I learn that I fall in love too easily with things that I’ll never see again. I keep doing so anyway. Overanalyze every detail, take in air over and over again, regret things before the reasons begin to come. Fall in love with nature that has always hidden itself from you that you promise to never lose again, begging to recapture moments and memories in your mind as you had seen them.
I am victim to countless mistakes. The backseat of the bus that bets everything on things beyond — never knowing what they’re truly like.
This is the second and final part of my trip to Inner Mongolia. A wonderful tour, thoughts to keep forevermore and photos to stare at longingly. Apparently, long bus rides are a thing that I enjoy now.
Since I had no competitions left, I joined other people from the Philippine team to go on a Grasslands day tour. This was easily my favorite day of the trip since after spending the majority of my time in a stadium, sweating and worrying about every single detail — I got to actually roam (tourist trap) yet delightful sceneries and roads.
I already fell in love on the way there.
We passed by nuclear power plants, mountains and hills – climbing them up in spirals and delicate slopes, cruising by the skyline and build-ups of grass, rock, mud and everything in between. Farms with wheat stretching across the horizon, fields of sunflowers and yellow flowers. From the back of a bus I felt like I was given a god-sent tour of the beauty in the world, so hidden and obscured – the beauty and reason that I have been meaning to find for so long, curvature and bumpy roads giving way to a precis of all the more that the world has to offer. From the backseat of a bumpy drive I was a witness to mountains that I would never see again — preface to industrialization and ruin that would soon tear it all down. Witness and bystander who is willing to ask what kind of person would trample upon everything that was when I sit down today, in what could have been hills and slopes, arrays of flora all over – turned into fake wooden pavements, origin sites of self-ruin.
It was transfixing in a way so different from the seven-hour trip to Mongolia. In a little over an hour I witnessed the natural beauty of mountains, windmills littering the landscape and dotting the sky with motion blurs and promises, the caverns and holes piquing itself out of undiscovered cliffsides. Beside the highway – unfinished roads, dirt scrapings, no person in sight but cars and remnants of work to be finished. We weren’t alone as cars shared the lonely journey, shadows of rotors mirroring our land-ridden flight.
Although I couldn’t take it all in. I fell asleep, hopefully not missing much. I woke up when we were nearby. The hills and slopes ran flat as we were far above the ground – windmills replaced mountains and flowers replaced windmills. People flocked to the grassland area we were set to visit, tourist-enticing activities for overpriced coin. When we first entered, we were given the option to go for horseriding or do some archery – the former of which I passed on — and the latter being as difficult as I expected. After talking about meeting points, suffering through awkwardly forced group photos – we were allowed to roam the fields freely and to later meet at a certain place for lunch.
I spent a majority of this time in silence, not really talking to others about what was around. Taking it all in, what I saw was vast grasslands, a paved road, tents upon tents that weren’t actually… tents but rather buildings, hand-painted with designs of blue and red that stood out and flooded the grasslands with vibrance rather than simply white contrast. The clouds loomed over yet the scorching heat didn’t wane. Windmills with characters on them were everywhere – in numbers that I had never seen before. Interestingly enough, only a few of them were turning along while the others remained still.
In contrast to the roaming I had done on the previous day, there was quite an abundance of people in the area. Not enough to interfere on the experience but enough to feel like this was nothing at all like solitude. Chatter was at a minimum but I couldn’t feel the quiet or solemnity that I had grown fond of. Cars skidded by – with four by fours gassing up the grass for a few hundred Yuan. Whines and whimpers from people of the same bus didn’t help either — complaining about the smallest of things when they’re in a completely foreign place, surrounded by sights that they would never ever get to see again.
Cold and hot waged a war against each other. I felt my legs, only cover-up a black pleated skirt swarming with cold while my back was blazed upon by sunlight that I could never stare up at. A convenient lack of pockets led to my glasses switching from palm to nosebridge and fingers clinging on desperately to a heating phone.
