Code Word: Mongolia

My dad called yesterday. We talked about how I was going to walk along the Camino. Here is a replication of our conversation; not quite verbatim, but with the gist and spirit of it very much intact.

Saba Boo (my dad’s nickname): Do you know about the buses and trucks that carry backpacks of pilgrims who don’t want (or can’t) carry their bags? You should look into that.DSCN7591

AJ: Yes, I’ve heard about people hiring taxis to lug their stuff, but I’m not interested. I don’t want the assistance – for my gear or myself – of any powered vehicles; if I can’t carry my things by myself, I’ll find a person or animal that can do it for me. Didn’t you read about my idea on the Indiegogo website?

Saba Boo: Yes, but you can’t be serious! A horse? A llama? A… camel??!! (laughter ensues)

DSCN7318AJ: Of course I’m serious. Why not? I’ve ridden on a camel before. Surely I can walk beside one.

Saba Boo: Why not a human being?

AJ: Maybe. But why not a four-legged animal?! Might be a more willing and patient partner than a two-footed person. Could eat more cheaply, grass by the side of the path. I wouldn’t need to pay for an extra bed.

Saba Boo: You’re joking, aren’t you?DSCN7184

By that point, some seriously hilarious laughter was crossing oceans and phone lines. Then I resorted to something only he would understand:

AJ: Remember Mongolia.

Saba Boo: What about Mongolia?

My dad, at 81 (eighty is greaty, but eighty-one is greatier! Family joke…;) has a perfectly good sense of humor and memory, but I think he lets the latter slip into total amnesia when it comes to my adventurous nature.

DSCN7236AJ: Remember, before I left on my travels to Asia, I told you that I had to go to Mongolia? And you said: why Mongolia? Why don’t you go to Australia? It’s clean and civilized. Which is precisely why I had no interest in going to Oz; I wanted to travel to the most remotest countries, parts of the world that would be vastly different than where I’d come from. Then, when I sent emails and photos home, you marveled and understood exactly why I’d chosen to head to Mongolia.DSCN7126

Saba Boo: Yes, but… but… you’ll have to take care of an animal!

AJ: I think I can get the hang of it. You know I’m an animal lover, don’t you? And dogs always flock to me…

Saba Boo: (laughter preceding and following his question) But you’ll have to clean up their shit and they shit all the time!

DSCN7148You need to know something about my dad: he may be a diehard civil engineer, about to enter a bid on a new construction project – yes, at the spritely age of 81! – but I believe that in his previous life he was an entomologist or animal behavior scientist. He can’t live without Animal Planet or National Geographic, and he can explain some finer points about the hunting and mating behavior of animals – maybe even of camels. I also inherited my travel and exploratory genes from him.

AJ: (laughing too) That’s what you’re worried about? I don’t think so…we’ll be walking through nature in Spain.. not through the sparkling clean streets of Singapore! People can sidestep the shit or it’ll get washed away by rains.

Saba Boo: Really? You’re going to walk with an…an animal? It’s not like you’re in Africa or the Middle East, where are you going to find a CAMEL?!DSCN7538

AJ: Believe it or not, there are camels in Germany and Spain, llamas and alpacas in Spain and of course donkeys and horses in Spain too. I’m going to find exactly the animal that I need – and that needs to do this walk with me.

Saba Boo: I don’t understand. I’m still waiting for a good reason for you to not use a bus.

AJ (trying to see it from my dad’s unwaveringly pragmatic perspective): Well you know that even if I were to send my things on the back of a truck or in a bus, I’d still need to carry SOME stuff with me; raingear, food, drink, a self-inflating mat to lie on. I can’t walk with nothing at all. So I need a carrying-chaperone while I walk anyway.

DSCN7404Saba Boo: Ok, that makes sense. (I almost hear his mind checking off approval in light of the necessarily practical aspects of my journey. Phew!)

AJ: Ok, so you get it? I think you should get to sleep. Don’t worry, it will all work out well in the end. Just remember… Mongolia.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

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