Living in a ger is like being Alice standing under the caterpillar on his fleshy mushroom. The wood burning stove vents plumes of white smoke out of a rusty iron pipe just like the chain smoking caterpillar. An umbrella of wooden gills vein across the underside of the mushroom’s meaty top. Woolen felt pounded to the thickness of steaks form a fat layer blanketing the ger’s wooden skeleton and dampen all sound making one feel like a baby in the womb.
Our neighbor was a Mongolian baby and a marvel to me with his powder-soft pillowy cheeks, vice-lock gripping fingers, and easy smile. I’d peer out through my miniature door and see him riding belly first across the grass on a blanket pulled by his auntie. “Come outside, step through the tiny portal,” he and the countryside beckoned.
Entering this world, normal is readjusted in the small differences. First, you meet the quiet. Here whirring of the winged crickets is shushed and not fat mouse nor bird dare peep. Quiet is an all consuming entity that stuffs fluff in your ears until sound foils its plans. Sound swims great distances in search of an available ear. The young herder girls’ giggles sailed across the length of vast fields, like voices through a dream.
In this land of no ocean, the only waves found are waves of grazing animals. The ger camp must have been a stop on their favorite restaurant tour. A shuffling, first thought to be a person, revealed its un-human voice neighing to a neighbor. Cows, yaks, and their hybrid offspring, lumbered their furry rumps up and down the mountains everyday past us. Sneaking up on hundreds of sneezing goats I edged among a sea of incessant plucking of grass from ground to spend lunch time with my goaty friends. I wondered if they would ask me to tea, when I saw two struggle to dunk heads into a pot of raisin tea left by a silly human, but alas no tea for me just plucking pals.
I laughed at the mountains mocking the sky, and tickling the clouds, while patches of forrest gossiped in the rustling wind. That was until the clouds blackened, puffed to their puffiest, and boiled through the August sky, to pelt me with ice balls. Run, run to the safety of your mushroom! Lightening sizzled in the dark grey world, and bit a poor tree simply for being too tall. I hefted the felt up over my small door to peek out at the falling sky.
Night brought out giggling teens who helped in maintaining the ger’s ceiling flap, and fed our stove, till a warm mesmerizing glow pulsed from its fiery heart. Sleep wiggled slowly in, as I watched a shadowy animation of flickers, dance on white felt walls. Somewhere in the night, the fire died and cold crept in, making layers of blankets tuck tighter around chins, to lock out the frost. I felt like the princess and the pea, only in reverse, being buried under a stack of blankets. Gray smoky puffs bloomed, coiled around my dreams, and transported me through my dark landscape…