But beyond it all – it was nothing I had hoped for and everything I was glad about. Making my own silence amongst the words of others, building up my own perspective, angling across buildings and tracing illustrations that everyone else seemed to never notice. I longed to mark this day through more than just filtered photos, “hey, smile and look here’s” that come out of nowhere and thoughts on the weather. I would mark it down by remember how beautiful it was, and swearing that I would return to the field of flowers, windmills, and color.
Most of my free-exploration time was spent roaming along the buildings, admiring the figures and illustrations that seemed to be fading into the concrete – yet remained earnestly luminous. Pastel colors streaked on white, grays and cream made me fall in love with the buildings and colors that were simply so pleasing to roam around. It’s a rarity to see something so simple yet so pleasing, or even just hues of light reds and blues against cream facades. Red brick tile paved the way to some of the areas and others were thin dirt roads stretching across tall grass.
Flags of different colors and hues were poised over various buildings; furniture with pink and white patterns were left at the side of buildings for passing visitors. Locals who lived within the buildings sat outside, speaking and chatting with their backs resting against cushions and wood. I stopped by a souvenir shop and tried out the milk that they had – which turned out to actually be a yogurt, which sadly isn’t really my thing (it is literally spoiled milk and is thus a disgrace to fresh milk which I passionately advocate for — fuck yogurt), so I couldn’t savor it as I had hoped. It was incredibly creamy and rich. Others bought popsicles made from the same milk and described it to be buttery, infused with nameless things and a delicacy that they would never find anywhere else. I left with a cool yogurt bottle made of glass to take home, at least.
Apparently others found fields of tall flowers and flocked there — taking really cool pictures. Sadly, I did not know where it was located and just stayed around the tent-like buildings — sucks because I would have really loved to actually walk through a field. With my blessed height of 4 foot 10 or so, getting lost in a mix of itchiness and beauty would have been a real enjoyment.
What I refused to let out of course — is the embarrassing “can you take a photo of me walking from behind, I am so sorry I feel so annoying” to nice people who are extremely nice for helping me out despite taking the phone back and realizing that they recorded in landscape but heck what can I do I should be glad because in the midst of my poetic rambling I have to strut decent pictures of myself. Perhaps this brought out my insecurity and how strangely weird I felt since it wasn’t exactly everyone from our tour group that decided to stare at wall illustrations, stare at it and wonder what kind of stencils and spray paint that they used, take my time in measuring and molding furniture patterns and cushion detailings in my mind. I walked past flags upon flags, walked through tall grass and ended up getting stung by insects and creatures that I do not know the name of (but it’s worth it for the aesthetic) and savoring the tour.
It’s hard to detail how I had been staring at an empty, yet plugged in miniature refrigerator left out in the open whilst pondering what to do and say, then suddenly snapping back to reality and begging the people nearby me to do me a favor and just spam the photo button while I stand in front of a wall — like the photo below. Just spam the button and it would be fine. At other times there would be Chinese characters and symbols in bold red paint that I may seem to be staring so intently at when in actuality, my mind was just blank.
For some reason, despite the beauty and wonder of the whole place I constantly was lost in trains of thought. A mixture of disbelief, eagerness and indecisiveness — the feeling that lingered unabatingly at the back of my mind yet was wholeheartedly true: that I would never return and the hours provided by the tour guide were all that I would have for this place. And maybe I was wrong to take as much pictures as I saw rather than taking everything in, or looking around too much and tracing details and intricacies than to record the moments and the fields and everything I had missed — jealousy over shots that I should have taken. Feelings were raging inside of me, regret building up before the reasons could come.
Of course, I would always come back to reality and continue tracing the walls.
Edging back to the thoughts that circulated my mind — as reflected in the photo above, there were actually a bunch of cars parked around the buildings. Cushions and stray bits of furniture were left all around, though. I saw an old TV system, antenna and all — sinking on an even older desk. It was a weird vibe that I would describe as old, rustic, pastel, and somewhat vintage mixed all together? I don’t know how to properly use half of those words, but it was indeed bright and matched with my outfit, thankfully.
