JUNE 14, 2009: SUNDAY

Russian Vans (aka "Sherman's")
Our main mode of transportation for the next few weeks.


We met the group at Chenggis Khan Airport and set off in our Russian vans. The city stretched on for quite some time but slowly gave way to short grass hills with the occasional ger. We traveled about 100 km across rough dusty roads until we made it to our camp at the Pallas Cat Research Station. The camp is little more than 7 gers and a handful of tents for bathroom and shower use. There are a dozen native Mongolians who will provide services like cooking, guiding and transportation.

As I write this overlooking camp from a small hill, I find myself wondering about things; Things that seem familiar and others that seem so unfamiliar.

Overlooking camp

Much of the landscape reminds me of Montana. The areas of large hills and vast open range. I can see from probably 20 miles to the West and 5 miles to the East. From this spot I can see 60+ horses in two groups. Two dozen head of cattle in the bottoms below me and three ger way off in the distance. The sound of the horses sounds familiar but the lack of fences holding them in does not. The lay of the land looks familiar, but the lack of roads, or structures, or plowed under fields does not. The sky may as well be plucked from a Montana postcard, but the absence of contrails from airplanes is strikingly different. The rush of the breeze is like the warm Montana Chinooks, but the pungent sage smell here is unlike that of home. I am relaxed here...

The "Ger" is the traditional Mongolian dwelling.
This is "The Man-ger" and my "Man-ger-mates"

I have yet to get my bearings, which, for some unknown reason, is important to me. I like to orient myself to a place so I know North from South and East from West. I guess it is the Boyscout in me. I could use my GPS, but it is down at camp. So, instead, I have gone back to basics and build a "sun dial compass" with a stick and rocks.

баяртай, сайн сууж байгаарай

JUNE 12, 2009: FRIDAY

Michelle Hotel; Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia


7:00 am: Billings to Helena
8:30 am: Helena to Seattle
-5 hour layover-
2:40 pm: Seattle to Seoul, South Korea
-arrive 5:50 pm and add one day (it is now Saturday NIGHT)-
8:10 pm: (Saturday) Seoul to Ulaanbaator, Mongolia
10:50 pm: Arrive at Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

  • In air: 17 hours 29 minutes
  • With connections: 25 hours 40 minutes
  • Total distance: 7,085 miles
  • Cost: $2,202
All flights went well and all connections were successfully made!

I have to comment on the Korean Air flight from Seattle to Seoul. The Boeing 777 was probably the nicest plane I have ever had the pleasure to fly on! In our seats, upon boarding, we found a package with: pillow, blanket, bottle of water AND toothbrush w/toothpaste and a new pair of warm socks! The meals were equally impressive. Lunch: A Korean dish w/rice, seaweed salad, seasoned meat, tea, fruit platter, etc! Dinner was nearly as good (looking)! but I couldn't eat it because it was covered with eggs. Also, a number of times the flight attendance brought around hot rolls with sweet seasoned meat inside...they were yummy! They often brought hot towels too for freshening up on the 11 1/2 hour flight. Each seat had its own TV w/an endless list of movies!

Met up with Nancy and Mollye in Seoul and then UB (Ulaanbaatar). We made our way safely to the Michelle Hotel with "Jimmy" (a Korean native who manages the hotel; nice guy, scary driver) picking us up at the airport.

I am elated to be in UB, Mongolia, a place I never would have imagined visiting, and I am ready to continue the adventure with the Earth Expeditions team tomorrow!

My room at the Michelle Hotel

Note: The Michelle Hotel is awkward by American hotel standards. At $49/night, I imagine it to be a classier hotel them most here but there must be more luxurious ones in this city of 1 million (you can stay other places for as little as $3/night!). The structure reminds me of cold war Russian architecture, with stucco and concrete, partially painted white. The interior is curiously colored with many different wallpaper patterns and at some point all of the (probably incandescent) light bulbs have been removed from the chandeliers and fixtures and florescent bulbs have been inserted. However, if it was a 6 bulb fixture, only one bulb now exists in each leaving many empty sockets scattered throughout. (Even the Mongolians are doing their part to help global warming ;) The place has a sticky smell of old and new cigarette smoke that hangs about. There is a bustle outside but it seems to be a calmer bustle and I expected for this large a city. The people (so far) are very friendly and seem grateful to have us in their country.

Jimmy put me up in the Royal Suite!
I think it might have been the $5 tip!

баяртай, сайн сууж байгаарай


Chinggis Khaan Airport;
Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

We know him as Ghengis Khan, but this
famous Mongolian Khan's (King) name is actually "Chinggis"


Tomorrow morning is leaving time. I've checked my bags and rechecked my bags.

