Saturday, September 02, 2006

Crossing the Street

Now, when an opportunity to take something as a sign arises, especially when it's a sign boding well for me, I usually take it. And what better portent than coincidentally crossing paths with the Dalai Lama; I took it to mean that my stay in Mongolia would be trouble free and charmed. But if there is any blessing upon me, it's not the trouble-free kind.

On my second day in Ulaanbataar, I was still tired and dazed from the effort of closing up all accounts in Seoul, but I decided to change guest houses nonetheless; my bed for the first night was in a Soviet style apartment block which had a mild mildew problem, and I'm allergic to anything that flourishes in damp, dark places. Concrete and overcrowding I can tolerate, but not sneezing. I spent the morning waking up and repacking, and then I put that pack on and walked across town.

After settling into the new place, where I have stayed since, I headed out for a wander, with a much lighter load. After a few hours of walking, looking, and taking the lay of the land, I passed the central post office and decided to head back "home" for a rest.

I was crossing a small street with a lot of pedestrian but no vehicular traffic, and I was looking down slightly rather than straight ahead. As I approached the curb, I saw a pair of feet in my path.

Seeing the feet move to my left, I moved to the right. But just as the bandit's feint to the left caused my reaction to the right, he took a large step to the left, planting himself in front of me.

I ran into the owner of the shoes, and the owner of another pair of shoes ran into me from behind.

In just over a second we were all disentangled from one another. As we began to continue our trajectories, I looked down at my front pocket where I had been, admittedly stupidly, carrying my camera, and it was gone.

So I yelled at the man who had hit me from behind, "Hey, where's my camera?" And he looked at me like I'd stolen something from him. So I turned to the fancy-footed bandit, and he dropped my camera on the ground and walked quickly away. Fortunately, my camera was unharmed.

The first thing that went through my mind was the same thought that I had when a car sent me flying off my scooter. It was something like, "Hey, this is pretty interesting! I can tell a story about this one!"

This reaction disturbs me. Why does an event have to be dangerous to spark this interest? It's not the danger that's the point, it's that it's uncommon to be flying through the air, or confronted with a clever dancer.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obviously very experienced with "naive" tourists - they just didn't know who they were dealing with - no "accidental tourist", my Des! M.

8:40 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous maryeats said...

Damn, nice work on getting the camera back! Were you scary?

I don't think I'd wanna eat mongola air's meals either. Nor Air Voldivovstock (that is totally spelled wrong, but I am still on my first cup of coffee and therefore unwilling and unmotivated to correct it)

8:50 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good lord. Nice awareness on that one. Never experienced the "bump" but I've heard it's quite popular. What a foiler you are!


8:54 PM GMT-5  
Anonymous Alberda family said...

This story reminds of the time I nearly lost a bag of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies from some young "bandits". I was walking to the Embassy in Tunis to eat w/ Tom and Vicki when some teens decided they wanted whatever I had in my hand. The teacher in me royally chewed them out and probably the fact I was speaking English scared them more than anything. I did learn lots, as you have!
Please be careful we want you back home in one piece! Keep up the journals...they are a pleasant escape for the rest of us from the routine!
God Bless,
Aunt Jane

9:36 PM GMT-5  

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