Leaving a place you've lived for more than two years doesn't hit you until you have your farewell party. Mine took place at the Valiant Art Gallery, a hidden treasure near the State Department Store. I've never had a farewell quite like it. Usually I just expect friends, beer and loud music at a party, but this time, I had a full dose of artsy Mongolian culture.
First, there was the artwork in the gallery, all by Mongolian artists, tastefully displayed in a well-lit, open area. Then there was the food, complemented by unlimited bottles of wine. But my colleagues, who organized the event with the gallery, also added traditional Mongolian musicians and dancers, and to my delight, contortionists.
The contortionists were the best I've ever seen. They twisted themselves into unbelievable positions which would reduce me to a broken wreck. And instead of showing us pained, anguished expressions, they smiled brightly throughout their act. I was deeply smitten.
Had I seen them earlier in my assignment, I might not have left Mongolia, ever. Perhaps international organizations should throw contortionist parties once in a while, if only to keep their staff from leaving.