Continued from Picnicking.
We finished our sheep, and I was beckoned by a Russian teacher.
“We go now.”
I gathered my things and followed her and a few others to their car. A large man in a baseball cap came with us. He was enthusiastic about speaking with everyone. He gave me a spirited “Goodbye!” when he saw me outside the ger, not knowing I was to be joining him in the car ride back to the city.
This man would later exclaim, “I am happy man!”
He was happy because of all the vodka he drank, his wife told me.
The ride back saw him riding in the center, while I was wedged to his right, his wife and another teacher to the left. He had a glazed look about him, but not the kind of glazed that raises concern. He was just coasting on a good buzz. A very good buzz. Perhaps too good.
At one point he serenaded me with an English song. Which song it was, I will never know, but a little boy in the front seat mentioned Queen, so maybe it was one of theirs. He laughed after every attempt, as did I. I smiled, he smiled. He sang, I laughed, he laughed. I could tell he was having a good time. I found out, with help from his wife, that he is a basketball coach. He mimed the sport enthusiastically.
As we bumped along the dirt road, he put his arm around me and gave me a firm squeeze. He took a shining to me. He asked me a few questions in Mongolian, and I did my best to answer. He felt one of my hands. You must know that my hands get frigid, regardless of how warm it is outside. Poor circulation, perhaps? I told him in Mongolian that my hands were cold, so he grabbed them, one at a time, and warmed them with his own. When both of our hands were a bit clammy, he proclaimed we were finished. We then pulled over, and he and his wife left.
For most of the ride, I did my best to talk with him, laugh with him, and enjoy his company. I was told by my English teachers that many of the teachers wanted to speak with me, but couldn’t, because of their poor English skills. We may not have said much, but I felt a little better about speaking with Mongolians in broken bits of both English and Mongolian after speaking with Happy Man.
If I learned anything, it’s that laughter and a firm handshake can take you a lot farther than you think.