Three years ago, I celebrated Shantasia 2010 – a month of celebrations for the 10th anniversary of my 21st birthday – in my comfortable, Brisbane life.
Should you have asked me then if I thought I’d be celebrating my 34th birthday in Mongolia, I suspect I would have said “where?”
Three years on:
- I can order a beer in Mandarin and Mongolian.
- I can use the freakin’ nun chuks
- I have seen the Terracotta Warriors, the caves of Guilin, the ancient ruins of Rome, the Eiffel Tower, and the largest equestrian statue in the world (the Chinggis Khan statue in Terelj).
- I have taken the train from Beijing to Ulaanbaatar, and Ulaanbaatar to Beijing (that’s 60 hours of train travel across landscape that looks like the set of Star Wars).
- I rescued a puppy, and took her to the US for 6 months, so she can pass Australia’s incredibly strict quarantine laws. And I did this because a life without Craig just doesn’t seem reasonable.
- I have cried over the stupidest of things (why, corner store, do you not have a tin of tomatoes?) and laughed over the stupidest of things (why, corner store, do you not have a tin of tomatoes?).
- I have felt my heart sing every single time I fly to the Oyu Tolgoi mine site in the middle of the Gobi desert, because strangely, it feels like home.
- I have worked my ass off on a project that I believe in, and with a team of people who are some of the most talented and generous I’ve ever met.
- I have friends who lived through a democratic revolution; who have never seen the ocean; who grew up in a Ger.
- I have eaten horse meat and drunk horse milk.
- I have been on the receiving end of (very mild) racism.
- I know what -40 degrees feels like.
- I have added to my list of nicknames, quite considerably: Shazbold, Shantsetseg, Shanbat, Shantonio, Shantorini, Princess, Gunjee (Mongolian for princess) and UB Drama Queen.
- I have met people who have changed my outlook on life, and the way I look inwardly at myself.
I honestly don’t know where I’ll be for my 35th birthday. It’s pretty unlikely it will be Mongolia. And frankly, that isn’t something I can bring myself to think about, just yet.
This might surprise you: change and me, not so much. The unknown is not something I embrace. I know it’s crazy and completely irrational, given that change is the very reason my life is what it is… and I wouldn’t change a thing 😉