At around twelve we gathered together at a larger tent and it was way bigger in the inside. They truly do seem a lot smaller than they actually are. Though inside, it was far humid and the heat started truly getting into us, moreso because other visitors were taking their meals; the congestion in such a cramped space of probably over fifty people made it a bit difficult to breathe. Nevertheless, we enjoyed a simple meal of the food that they supposedly eat themselves. I had lots of rice (of course) and lamb, which tasted absolutely amazing, just to note.
There was so much more of the grasslands that I had yet to explore — as I only went to a small portion of the buildings. I could have ran across the pathway and saw more of what they had to offer. In my perspective, the area was summed into the horse area, archery range, the buildings, and the actual grasslands — with no end at all. Windmills marking edges, boundaries — or even landmarks in a nomadic land. Dirt roads melding with brick and concrete, rust and dirt battling grass growing in places it should not. But most of all — the people. The locals that watched tourists pass by, laughing and talking as if we did not exist at all, clutching each other like old friends. The way every single visitor tried to get a glimpse of what their living was like yet we would never truly be sure of – the buildings that I came across with insides in disarray and roadways losing itself to tiled entrances and breaking apart stairs. For shadows to dance upon the insides and reveal that within there lied so much more than we would ever know.
It was only a few hours, yet I had so many glimpses and traces of what life and nature and the earth truly had to offer. Never quite sure, never complete — but all that I needed were pieces and reassurances and signs that would let me continue believing that the grasslands are worth it. That I would retain these memories as I had seen them and not what I wanted them to be.
All because everything I had envisioned and expected turned out to be nothing when I saw the lands with my own eyes.
Afterwards, we only had a bit of time left to roam before settling to go to the bus and proceed to our next destination – which would subsequently be even more tourist-trappy. Everyone talked about their experiences on the walk along the concrete road that stretched – never finding out what lied past what I could see.
Our next ride was just about fifteen minutes. Rushing across mountains and human-paved roads to nowhere, we came across the new destination. Parking lot filled to the brim, the Friday rush overtaking everyone as new tourists jumped out of their cars and strode towards the entrance.
What followed was a confusing mess. There were posted that advertised the place as a theme park – although a quick look past the main door showed that it clearly was not one. Admission into the area was free and you could roam anywhere but if you were to avail of rides you would have to pay a hefty price. The people I stayed with realized that it was probably more beneficial to simply just look inside and roam around – enjoying the nature that the area had to offer.
Interestingly, the place was reamed with wooden fences, bright tarpulins and posters, colorful flags and had quite a lot of people as well. A red and yellow road paved the streets and acted as a guide towards the whole area. The clouds proved as a guardian while the wind continued on its breezy frenzy. It was pastel, light, and wonderful – frequent themes throughout the grasslands, as it appears. Windmills continued to reign across the terrain, never failing to make an appearance.
The place had this statue right upfront as well as an unused stage. Beyond that and unseen is a food area with stalls and tables plastered in red and flags waving all over. It was quite smokey, and a haze of purple would often cloud my vision when walking past these areas – but the food that they were selling smelled absolutely delicious. In front of that was what seemed to be like a concert hall, though I couldn’t really understand what was happened and you had to pay to enter. Instead, we roamed to the left and rightside of the ‘main attractions’, wherein tall grass remained cancerous and spread out in the grasslands as it should. There were even signs that warned of snakes, scaring us into treading along the right paths! Paths here weren’t paved any longer but were instead wooden boards pieced together like bridges. Tents and homes of Mongolians — some I’ve seen were in a more permanent style. I had glances of the interior and it looked absolutely huge and comforting. Different colors fluttered my vision and it was a pleasure to walk around the buildings, taking in the stories of each one. Beyond the left area were also gazebos – though they were filled with people so my group and I didn’t move far enough to step inside.
These buildings were absolutely beautiful; they looked new in comparison to the homes and buildings from the previous location. They were decorated and reamed with the same bright hues yet had much more stylistic additions to it – such as the golden padding on the doorframes and the symbols laid on top. Some buildings were placed right on the grass while others were on wooden platforms – and it’s clear how prevalent is the use of wood despite only seeing one or two trees around. Routine here was to look around, inspect things closely and hope that we weren’t crossing any areas that we shouldn’t be.
