Friday, August 24, 2012

Twice bucked, once shy.

There are so many different sayings to describe the low probability of the same thing happening twice, especially in the same time period. Well, lightning may not strike twice but apparently my wild Mongolian horse does buck people off twice. And by people I mean me.
I was apprehensive before we got on the horses but once we were on and started walking all fear disappeared.  This was not going to be a gallop along the shore of white lake, this was going to be a slow walk with a number of other tourists as well. After a couple of hours we started trying to trot the horses which would work for short stints that eventually got a bit longer but a canter was as fast as we got, and we had to work for that.  Bree's horse cantered a little. My horse, Billy as I called him, kept pace with the canter but just went at a very fast trot which meant super bumpy. I had a silly school girl grin on my face the entire time. We were on the home stretch and my horse had taken the fast trotting lead when all of a suddenly I saw the horse torquing under me when I was somehow above it flying through the air... flying and then BOOM. Slammed down on my lower back with a shot of pain before the rest of me settled on the ground. Holy crap it hurt. All I could say over and over again was ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. I wasn't concerned that I was paralyzed or had broken anything but I knew that crunch meant that I would be in serious need of a chiropractor.  Needless to say that will need to wait until we return to the states. Bree ran over and made sure I could feel both of my feet and then we slowly got me up over the span of many minutes and started hobbling home. She saw the horse spook for literally no reason at all and buck me off. What luck I have!
Fast forward to the next day when we were supposed to ride horses to the volcano. It was unclear if I was going to be able to ride again since I felt all banged up but you know what they say - back in the saddle!  I thought I should give Billy the benefit of my doubt and got back on. Felt okay. Certainly it hurt a bit but nothing too serious. Bree's horse was really feisty though and after only a short walk and bucking about she decided to leave the horse back at the Ranch so to speaking and go on foot. Walking was more difficult for me so I stayed on Billy with a vow to have a walk-only trip. No trotting for you Billy! Everything was going so well... we were back near the Ger camp, maybe a quarter mile away and I had managed to keep Billy under control despite the continuous march of the iron horses (motorcycles) which spooked him a bit. Home free! Yeah. Until he spooked again and bucked me off onto my arm. The low-speed Buck-off is much less painful than the higher speed but still sucks especially when you are already sore. My arm is still recovering but luckily we are horse free for a week or so. Here's to hoping camels don't buck!


So maybe it's not only the adventure itself but the preparation for it and the anticipation of how challenging it may actually be that's part of the learning process?  Bree and I are sitting here about to leave on a four day trip where we stay in nomadic family gers and ride horses for two of the days - to white lake and a volcano. The horseback riding is FREAKING me out. During our orientation we got instruction on how to best place our feet in the stirrups so if we need to jump off a galloping horse we can!  Holy crap. I am pretty terrified of these half-size wild horses to begin with. A friend who did the peace corps here told us a story of a friend who was off on a horseback riding adventure and his horse decided it was time to go home so he took off lightening fast in the other direction and the poor guy got dragged for a while with his foot in the stirrup. I definitely don't want that to happen to me - so maybe it's actually good that I visualize leaping off of the crazed galloping horse...

There's a lot to be apprehensive of. There are more rules than you can shake a stick at when it comes to appropriate family Ger behavior. The eldest enter first. Don't point your feet north when you are sitting in the Ger. Receive everything with your right hand. Don't shake hands with your sleeves rolled up. Don't turn your back on the altar. Ever. And the list goes on. Of course for me not eating dairy makes it more complex because you have to try everything they give you and unless it's alcohol you should eat it all. Let's hope the lactaid works!

What happens if I screw up a rule and offend the family?  What if I fall off the horse?  What if the food makes me sick? What if we can't communicate at all? And the list goes on. So what I think is that the anticipation and anxiety is part of the learning experience. Mind over matter. Mind over matter. Mind over matter. It's okay to be scared but best to not let the fear affect either the experience itself or my ability to enjoy the journey. It's about calmly reminding myself that this entire experience is about learning, not just the parts I have identified as difficult or scary. And with that, I'm really looking forward to the challenges to come and also trying to be good to myself in the process. I may tend to be a wee bit hard on myself so now is the perfect time to let that go and enjoy the imperfections - or at least tolerate them!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Comfort zone

So I guess traveling is all about getting out of your comfort zone,  because until you do that you don't really test yourself or see your inner strength. How do you respond to adversity?  How do you solve problems?  What reaction do you have in stressful situations?

We only just arrived in Ulan bataar yesterday so I can't say there has been much adversity thus far. In fact,  it feels a bit easy but I think that may also be because I am traveling with a good friend which I have never done before. I think being alone adds a layer of anxiety which doesn't exist when there is someone else with you who speaks your language and can help you if needed which is all a new experience for me. Mongolia is actually much,  much easier than the 12 hours we spent in Beijing. Not being able to read the characters of a language makes you feel really helpless.  Just trying to get to our hotel was so difficult because i only had the english name and address printed out which no one understood. It took at least six people and one incorrect attempt to get us there. Talk about helpless!  At least we can read the Cyrillic characters here even if the meaning of the words is unknown. It's a relief to know with a little studying we'll be able to pronounce words,  read a map,  etc.

The strangest sensation thus far has been not having a computer and not compulsively checking email,  Facebook, etc. I am so used to a rapid-fire multi -tasking that I definitely went through a bit of withdrawal at first. I recall reading an article in the new York times about top neurologists who went on a trip to study what happened to their brains when they disconnected for a couple of weeks and it took them only a week for their brain chemistry to change. I am looking forward to that! I know my work has changed my brain patterns for the worse and hope disconnecting will be a much needed reset.

I think the trip is likely to feel somewhat easy until we head out west on Monday and stay in Ger's, ride horses and commune with nature which is always a wonderful challenge. It's guaranteed to rain when we are out in the steppe so I look forward to being wet and miserable at times and learning more about what I'm made of and who I've become over the past few years. Though it just recently ended, I grew and changed immensely throughout my relationship with Brian and I look forward to seeing all of these changes through the inevitable adversity to come!