All looks good.

I get a bit nervous to travel on my own. Not that I am scared, or afraid of flying or anything like that. I get nervous because of my less-than-stellar track record!

In the past I have:
  • Missed a flight altogether. I didn't even show up to the airport until AFTER the plane departed.
  • Left all ID and Credit Cards at home before (attempting) to depart on an international flight!

баяртай, сайн сууж байгаарай



17 days seems a pretty insignificant amount of time to be away from home. But, in reality it is definitely NOT insignificant. Rigley is 4 months old and while she won't know I am gone, Christi will bear the burden of 'round the clock feeding and changing. Christi sacrifices more than anyone else when I leave home. Thank God she is loving and forgiving!

Danger sank into a deep doggy depression last summer. We are afraid he will do the same.

Dange and Rigley will stay with "Ice" (the babysitter) during the days and at Grandma and Grandpa Beals at night.

I will miss them all and think about them often. Christi got a Garnet ring for mothers day (it is a bright red stone). I told her that I had it replaced with a (clear) diamond but that the diamond had "special" powers: Whenever I am thinking of her, the stone will glow red...

She replied, "It is always red..." I agreed and said, "Hmm, I must be thinking of you all the time!"

She smiled when she finally figured out what I was talking about, and rolled her eyes a little bit too...

баяртай, сайн сууж байгаарай
(Mongolian: "Goodbye" pronounced: bayartai)



I tried; I tried as hard as I could to make a packing list that would allow me to only bring a carry-on and not check any luggage. I even reduced down to 2 pairs of undies. But, with a sleeping bag, it proved to be too much and now I'll have to check my backpack at the airport. I wonder if I will ever see it again!

I only had to purchase a few necessities for this trip, although Christi might say I purchased WAY TOO MUCH!
  • iPod Asia power converter/charger: 'Check'
  • Dr. Bronners Biodegradable Soap: 'Check' (Gotta stay clean when you only have 2 pairs of undies...)
  • Rubik's Cube: 'Check' (Hey! When you have two 25 hour flights, you might as well learn how to solve a Rubik's!)
  • Convertible Pants: 'Check' (It's like two of the best things zipped together in one! Pants AND Shorts...you decide, it is only two 'zips' away!!!)
  • Immodium and Gas-X: 'Check and Check' (Boiled lambs leg and fermented goats milk?! Gotta be prepared!)
It's hard to say what I've forgotten. Guess I'll know soon enough!

баяртай, сайн сууж байгаарай
(Mongolian: "Goodbye" pronounced: bayartai)


note: When I wrote these journal entries, I didn't plan on making them "public", they were a requirement for the course and they were a way for me to reflect on my experiences. So, some may seem odd...but...here they are anyway!


I often wonder how I manage to get myself involved in the things I do. Last summer I ended up in Greenland and spent 6 weeks at the "Summit" of the ice sheet, helping a team do atmospheric research. This summer I am off to Mongolia!

To reflect on how this (Mongolian) adventure came to be, I have to go back to the training I went through for the Expedition to Greenland.

Cameo Slaybaugh, another teacher who was a part of PolarTREC (the organization that sent me to Greenland) had talked about this opportunity she had fallen into that takes teachers to far off places to experience the wonders of the world. The organization was Earth Expeditions. Fast forward to one year later and I recieved an email from Cameo telling me all about her Earth Expeditions trip to Africa. I looked up the website and found that EE was offering a Masters Degree program.

I applied. I waited...anxiously. I doubted...and...I waited.

When I got the acceptance letter I nearly collapsed! I had doubted myself into accepting denial from the program, but, alas, I was in! AND, THEY WERE SENDING ME TO MONGOLIA!!!

баяртай, сайн сууж байгаарай
(Mongolian: "Goodbye" pronounced: bayartai)

Mongolia Expedition 2009 Disclamer

I am a glutton for punishment (if you didn't already know), so after several requests for stories about Mongolia, I have decided to do a daily blog "re-write" of the journal I kept while traveling across the great wilderness of Mongolia.

Here is what I will do. I will transcribe what I wrote and add a few pictures to enhance the effect ;) I will post one daily (much like I did while in Greenland) and we will all pretend that I am sending these from the Steppe of Mongolia.

As you can see in the picture, much of this will be typed with one of my hands and one of Rigley's toes. So, please forgive me for the poor writing...

баяртай, сайн сууж байгаарай
(Mongolian: "Goodbye" pronounced: bayartai)