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Day 45: Buryatia, revisited

May 29th, 2011 8 comments


Lake Baikal from Listvyanka

I didn’t have any luck with couchsurf hosts in Irkutsk so stayed at a hostel in the center of town. This turned out quite well since I met many other interesting people, all on their own journeys. Most were passing through Irkutsk either on their way to Mongolia or coming back from Mongolia and heading to Europe. I’ve added their home city audio bytes to City Soundscapes. I wonder if I could open up a hostel in Los Angeles and what kind of people would pass through. Just kidding – the last thing I’d want to do is start my own business. I’m definitely going to try and host a lot more couchsurfers.

I spent two days in Irkutsk before heading south to the Tunka Valley to visit the lady I met on the memorable bus ride from Ulan Ude to Ulaanbaatar. I visited some small villages, Dalakhay and Arshan, inhabited primarily by the Russian Buryat ethnic group descended from the Mongols. They speak Russian as well as Buryat and are largely buddhist.

In Dalakhay, I visited the local school where I tried to get the kids to speak to me in English so they could practice it. Once they got speaking though, they were quite curious about me. I think the teacher would have preferred that they ask me questions about America but most of the questions were about me (hobbies, sports, authors I like, etc.). I haven’t done a show-and-tell since 3rd grade!

In Arshan, I did several hours of hiking and drank the natural sulphuric spring water. Spending a couple nights in this small village, I reaffirmed that I am definitely a city girl. I’ve lived in villages and peaceful remote areas before… and I think I can only take it for a couple nights before I start craving a nightclub. I’m really jonesing for a Malediction night.

However, this trip was part of some bigger plan because I had a “lightbulb” moment when I realized that my next job would still be project management (duh) and that I only had to think about which project I’d want to work on next. I’ve started to think about how I can help to connect people with similar interests around the world. Yes, I know that’s vague. Maybe to start, I’ll see if there is some way I can find people interested in visiting some of these small village schools to provide an opportunity for the children to practice speaking English (or other languages) and to share cultures. Part of me is saying, “ok, now that you know what you want to work on, get back to civilization and start working again”. But another part of me knows that there is a reason why I picked this rail trip from the Pacific to the Atlantic and I probably still have much to see and learn before it’s over.

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