Magic Mongolian Monday: Camping #7=True Love for Michael Kowal


DSC00257 copyYou can tell I’m a romantic, because I saved the love story for the end. Plus, forget about Ontario and upstate New York, baby. We’re going to Mongolia!
Michael Kowal wrote
Not sure about Calabogie but my wife and I just got back from a trip to Mongolia (see her family). We were out camping near the Chinese border so not exactly the same terrain but here’s a few things (combined with Michigan childhood memories)… 🙂
– night, with no other lights around i wanted to see stars but instead got a bright moon that flooded the sky with light. And drown out a good lot of the stars. It was amazing how bright it was. Amazing. And amazing how ticked off I was on one hand, but was amazed at just how bright the moon could really be. I didn’t need no night light!
– One night we pulled out binoculars to look up into the night sky and it truly was like there was a carpet of stars up there. More than I could ever imagine. More than I had ever imagined. Also as we looked up we both spotted satellites tracking across the sky. Not seen with the naked eye, but we each saw two different ones in just three minutes of looking each. Didn’t realize there were so many of the things up there. Got us thinking about what each of them did up there.
– The smell of the freshwater lake gets stronger the closer you come to the edge.
– The sound of the small lapping of the water right at the shore.
– Minnows and small fish swimming near the shore.
– Bitter coffee that you’ve made when you let it boil too long but it’s all you got and that somehow makes it all right. Better even.
– It’d be cold in the morning. But if you have a good sleeping bag the difference in temperature between inside the bag and your exposed face is pretty – refreshing/a pain in the butt/annoying – your choice. 🙂
– Not sure if there’d be straggler mosquitos that time of year that might buzz/whine… and of course pump you full of juice that makes you itch like hell. I hate those buggers!
– A quick stiff breeze that flash-colds your face and brings you back to reality.
– A tree full of crows going crazy.
– If there are row boats in early morning/dawn you would hear the oars of a row boat carrying a fisherman out to his spot. It’s a beautiful, lone sound. A man, or woman, heading to their date with peace.
– Dampness on your face and in the tent in the morning when you wake.
Beautiful writing. But if you’re like me, your next question is…Mongolia?
Your question brought up a lot of beautiful memories for me, growing up on lakes in Michigan. Didn’t do much camping there but I did when I went to Mongolia in 2007 for vacation. Ended up falling in love with my guide that first trip. We’re married now, and as I like to say she’s still my guide. 🙂 Just got back Thursday from my fifth trip to Mongolia. We camped up in the mountains near the Chinese border this time and a lot of what I wrote below was fresh memories from that.
DSC09652 copy (1)
And the question after that is, you fell in love with your guide?
The short version is I was looking for where to go for a vacation, spotted Mongolia and liked the idea – I like going where others don’t normally go. Well, Mongolia is pretty flat and I like me some mountains so I Googled ‘Mongolia mountain photos’ and the first link that came up I clicked. It was a photo page for a tour operator in far-west Mongolia. It was weird, as soon as I saw the photos something shifted inside of me and I just knew, this was where I was supposed to go. A complete calm, certain feeling. There were no other options. I emailed the owner, booked a driver, guide and cook for two weeks, wired him the money and wondered – what the hell am I doing!?!?!!? hahahahaha… I have no idea who this guy is……….I arrived in Ulaanbaatar (the capitol) and his daughter and her cousin were there to meet me. I was going to the far-west of the country so needed to wait for two days for a flight. They showed me around and at the end of the day we went to have lunch and we all talked. She, they were BOTH fascinated that I was single (48, never married, completely odd for the Kazakh culture – the far-west is 90% ethnic Kazakh). We laughed, joked, and she said “well maybe you’ll find a wife.” She wrote down a few phrases in Kazakh including ‘I love you’ and I headed to the hotel.Next day I boarded the commuter flight and suddenly half way through the flight I got scared. My guide, what if he was some Kazakh dude with a mustache and a bad attitude? ‘No, we cannot go there…’ I was going to spend 2 weeks with this guy and I didn’t want it to suck. But then something came in and told me, “It’s okay, it’s going to be all right.” and I sat back and felt calm.

The plane landed on a dirt runway, I got into the small terminal and Canat (the tour operator) was waiting for me. We laughed, hugged (I just flew half way across the freakin’ world – and made it!) and he said, “Michael, I have my best guide for you, Guljan,” and he motioned to my right. It was a girl. Not some old dude with a mustache. It didn’t compute.

We headed for the company where I would stay for a night. Canat said to unload my stuff and come out to the restaurant and Guljan could tell me more about the trip.

I did, got back to the restaurant and when she came to sit down I wanted to break the ice so asked her, “What are your favorite things?” and she said, “Mountains, children’s tales, and…” and I didn’t hear another thing. My heart melted. hahahahaha…

I spent the rest of the damn trip trying to tell me this was a professional relationship and I couldn’t not go there. It wasn’t right. Shouldn’t be done, couldn’t be done.

Well… there are many more things within that first trip, and what has happened since, so many synchronous things, magic things. Amazing things. And we just celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary this year.

And it continues.

So – magic does happen. It continues to happen, and this romantic is very glad he waited. Dreams do come true… hehehehehehehee…..

Michael and I have never met, but he’s obviously a writer who feels with all his senses, listens to his heart, and takes risks. He and his wife, Guljan, are moving to Lincoln City while he takes his leap as a full-time writer. Best of luck!