Sunday, January 31, 2010

That Perfect Gift

[For those of you reading my blog for the first time, you need to know that I am presenting my thoughts and ideas in the form of short stories. But each story will be presented in serial form. Last week I completed my first 4 part story. To read it please go to the Jan. 5 2010 posting and read through the postings to the present. I am beginning a new story with the present posting that I would like to dedicate to my daughter, Larisa. Enjoy!.........]

Dear Daddy, Surprise! That’s mean; I’m sorry, but I did say it would be about six weeks before you would hear from me again. I hope you haven’t been worrying too much. The team and I certainly have experienced some adventures and, yes, misadventures. We have had no lack of visitors since we found the gravesite. So far it’s mostly been government officials making sure that we haven’t touched the Great Khan’s remains or pilfered any of the treasures entombed with him. And there are some exquisite pieces. Apparently word travels fast because a few weeks ago some bandits arrived to try their hand at archeology. Fortunately they weren’t too bright because they showed up a short time after some soldiers. I think the thieves have now decided to pursue some other scholarly endeavor—least wise, they’ll have plenty of time for study. Anyway, the regiment has been garrisoned at our camp, so we are all breathing a lot easier.
As I said, we have cataloged some beautiful and priceless artifacts. Sadly, we haven’t found the log-book we think Genghis or one of his lieutenants kept of their exploits. But what we have unearthed will write volumes of history. The government plans to create a state exhibit that will travel all around the nation free of charge to the citizens. Then it will tour the globe. The proceeds will be used for various programs back here in Mongolia. I am very happy for these wonderful people that they should be given such a super gift. They deserve to profit from the rich piece of their heritage and it looks like they shall. As you might guess, I have many more stories to tell you; too many for me to write about now, though, so I’ll wait to give you the lowdown in person. I’ve recorded it all in my journal so I won’t forget anything.
We arrived in Ulaanbaatar, yesterday. It felt good to enjoy the amenities of a hotel, such as they are, for a change. But, it’s only for a week (sigh) and then it’s back to the Hangayn Mountains for another six weeks and then I’ll be coming home (yea!).
I remembered this morning that I won’t be home for your birthday. And because you can’t have me there to help celebrate, I just knew that I would have to find an extra special gift to help you feel better. The trouble is, as always, what do you get a father who has everything? I mean, CD’s, books, and fountain pens seem so boring and unoriginal. Well, what better place to find a truly unique present than right here in the exotic land of Mongolia. After all, we have wondered if there might be a smattering of Mongol blood in us—being the dark Finns that we are. Perhaps I could find something to stir up in you the ancient passions of the great Khans, or, at the very least, an interesting conversation piece for your mantle. So, with this in mind, I hit the streets earlier today in search of that perfect gift for you.
I wandered around the city for a couple of hours until I got myself completely lost on some narrow old side street. As luck would have it, though, I found some steps leading down to a small overgrown and beleaguered shop by the name of, The Tent of the Red Dragon. At least I think that was the correct translation; I’m still not very good at reading Chinese. I tried to look through the filthy ruddy windowpanes of the front door, but I couldn’t really see anything. When I turned the latch the door sprung open like it was warped and had been forced shut.
The inside of the shop was just as overgrown and cluttered as the outside except with less vegetation and more things. I saw knickknacks of every imaginable shape and color, ivory figurines and animals (illegal, I suspect) old books (nothing in English), and archaic weapons and costumes. A spider monkey ate some fruit nervously in a cage in one corner, and a motley assortment of cages, cartons, and luggage had been piled up in the opposite corner. As I surveyed the hodgepodge, a small mouse skittered along the floor by my feet (no, I didn’t scream). The Tent of the Red Dragon, in all its disarray, definitely held promise for someone in search of the unusual.