At times, motorcycles sped across the wooden walkways and we had to give way — horses were tied up to stands. Along with two other people, I stared down a horse for a solid ten minutes or so, before it abruptly neighed – startling us all and causing us to run away. What a beautiful image for others to see — obvious tourists, motionless, emotionless as well — intently looking upon a horse at varying angles, describing the horse’s actions every now and then. Looking at the tired thing in the eye, comparing oneself to it with a unison of “same” followed afterwards. Then suddenly – a sound erupting, and little children running away and laughing. We are truly a blessing, and this is why tourism to Mongolia must constantly prevail. Just kidding. We seemed annoying and strange and odd all at the same time but it was fun and that’s what mattered. As long as no one was disturbed, though I think the horse was.
At another point, we crossed the central area again and just stood amongst the food stalls and tables and inaudible chatter. Music was blaring on the speakers and I mean blaring. Their choice? Songs that appeared to sound like Chinese EDM, chorus featuring some English phrases with jumbled up words, verses that sounded exactly the same — and before you know it – the tourists were bopping along to house music that was basically like any mainstream electronic artist but in a different language. Gangnam Style was also played at least twice, which was very interesting. Everything was reminiscent of how I plug in words to Google Translate in order to get something that doesn’t use the regular Latin characters – resulting in jumbled up garbage that other people are free to judge me for.
Eventually, we got tired of exploring the east-hand side and circling around the central area and wandered towards the western portion.
There was an area that didn’t just lead to homes or rows of tents. It was a long bridge that stretched across a large house that we mistook for a restaurant at first, then an abandoned bar; which we spent a good amount of time at — for over an hour we deemed it as our home.
And so it goes: not too far yet distant enough for quiet and calm to dominate music and foreign voices – was a platform holding up a pastel pink abandoned bar. Rust building up, a puddle of water left on the floor with paper and magazine clippings sinking throughout, grass and tiny clusters of flowers peaking up over unwashed, unwalked, untreaded concrete left to melt and waste away under an ever-growing sun. Chairs with grime and dust settling on it as visitors stranger and nomad to the warmth of soaked thighs. Bottlecaps, remnants of life.
At first, we actually weren’t sure if it was abandoned so we took a peek inside, and it was. The doors were locked (or so it seemed like it was – maybe debris was blocking us and rendering us unable to push the doors open) with wooden fragments, tables and furniture it complete disunion within. There were dried out beer bottles, reeds sticking out of places, something that appeared to be a can with gold designs intricately marked upon it against a glossy black surface rolling through the dried out puddles — it was strange, and at times it felt like we had to dig in more and other times it was like we had to leave. The sound of cicadas, the fear of the tremors beneath the jutting grass — we took together chairs and placed them underneath the little shade that the building had to offer. We left marks and memories in places that should have been left to a standstill.
After sitting down — we stared at the sky and at the life pouring out from veins and places where life should not be. We were life in itself trying to survive, in strange places and lost lands unknowing of where the right roads were. In less than an hour, an eternity was made. Sometimes whispers and murmurs make themselves out to be, proclaiming themselves as kings of stories that should not have been told. Loss in disagreements, misunderstandings — sometimes letting it all out does nothing when you stay with the wrong people, yet we did it anyway. It was an escape from everything, a momentary yet infinite caress of emotions and feelings and verbs and promises saying it’s okay to reveal everything about you, we are all human. The sun waltzed its shadows, glistening and fading away, drumming itself along the cloudlines. We devolved into apologies, not understanding where we each came from, who we each were — just knowing that life is an ephemeral series of disasters and dreams in particles where the stark and orthodox cannot stand alongside. For the first time, windmills replaced telephone lines and pink took over metal gurneys. Learning to think, relate, and realize that we were part of the world. I cue in moments and prayers, frozen in time — passed down only to devolve into thoughts rather than physical revelations. Who I care about, the word love, the reason why we are all here — why I do not just let my feet take me away into a place of nowhere in the fields, soften the ground and crumble the stones and ashes that will surround me, the people on earth and time itself.
