A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Airport
Trip Start Jun 30, 2007
19Trip End Jul 16, 2007
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Farewell to Mongolia (or "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Airport")
I am one of the only tourists in the museum this morning. A man scurries through the grounds with me, unlocking each of the five temples for my personal inspection. I am quite surprised to find one chapel dedicated to statues showing mystic sexual union.
Mr. Lkhagvasuren meets us at the back stage door, and takes us right onto the stage where the corps de ballet and orchestra are rehearsing for a performance of Giselle. The young men and women are in rehearsal attire and are completely focused on their work, paying us little heed. We tiptoe past as unobtrusively as possible and go offstage to the foyer.
We split up afterwards, meeting back at the bus at 3:45pm. Our intention is to be at the restaurant for our early farewell dinner at 4pm. We decide to swing by the US Embassy on the way to the restaurant. It is not positioned on a main thoroughfare, so our bus crawling along on the rough dirt service road in front of the Embassy certainly attracts the attention of the guards. My camera poking out the open door to take a photo, and another from the front seat, are the last straw.
No doubt concerned that we might be canvassing the place for an attack of some sort, the guards hustle over and demand to see our guide's papers, my identification and the man's in the front seat who also took a photograph. I present my Illinois drivers' license and a business card, and the man in the front seat produces his passport. There is a lot of talking back and forth between guards and guide, and I offer to delete the photograph I took. The guard watches me closely as I do so, and he does the same with the man in the front seat. They still seem unsatisfied, so I turn over a complete list of our passport data to the guard and he finally allows us to continue on our way. We worry that we are all going to find ourselves on "watch lists" for additional scruitiny at airports in the future. Mental note: No more photo stops at US Embassies!
Our flight's scheduled departure time is 8:25pm, and we arrive at the airport around 6:30pm, only to see that the flight is posted to leave at 9:30pm. The reason for the delay is posted as "bad weather in Ulaan Baatar." Meanwhile, it is sunny and bright outside. One of our group works for Air China, and he explains that because there is only one runway, planes cannot land if there are strong crosswinds (which seem to be present). Our plane hasn't even left Beijing yet.
The group members take everything in stride. We camp out in one waiting area. Some nap, some read, some chat, some look at photos on my computer and on our guide's computer. At 9:00pm we are allowed to check in for the flight, even though it has still not left Beijing. We relocate our camp to the bar near the gates. There is free wireless internet access, so we pass my computer around and those who want are able to check their emails. A few of us play cards. We take turns buying rounds of drinks. We are still sitting there at midnight, so since the date has changed this story must be continued on tomorrow's entry!