Gun Galuut is behind me now, but I have often wondered if I have really left that place behind. Some memories last forever within us and they improve us and they develop our inner world. They show us that life can be founded on different values as it dances along other tunes. Ulan Batoor awaits – I had waited to get here for such a long time and I had frequently wondered how nearly one million people could live in such a city so diabolical and sacred at the same time. Shaking samples of life run outside my car window. G the Guide Guy leaves me outside the Central Station and his last words are “Be careful”. I will be careful, I think unaware that UB, as the city is known to expats, will be a shock for someone like me who believes in the others and doesn’t accept pointless violence. I left my rucksack in a small hotel nearby the train station from which I would leave the following morning for China. I am hot, hungry, thirsty, tired and sweating copiously. A huge sign in multiple languagues reminds me that water is not drinkable in my room. At 4,30pm I ventured out looking for water, and I found fear.
Although I have seen bigger cities than this, my first gut feeling is discomfort. There are children scratching about, ramshackle cars and elderly people picking up sigarette buts from the floor. I should have listened to that gut feeling. At first it was like a mine. Wham. Gravity feels stronger today, as I feel pushed down from my neck. The only rational thing I can think of is that my Nikon, after such a hard hit, must have been destroyed already. Then, pain, in my legs and along my back. I hadn’t seen the guy that is now standing in front of me and keeps jerking me while life keeps going on around us, like violence was the norm. He shouts at me in a language I don’t understand and this makes everything worse. Then, maybe it was because I was scared, maybe it was because this guy looked dreadful, I managed to loose his grip and I started to run. I had never been attacked before and already a question is lurking into my mind: why did you do this to me? I have seen drugs depreving kids from their youth in the underground in Moscow, I have seen blocks of apartments hosting lives that didn’t have to wound other lives to find a way to go on. I was given photographs of love, and smiles and I spoke languages that had no grammar rules. All you did to me was kicking me, stupidly, coldy and aimlessly. If you mugged me, at least you could have some sort of decent reason: maybe you were tired, hungry, hopeless. Maybe if this had been the case I could have felt some kind of respect for you.
Instead, you scared me for the sake of scaring me and I pity you. Violence is pointless: if you beat your child, your wife, your parents you are really hitting their love. Violence expands hatred, Martin Luther King used to say.Back to the hotel, I hoped the receptionist could see my tears. She didn’t even look at me, as if horror were the norm. I feel immensely sad, because I strongly believe in mankind, in good deeds, in a life that is filled with joy and laughter. I was shaking while entering the shower. I didn’t see anything of UB: I can only recall how petty it is to accept violence. Later on that night, I went back to the reception and booked a cab for the following morning to reach the train station that is only a few minutes walking from my hotel. My back hurt too much to walk such a short distance.
At 5am an unbolt taxi awaits out the hotel. Only idiots, frustrated assholes, impotents and powerless people can rejoyce in humiliating their fellow me: that’s what I thought when I saw the taxi driver. That strange discomfort spins around in my stomach again as if something bad was about to happen. I then made a mistake that I was never to repeat again afterwards: I put my rucksack in the boot of the car. After three minutes we arrived at the station and the idiot that is manouvering the taxi turn around and told that he had no intention to give me my baggage back unless I was ready to pay him some extra money. How many people have you humiliated like me? If I listened to my fiery nature, I would position his head where the gear is, but I didn’t do anything because I felt that this man in front of me has been broken by life. I only told him to take the hell out of the car and position my rucksack outside my door so I could see it. He followed my instructions and as I was leaving his sight, I threw the money at him and called him an asshole, in my native language.
I began to think that I could have never forgotten those kicks, but then as I entered the train station I met two Germans and a Flemish travellers and I noticed how the Belgian was wearing sunglasses although it was still dark. When he took them off, I saw that one of his eyes is swollen. I also learnt that the two Germans’ camera was stolen while they were leaving the Zaisan Memorial the day before. What’s the point of violence? Where does it come from? I don’t know the answer to such big questions. I just decide to believe that life is immense and filled with incredible discoveries. I want to believe that a bomber costs as much as 150,000 tons of wheat. I want to believe that kicks, fists, bullism are as vugar as ignorance and they create a world that is universes away from that of my travels. The most important flags are respect and curiosity. From one of Kabul hospitals, Gino Strada once said:
“The number of these people, these civilians, these victims will grow overtime. Tomorrow their number will increase again. People should travel to where I am now to understand how horrific war is and what tremendous wounds it can create. I wish the world said no to the absurdity of war”.
I leave Mongolia with this thought of peace.