Sometimes, I forget that I am supposed to be continuing a mindless, ever-consuming routine. I break-away in sleep and cut myself off when I realize I have been staring at absorbing nothing that matters before flipping through textbooks, archaic scripture that they tell me to memorize and pierce my heart. For once, the cumulus have become reminders and the nimbus as overhead showers. I have nothing in common and I use this as a sign to reprieve. We are all the same, we are all different enough — and I am shallow enough to believe that I am superior in some.
I would have given anything for a few more hours under this sky, below the shade that failed to cover the edges of my legs. Cold, distant, surrounded by windmills and posts. Blurs of flags waving in the distance. But there is a time for all eternities to pass, and another for moments to fade and be forgotten — to be turned into dinnertime conversations with old friends, pretending that we remember our own feelings and hearts as we pass down “do you remember when’s” and “that was such a great time” and lying further when we say “let’s go again one day.”
Beyond the bar, we saw this structure standing alone at the right-hand side. I am not sure what to call it but can firmly say that I looked at it from a few meters away for a while, staring at it, trying to contain it all — watching the wind blow away feathers on stacked feathers. After the bridge cut off there was a sharp turn towards a few tents along way further. We watched a shadow peek out, a lady in a long white skirt standing out against a horizon of grass dissolving with pale blue skies — basket of laundry standing solo amongst flowers, dandelions, and blades of grass waltzing in the wind. She soon disappeared, leaving the meadow for our eyes to intake. Clothes hanging and skimming itself across the air brought by the heir of the winds. Woven gaps and understandings, unfamiliar names and faces, fauna and grass deep enough for us to sink in. Windmills racing across the world as if they were enveloping our atmosphere — the calm was only disturbed by our voices, our foolish statements, and the gusts of winds that kissed our bodies and told us to listen further.
After a while, it was time to bid goodbye to the puddles of water, abandoned patches of flowers and light that we left and will forever leave in the scorching heat. We played guessing games based on what was going to survive longer, with jokes I wish I could remember and games that I wish i had not made.
There were two giftshops near the entrance and miraculously — WiFi, so we hung around there for a while. I discussed the mechanics for Town of Salem at one point; a feat that I distinctly remember. We studied milk candy that seemed to show an appearance over and over, bottles of alcohol hidden in display cases made of stitched-together foam in viking ship shapes. Glass plates that were far too expensive, snacks and tiny yogurt bottles, postcards and gift shop-worthy shirts; we ran through them and wished that there was something as simple as water in order to satiate us.
I ended up walking back towards the bus in the edge of the parking lot, and falling back asleep. People probably arrived hours after.
I also fell in love on the way back, just so you know.
I will never fully get to extrapolate all that I had felt in the course of the blurs that we went through. Shaky, bumpy ride so drastic that it rendered me unable to fall asleep without what would probably be an attack to the fragility of my head. The people next to me and all in front falling asleep — while they missed out on again, the continuously painted canvas that had occurred before the world even began.
I brought out my camera whenever I could, steady hands a myth as the bus toppled downwards, soaring and flying through roads that went around and around endlessly. Mountains befell our view and we conquered them as they disappeared from sight before meeting the next ones. In these moments, wherein you overlook so much emptiness and so much grandeur — grass prying your heart and fields of flowers, untouched rocks and gravel; stone of yellow-orange, brick and gray — I could barely tell what anything meant or was but I did think and think, invigoration the sum of all my glances, my eyes never leaving the dirty and disheveled glass.
I felt sort of invincible, you know?
They say that you feel those in highways. Your hair breezing through the wind, hands in the air — lightposts and the warning lights of cars drifting past you in storming rain. You are the king. Spinning wheels, downhill curves and uphill heartbeats. I felt it in nature, in the feeling of loneliness, like I was running past the bus and overtaking everything — more than the tires fumbling across cracks and gapes in everything. The sky loomed weaker, less bright than hours prior — like the sunset was telling us that it was about to come.
