Saturday, March 7, 2009


Picking up where we left off last time, I will add a little footnote. The egg that I pushed off the top of my meatloaf was not wasted. After it had remained untouched on my plate for several minutes, the two translators who were seated at my table finally concluded that I really wasn't going to eat it, and one shyly inquired if I minded if they shared it. Of course I didn't mind, and one eagerly scooped it off my plate, gave half to the other girl and kept half for herself. A couple of bites each, and the egg was gone.

I should also note here that at the end of our meals, any plate still containing food was passed to the table where our drivers were eating, and was swiftly consumed. In Mongolia, absolutely nothing is wasted.

We finished eating, and returned to our vans. Back at the clinic, Bulgan told us that the line would be closed at 2:30, and that we were not to see anyone who wasn't there to receive a new number before then. This seemed simple and straightforward enough, and we knew from experience that the plan would let us finish by 4 p.m, and our doctors would then finish by around 5 p.m. At 2:30, new numbers were passed out to the people who were waiting, and anyone who came after that was given a different colored number and asked to return on Monday.

Everything went smoothly, and at around 4 p.m. we saw our last client and were preparing to close the triage area down. Suddenly a woman appeared, brandishing a ticket and demanding to be seen. It was a ticket in the color that was used yesterday. Those people had been asked to return this morning, and would have been seen first. This woman apparently had not shown up until now, and still expected to be seen. Barb and I were perfectly willing to see her, and saw no point in making a scene about it, but Bulgan was adamant. The woman didn't follow instructions, came strolling in after we had closed for the day, and was insisting on being seen anyway. This just wasn't acceptable, according to Bulgan.

At first, I couldn't see the point, but Bulgan soon made it clear. She very tactfully explained that some of the town people can be very pushy and will take advantage, and that it's important for us to do what we say we're going to do. She gently hinted that there are dynamics at work that we don't understand, being outsiders, and that it's best to stick with the plan and not let someone run over us. Besides, she said, what you do for one, you must do for others. We didn't see any others around, but still we moved on outside the tent, while the woman raged and stomped around, demanding that somebody see her.

She approached one of the interpreters and began to shout and berate her. Her tone was rude and overbearing, but the interpreter just answered her softly. Finally Bulgan reappeared, confronted her and told her to settle down and move on. (Our translators were quietly keeping us informed.) Bulgan kept her voice soft and gentle, but she was unbending. The woman finally quieted down, but didn't leave. She just continued to hang around, walking around the tent, occasionally walking through, and eyeing us as we stood off to one side, as though wondering why we were just standing there doing nothing. We were feeling pretty much the same way.

The woman approached Bulgan again, a little less belligerently, and Bulgan again explained to her that we could not send any more patients to the doctors, because the line was still long, and we had to finish up and leave soon. This gave the woman an opening that allowed her to feel she had won, while still complying with Bulgan's rules. The woman announced that she didn't need to see a doctor, that all she wanted was some eyeglasses and to have her blood pressure checked, and since we weren't doing anything, couldn't we just do that for her? The smart and tactful Bulgan knew a good compromise when she saw one. She explained that we didn't have any more eyeglasses, and it was too bad the woman hadn't come this morning while we still had some. However, she said she was sure the nurses wouldn't mind taking her blood pressure, and asked if we would do so. Of course we would, and did. We wrote it down for her, she took the paper and left. Now of course, the notion of not seeing a doctor had just occurred to the woman. If that had been in her mind all the time, I can't believe it wouldn't have come out during the heated confrontation earlier. The woman was simply determined to win in some way, and Bulgan was wise enough to let her, while not relaxing one inch on the explanation that she couldn't send anyone else to the doctors. It was a win/win situation, which is always best. Bulgan is a treasure.

Shortly after the demanding woman left, another woman appeared. She, too, had a number from yesterday, and wondered if it was too late for her to be seen. She was so meek and polite, not at all demanding, and looked so very tired and weary, that Barb and I just quietly took her vitals, one of the translators filled out an intake paper for her, and we took her history. Then we found Bulgan and explained the situation to her, and Bulgan walked away with her. Right about then, we were told to get into the vans to return to Darkhan, so I'm not sure whether the woman was allowed to go to the doctors' line or not, though I rather suspect that she was. Bulgan plays by the rules, but she has a big and tender heart.

It rained on us on the trip back to town, and I got some good pictures. You can see the rain falling on the road ahead of us, and we drove through it when we reached that point. It was a downpour, and the dry and thirsty earth was soaking it up like a sponge.


The highway pictured here is "the" highway in Mongolia. There is only one main road that gives some access to the country, and this is part of it. In the U.S., this patched and often cracked two-lane road would likely bear "county road" or "farm-to-market road" status, it certainly would not be a "super highway", though it is the largest, in fact the only highway in the country.

At long intervals, smaller roads veer off to go to a small town or settlement. They're usually roughly black-topped, though not always. In addition, there are numerous dirt lanes, or tracks, that head off into the unknown. In a sense, it's fortunate that rainstorms are infrequent, because after a heavy rain, those lanes are almost impassable, with washouts, potholes and mudslides you wouldn't believe. I'm sure they aren't mapped, but the locals know where they go, and seem to have no trouble finding their way around. Of course, the condition of the roads would have little impact on the local population, since they travel mainly on foot or by horseback anyway. Our vans have bumped and clambered through those holes and slides at times, and it's quite an experience.

Finally, we got back to the hotel, cleaned up a bit and went immediately in to dinner. It was good, and we had some of that wonderful creamy ice cream, with the delicious blueberry sauce.

Ray is improving a lot. He returned my little wrist braces, saying that his wrists were feeling better. They're still swollen and bruised, and he winces when he tries to use them, though he doesn't admit it. He still has a 12-hour gap in his memory that may or may not ever return, but his current short-term memory is functioning. He remembers everything that led up to that 12-hour period, and almost everything that has happened since, but he just doesn't remember anything about the camel. Probably a good thing!

It has rained here in town, too. Windows and doors are open, the air is fresh and clean, and smells just wonderful. Everything looks greener already, as we look out at the open fields behind the hotel. This is such a wild and impressive land. It's so hard to believe that the beautiful prairies and mountains, and the squalid, depressing towns are part of the same country. The towns are like open sores on an otherwise lovely face.

It's only 8 p.m. now, and some of the group is planning to walk to town to the "Wal-Mart", or to the Internet cafe. There are no vans available to drive us, and I'm a little reluctant to walk that far on my gimpy knee. Where there are sidewalks, they're broken and uneven, and now they're wet and slippery as well, after the rain. It would be about an eight-block walk, round trip, and I just don't think it would be too smart. Eloise isn't too keen on going either, so we decide to stay in the hotel. A couple of the other women come down for a while and we visit, have a few laughs as we recall some of the things that have happened, and then our visitors leave. We read for a little while, and as the light begins to fade, so do we. We fall asleep quickly, anticipating the church service we're going to attend in the morning, out in Hongor.

1 comment:

samraat said...