I wish this weren’t such a rare occasion, but it is: last night a Mongolian told me a joke. It must be the language barrier. I hear Mongols roaring with laughter with one another all the time, especially if spirits are introduced. But Sukhee, a regular DODR reader fluent in English, after our first actual meeting, on the way home in his tinted-window company Mercedes (la-di-da), sober, laid this one on me, which he said was about “Mongolian drinking habits”:
Seems three men got hopelessly lost in the Gobi – an American, a Frenchman and a Mongolian. Parched and desperate, they crawled along, inch by inch. Amazingly, in the middle of the vast desert, they came upon a metal oil lamp half-buried in the sand. Remembering the story of Aladdin, they gave it a rub.
Shazam! Out came a genie who, after a major stretch, said, “I am the magic genie of the lamp. You have released me from my prison, and in gratitude I shall grant you each two wishes.”
The American, to no one’s surprise, pushed the other two aside and said, “OK, pal, let’s see whatcha got. I want a billion bucks, and I wanna go back to the States.”
*poof* The American disappeared.
“Zut alors!” exclaimed the Frenchman. “Eef zees ees true, zen I want ze beautiful young woman, and I want to return to La France.”
*poof* The Frenchman disappeared.
The genie then addressed the Mongolian, “Now it’s your turn, my friend. What two wishes may I grant you?”
“Well, I want a case of the finest vodka,” replied the Mongolian, “and bring those other two guys back!”
Not bad, huh? I had a good belly laugh, capping a wonderful evening. In the past two years, Sukhee, an executive with the Russian oil company Petrovis, has become a devotee of Guru Rinpoche. I just couldn’t believe it when, over dinner, he told me he recited the Seven Line Prayer, sometimes as much as 1000 times a day, and has had all kinds of odd experiences at Khamariin Khiid. We’ll be hearing more about him, I’m sure.
I heard another amazing story, this one true, about the Gobi Desert at Khamar. The other day I had lunch with Erka and Tsenguun’s mother Oyunaa, who’s briefly in Mongolia to renew her American visa.
Erka said that at one point during the nighttime ceremonies at the Shambhala opening, one man, lured by some kind of hallucinatory mirage, wandered off into the desert and didn’t return. For five days and nights he went missing, though posses were dispatched in all directions to find him. Everyone knew the main danger – there is virtually no water in the vicinity. What rain there had been had evaporated from the surface, and the freakish cold weather before the ceremonies had yielded once again to temperatures over 90 under the pitiless Gobi sun.
Those who stayed, Erka said, prayed with all their hearts to Danzan Ravjaa to send this man water and keep him alive. Every day they prayed like that. Then, after the fifth day, one woman, who lives in a remote ger and is held by the local people to have some special qualities, found the man walking near her camp. She led him back to her ger and told him that she was so amazed to find him – everyone feared he was going to die of thirst.
“No, not at all,” the man said. “Wherever I went, it seemed I would find a pond or a stream with good drinking water. Sometimes I’d even encounter people who gave me water to drink.”
The Gobi people are astounded. There are simply no such bodies of water anywhere he could have walked in that time, and the area is pretty much uninhabited.
I think there are more details, like what was his initial hallucination, what else did he experience during those five days, and I’ll share them if I get them.