Just over three weeks until I leave my home in sedated Somerset to face the terrifying unknown of Mongolia. I am imagining myself there now, though this is proving somewhat difficult, mainly because I have a fan heater on next to my desk which is enveloping me in a blissful shroud of warmth and making me feel snug as a tortoise under a UVB bulb.
So yes, preparations for my trip are underway. Mental preparations consist of me softly tapping my head against the door-frame and admonishing myself for ever letting such wild thoughts manifest themselves in my membranes. Physical preparations include having every disease known to man injected into my arm at inconveniently regular intervals. Should I mislay my vaccination card, they need only count the marks on my upper arm which I’m sure, if joined up, spell the word ‘Regret’.
Several shopping trips have taken place, most of them not very fruitful, except for my unearthing an absolute treasure on the ‘sale rail’ of ‘Mole Valley Farm Shop’ – a fluffy zip-up fleece that is extremely cosy with the added benefit of making me look like a sheep. On second thoughts, this might not prove a benefit when I am plucked from a valley by a confused eagle and borne away over the Altai mountains, never to be seen again.
The contents of my suitcase looks like what a field doctor might have taken with him to treat the mortally wounded at the Somme. It is full of saline sachets, gels, creams, pills, and a metre-long roll of plaster. Hopefully I will not sustain enough injuries to warrant the total use of this supply of adhesive, but you never know. I didn’t finish my course of Hepatitis B vaccinations, so I’ve got to be extra careful not to fall on any machetes, or flick the pages of my Lonely Planet phrasebook too quickly against my finger.
Reading this over, I feel I’ve given the impression of being in a state of unadulterated frenzied panic about my impending trip. This is an entirely accurate reflection of my current mood. However, there are some feelings of excitement creeping in as March 2nd rolls closer. I am looking forward to meeting my host family, to starting work on the newspaper, and to learning as much as I possibly can about this land of horse-racers, eagle-hunters and cattle-herders. I am looking forward to witnessing the vast and majestic beauty of the Mongolian landscape, so different from the latticed fields of England. I will discover whether I have a place in the city (I hope I do, or I will have to reapply for accommodation), and what place that city and country may come to occupy on the world stage in the years to come. And though all I can think about at the moment is how incredibly apprehensive I feel, I am sure that I’m in for the adventure of a lifetime.