At lunch, Jeffrey told me I have a poet's heart. We were in the canteen. Markus, the other foreign teacher was sitting with us.
On my way back from Hong Kong at the train station, I grabbed South China Morning Post. Little did I know at that time, that I was to read a story that might possibly change my life...(or it might not, but for the sake of all the collective poet hearts out there; let's say the article I would soon read might change my life. Skeptics, let's just pretend.) Some of you may argue and say that the article is attention-getting and sensational and worthy of Weekly World News, but I feel differently, something inside me clicked when I read it, the same sort of way that something clicked the first time I heard 'Kimberly' by Patti Smith or 'Heavy Hammer' by Silverhead. Something clicked. This time it was not rock and roll and it was not punk. It was something bigger, much bigger.
At lunch, I asked the question.
“I read an article about sea monsters in Mongolia. Do you know anything about this?” Of course, what I expected was a guffaw and something to the affect that I was a silly foreigner who had seen too many Hollywood movies and had drank too much alcohol and had done too many drugs and had stayed up for no good reason too many nights all night and had just generally ruined my health though I am still actually quite healthy. However, that was not the response from Jeffrey.
“Yes,” Jeffrey said, “many have sited sea creatures in the lakes up there in that area in Mongolia, very remote area.”
“Many people have sited them?” I questioned not really believing my ears.
“Oh yes,” was Jeffrey's emphatic answer.
“Well, I want to go,” I said feeling a bit like Luke Skywalker stuck on some remote star system away from all of the galactic action.
“You want to go,” Jeffrey stumbled for the right English words at this point “to see if there is indeed a sea creature?”
“Yes!” And I do know that this sounds like the beginning of every implausible sort of fantasy movie ever produced but this time it is real, like the monster of Boggy Creek, like Bigfoot, like Hitler's Brain in some laboratory in some undisclosed shadow nation.
“That would be quite an expense for such a,” again he stopped to think of the right words, “foolish endeavor. Maybe you would not even see the creature and you would be out quite a bit of cash for nothing, not even a photo.”
“But it is the adventure of it,” I argued feeling a bit like a teen wanting to borrow the family car to go on some inconceivable youthfully liberating roadtrip.
“For the adventure of it? You, you have a poet's heart.” Even though this would have been nice if he said it wistfully as if he was envious, he did not. He was trying to contain himself from a laughing fit when he told me I have a poet's heart. I tried not to sulk.
At this point, Markus, who is from Reading and is really funny, smart and kind, added his input.
“My sister went on holiday for a few weeks in Mongolia. Uh, she said the food was not quite to her liking.”
“The food?” I asked. For some reason, I imagined barbecued lamb, pheasant, roasted duck, plumbs, exotic fruits; all of that stuff that you see in those movies where mammoth proportioned adventures take place.
“Yes,” and I know he did not want to be a wet blanket, he just wanted to present the facts; “everything is basically made from yak.”
“Yeah, yak cheese, yak milk, yak butter,” he said. “All yak.”
“All yak?! Oh, that does not sound good at all; I think I would have to pack my own food. I would have an extra camel to haul my food supply, like Doritoes and steak and that sort of stuff, the essentials. I would probably have to bring a cooler to harness to the camel as well so the steak did not go off.”
“Or you could take horses,” Jeffrey chimed in.”Camels are very slow.”
“Oh, but I think I would love to ride a camel across Mongolia in search of the sea monster.”
“Yes, and my sister stayed in one of those odd tents. I forget the name.”
“A yurt?! Your sister stayed in a yurt?! I have wanted to stay in a yurt for like 10 years now.”
“Yes, a yurt, that was it.”
Now, all of this, had my mind racing. Sea creatures, camels, yurts; perhaps, I could come to love a diet of yak over time. And, maybe I would start to love the delicacies of Yak so much that I would start Yak franchises across the globe – Tyson's Yak Tacos, The OutYack and Haagen Yaak. These could be big, really big. Or perhaps, if I never warmed to yak in a dietary way, perhaps I could warm to a yak in another way. I could adopt a yak. I would love to eventually have a pet yak, or maybe if this whole English learning by non-native-English speakers is a fad, I could become a yak herder.
But, of course, that is not important now, what is important is the music.What would the proper soundtrack for the expedition be? There were times during the Kitten years when I would be driving the van through the desolate nights of New Mexico or Arizona and I would blast Bowie 'V2Schneider.' Sometimes I would blast Diamanda Galas but that scared some of the other passengers since the night in those places has a haunted quality so I had to put on Abba or something less apocalyptic and haunting. Naturally, I would most definitely have to have the first Van Halen record as well to blast in the desert night. I can just hear 'Eruption' resounding through the vastness of the Mongolian Outback. Enya can go take a hike. I'm on fire!
In my classes, I told the students about the article. Actually, I told the students about the sea monster first before I fielded the question to the lunchtime companions. Whether I was not brave enough to mention the sea monster to my lunch buddies when I first fixated on the idea, I do not know. The students just seemed like a good sounding board for this particular curiosity.
To the students, I read from the article to make the sea monster (or monsters, there have been sightings of more than one) more real. On the board, I wrote 'expedition' 'diver' and 'sonar radar' as I explained these words. I asked them if they would have dove the 25 meters below the lake's surface to see the creature. Some said yes. Some said no. I then asked them if they thought the diver went down to investigate the creature after the creature showed up on the sonar equipment. Most of them nodded an emphatic yes.
The diver did not go down I told them because he, more than anything, was curious as to what a creature the size of this sonar captured sea monster ate to get that size. With this information, their eyes widened.
I told the students that the creature has been reported to be 6 meters long and 3 meters wide. Since I am not completely familiar with the metric system, I walked and told them to tell me when to stop when I reached the length and width.
“This sea Creature is about the size of my apartment,” I told them. “I could live in the creature.” I wanted to tell them that he would be like my own Yellow Submarine – I could do the decor in post-modern, tricking out the interior in Herman Miller and Cappellini - but I do not think they are familiar with that particular Beatles's song.
Now, I am in the process of putting together a team of students to go on a Mongolian Sea Monster Expedition. Yes, this is really happening.