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Different Origins, Same Destination

By JERICK AGUILAR

When one of my best friends was here a couple of months ago, I wanted to take him to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park. But given the unfortunate incident of his flight to Ulaanbaatar getting delayed not for hours but for days, he did not have enough time in Mongolia – so the better part of it was best spent sightseeing in the capital (and going somewhere nearer, Manzushir Monastery). I had never been to this place but I wanted to go there with a friend or two, knowing that we would all enjoy what it has to offer. (And, of course, I need at least one person to take my pictures.)
Looking back, it was a good thing that he and I could not go there. The weather was still very cold at that time and it even snowed heavily on the day of his departure. My students told me that I would not be able to go hiking in the park and visit many places there. But I have been in Mongolia for more than four months and now that spring is here, I reckoned that I had to take advantage of the sunny days with the positive, two-digit temperatures. So last weekend, I organized a trip to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park with my colleagues, students, and Filipino friends.
I asked a co-teacher, a Mongolian, to help me rent a mini-bus. But with only 11 people initially expressing interest to join this trip, we decided to have a van rented instead. To my surprise in the morning that all of us met to leave UB, that van does not have the usual seat at the back row so it can only accommodate up to eight passengers (two with the driver, two behind them seated in the other direction, and four in the third row). It was either the remaining three people uncomfortably sit on three others’ laps, or they sit much more uncomfortably on the floor at the back of van.
But as serendipity would have it, four people cancelled at the last minute – only for me to be surprised for the second time around that the driver needed to have his mechanic with him and that my Mongolian colleague also brought along her sister. It did help that one of the passengers was a six-year old kid so he just sat on the lap of his mother or aunt during the ride there and back. As we were all crammed in the van, it occurred to me that there are 10 people inside who came from different places and we were all going to the same destination.
We were five Filipinos and five Mongolians in the trip and none had ever been to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park. Among the former, all five of us are from various provinces in the Philippines; and among the latter, two are from UB and three are from the south of Mongolia. It was very interesting how, en route to the park, you could hear two different languages at the same time when everybody was having their own conversation; and how we would revert to English in order to understand each other. Three languages, two nationalities, one destination – was the thought that was running through my head.
Arriving there took us after a little bit more than two hours, but time just flew with all the talking and the occasional napping. In the national park, our first itinerary was, of course, to go to the most famous landmark of Gorkhi-Terelj – Turtle Rock. Everybody got out of the van excited and I instantly became the photographer, taking solo and group pictures of everyone with the natural monument as the backdrop. It was also the first time for my Filipino friends to see a Bactrian camel with its owner waiting for tourists to ride it or to at least have a photograph taken that they are on it.
It was then time for lunch and, for lack of a table, we were busy munching in the parked van. And it was like going to an international restaurant. For appetizers, there were the usual potato chips that you can find everywhere and pork rinds that were imported from the Philippines (well, another friend brought it with her when she went back there on vacation). As main dishes, there were the Italian pizza, the Korean kimbap, and the Mongolian hushuur. About dessert, we finished our meal with banana cake from the United States (the recipe, that is) and almond cookies from Taiwan (for real).
Off we went on a long hike to the Princess Temple – and there were numerous photo opportunities along the way. We were surrounded by nature at its finest and spring has truly come with the weather warming up, the grass growing, and the flowers blooming. We probably spent twice as much time getting there because half of it was not hiking but taking lots of pictures. From afar, one of Mongolia’s oldest temples is a perfect manmade complement to the mountain where it stands. Standing on one of its 108 steps, the vista of the surrounding landscape is also as perfect.
In the temple – since nobody among us is Buddhist, everybody was amazed at how colorful, solemn, and spiritual the place is. The caretaker was kind enough to let us take pictures, and it was really fascinating how each one of us was praying after we had kept our cameras. The four of us Filipinos, along with my Mongolian colleague and her son, are Christian; one is Muslim; and the other three Mongolians are Shaman; yet we were open enough to enter a place of worship other than our own and even pay tribute to the golden statues there. Three religions, two nationalities, one God – I thought to myself.
Our trip to Gorkhi-Terelj National Park was capped off by having a pleasant dinner at the world-class Terelj Hotel. At the table, I saw tired but happy faces of the Filipinos, Mongolians, Christians, Muslim, and Shamans I had had the pleasure of discovering this new place with. They say that everything happens for a reason and a journey is better when it is shared. I am glad that I ended up going there with a lot more people, and I am much gladder to realize that although we come from several origins and have different backgrounds, we can always come together to get to just one destination.

Short URL: http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn/?p=4318

Posted by on May 26 2013. Filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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