Window open, messy – unbrushed hair in loose ties and wristband resorts being blown away from the gush of the wind. Radiance hitting my eyes, streaming far too much sunlight that I was ever meant to take in. I remember closing my eyes because of the sun yet still managing to smile — like for the first time, I felt that the world was worth living in. That everything we had done came from this, that the world contains this and it is not just the fantasy in pictures and DSLR camera rolls that scream lies to me. It felt so close and so far, and I swear that I tried to count the mountains as tears formed because of all the gales coming in steady rhythms across me — I knew I never would be able to. In moments, I realized how we had conquered so fiercely and lost it all. Borrowed earphones never staying steady enough thanks to uncontrollable wind, “Oh darling, I know what you’re going through,” played in my mind for a few lines or so but seemingly repeating itself over and over and over again, like it was giving off a message, that this was everything that I needed to know at this very moment. My soul was wild and free while my body stayed expectantly happy, tilting over the bus window seats, pushing curtains and blinds aside to see mountains pummeling and falling apart as we traversed into endless slopes away.
There are no words adequate enough to describe the emotions I felt on the trip back. Blasting Fall Out Boy loud enough for a whole row to ear, pulsating through my eardrums and getting into my very heart, nostalgia for moments that had never really occurred, memories of everything that I had loved and am learning to love, knowing that it fuels me and that no matter what I tend to say — the mountains and the journey make it all worth it, that this is living and if it is a treacherous and bumpy ride with no plains in sight, then so let it be. It is as if all my lost parts stuck back together, piecing itself and becoming whole again with the promises from music and hopes and dreams, everything that I was and am and will become — all the things that I list down in the back-side of notebooks and lost web pages that amalgamate me in truth. Perhaps this is an extreme exaggeration to some, hyperbolic to another level for others — but I was smiling endlessly and battling all my thoughts and feelings as everything rushed back and forth.
I was happy.
It was a ride that happens so rarely, a ride that one would never truly forget — a ride that no matter how much we write about it, will never be able to truly explain or describe. It was euphoric, nostalgic, and melancholic — anguish rushing in, regrets and sorrows and promises and forward strides all in one. I fell in love again and again, but fell in love even more with the things and people I had already learned to love, doing it all over again — with more passion, vows, and promises of always.
Unbeknownst to me, there was one final trip before we would be dropped back at the hotel. What appeared to be a building with the interior of a wet market, heavy plastic blinds and all included. Inside were a variety of milk products that resorted locally, the exact same ones that I found in gift shops from the previous two places, but much cheaper. Most of the people in the bus took plastic bags and started buying the only true souvenirs and gifts to bring back for people back at home, brimming it with cheap snacks ranging from what was probably 6 to 13 Yuan.
While everyone was packing crumbling plastic bags with souvenir goods, I spent my time roaming the place outside — a road, a few buildings with unknown insides, a guardhouse, trees and flowers that railed the sidewalks. Sunlight began making its exit for the day and bestowed the final beams of orange and yellow that serenaded the blue atmosphere.
Everything began to feel cold and strangely inviting. I continued walking around what felt like decrepit roads, staring down buildings past the metal beam gates, figuring out the minds and workings of everything around me. How wonderful such a small yet quiet place was, with icy cold towering above everything else. Familiar voices were lost as people opted to roam with quiet mouths as they embraced muted volumes.
Perhaps everyone was tired, and in a rush to go home. We were all worn out from exploring things that were strange — desperate to find comfort and relief in clothes that had gone farther than we, bedsheets stained and washed over and over, losing ourselves in the monotony of a promised well-rested sleep.
After about twenty minutes, we left for our hotel, which was only around five or so minutes away.
We headed straight to a special room reserved for the Philippine team. We talked and cheered about the past few days as a celebratory dinner without any metal clanging or ringing across the room quite yet — mixed and matched seating that served as awkward conversation to the person next to you. Glances away from those who brought you more pain than love, forced group photos and fake smiles that began to ache. They give camera after camera after camera, the out-of-touch favoring obsolete digital cameras over clearly superior mobile phones. Sharing is probably a foreign concept to them — they’d rather grasp keepsakes in their own hands than dare talk with people who bore the same nationality yet not the same liners.
