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Wild East

Travels in the New Mongolia

Wild East by Jill Lawless
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A portrait of Mongolia, this book describes a country at once rediscovering its own long-suppressed heritage as a nomadic and Buddhist society, and also discovering both the benefits and dangers of Westernization. Adobe PDF edition includes colour photos not included in original print edition.
Summersdale Publishers Ltd.; Read online
Title: Wild East
Author: Jill Lawless
Chapter One Stranger Than Paradise I first glimpsed Mongolia in summer, from the air. The overwhelming impression was of space, beauty – and a deceptive serenity. I flew to Ulaanbaatar from Beijing. We climbed through smog and over a landscape of black and brown but began our descent toward a green and inviting world: a gently undulating sea of rich grass, flecked with white dots, like aspirin scattered over a green bedspread. These white dots – the round, canvas-covered, felt tents called gers that have been home to Mongolia’s nomadic herders since time immemorial – were almost the only signs of human life. I couldn’t see the city we were approaching. I made out one thin stretch of paved road, entirely free of cars. The view fit perfectly with my half-formed impressions of this wild and open country. Naturally, I was thrilled. On the ground, I discovered, things are a lot rougher. This realisation came to me four days later, when I found myself sitting by the side of a broken-down Russian van in the middle of the Gobi desert, huddled beside a flaming pile of camel dung, singing Finnish campfire songs and chewing on tinned sardines. My Lost Horizon, I mused bitterly, had turned into a Jim Jarmusch film that went on forever. (Arguably, that’s every Jarmusch film, but you get my point.)

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