s and Carrie was the only woman. While we were out exploring the city, visiting Choijin Lama Temple Museum, Sukhbaatar Square, minor plazas and monuments and even the Children’s Park, most of the guys hung out at the guesthouse surfing the internet and telling each other stories about other places they’d idled and where they might go next.

While we slept, or tried to sleep, the rest of the gang warmed up a party in the living room which led, many hours later, to singing drunken songs about sexual conquest. Apparently they like girls, at least in the abstract. When we returned after our three-day tour of parks and remote villages, however, the guys were still at the guesthouse, now abuzz over the arrival of two attractive young women from Germany. They seemed disappointed that the young women had not stayed long in the living room, but had gone out to explore the city.

“Guys,” I exclaimed. “Why didn’t any of you offer to show them around town?”

“Because we don’t know anything about Ulaanbaatar,” the most honest among them replied.

I don’t understand this. If all they wanted to do was sit around with a few beers and some company, they could have surely enjoyed the same thing in their home towns. While they’re probably too old to sit around in college dormitories, certainly they’re old enough to visit a bar or join some social clubs. What’s the appeal, then, of going far from home if not to meet some people with different backgrounds and experiences or at least learn to walk around and see stuff?

For that matter, then, their failure reminds me that I should make the best of wherever I am, even when I’m at home. I know my home towns pretty well, but can always discover more and see familiar things from a new point of view. I have some ideas, and I hope to tell you about them later.

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