Food was stacked and stacked — I am a self-proclaimed ruiner of meals for only stocking on rice, beef, and Peking Duck. It was a wonderful meal, although we were only depleting a few plates out of the many that were stacked around the spinner. During this whole trip I prevented myself from eating too much. Reason one being: I did not want to defecate in squat toilets. Knowing me I would fall into that shit. Reason two being me not wanting to defecate in squat toilets. Yes.
This was the final day of it all. I went to sleep, and enjoyed my knocked out stupor and blissful lack of reality for the next couple of hours. I’ve grown too fond of the place, far too fond. It was time for a trip back to the bedsheets that I had abandoned, the karaoke of the neighbors in the dead of the night, cats on the roof — metal banging, unpleasant, scorching weather. Everything that I was slowly growing to miss yet had denied.
Home is where the heart is.
- Line Follower – Bronze
- Creative Category – Silver
My heart was embezzled with the blazoning silver and bronze medals. Philippine jacket worn for the first time since it was handed out to us, feelings of accomplishment and success — knowing that everything was worth it. Pictures taken, crowd of faces that I would never see again. Walking by teams with the same embroideries yet not knowing their names (only from sidecomments and their whispers, I swear.) I also had to go home.
We rushed back to the airport before we could even finish with the awarding ceremony. At a stop-over in a gas station parking lot, we were given the rest of our medals — which is when I discovered that I had the bronze medal. I was still salty and bitter over the other contests and how people surpassed me in performance, but I digress — this is how it is. I had two medals that made a satisfying sound when you clicked them together, pretty much a clang — and that’s something that I never got to do with my high school medals. I brought something home, and no one can say that I was just there for the thrill, or for the name to be written down on paper.
Seven more hours on the bus ride back, traffic showcasing itself for the very first time. Hours in the airport. Honest to god, I fall in love with airport bookshops every time. I scan through so many books and the only thing that prevents me from messing up the purchase is stickers with the numbers “50” labelled on them. I take out the fifty Yuan bill from the back of my phone case and give it to the cashier, who assumes that I speak the same language as him. I do awkward faces and nods and then eventually walk away with his young face confused. I stuff the books into my bag, spend what felt like an hour getting our check-in luggage scanned (they were not very friendly with regards to batteries for robots, apparently, which actually does seem sketchy so nevermind.) We find a Starbucks and they do not have any iced drinks. (Hint: They might have ran out of ice.) Mediocre sandwich, it falls apart since I cannot eat sandwiches at all. We board the plane and fall asleep.
Get back at around midnight, and find that everything is sound and as it should be.
Sometimes, during events — not even trips, necessarily – but anything that happens, I have these weird thoughts that go like, “What if this is all a dream, or if I’ll die soon?” But in the end, in this timeline and sequence of the universe — it always unfolds without any casualty, or severe worries that pass by. But how sad it is that in any remote state of happiness or new experience – I go through these phases where I think that the universe is being too kind to me and therefor it is all unreal.
I will one day teach myself that it is not an impossibility to go back to Wulanchabu. When I come back, it’s going to retain the nature around it (hopefully) and have more buildings around, more to see, more architectural feats to gush over. I will one day teach myself that it is okay to cry of happiness in the road downhill, and that nothing bad is going to happen in these rare moments of complete euphoria — I deserve the gusts of wind tearing my face apart since they are so utterly beautiful. I will one day teach myself that I should not be accustomed to sadness, and instead prepare for a bunch of happiness.
This is what Inner Mongolia had taught me. Not anything cliche about hard work, or the process to getting medals. It is the discovery. The self-promises. The beliefs. The hope.
Day one to four in the previous post.
If you missed out on the full Inner Mongolia travel video, click here.
For the video on the first part of the Grasslands tour, click here.
Comprehensive pictures from the travel are coming soon.