In Conclusion

One year ago, our school bus was floating somewhere on the North Atlantic, we all had jobs different than the ones we currently hold, and we had no idea what was ahead of us.

We are thrilled to have finished the rally and also to have raised over $25,000 – more money than any other team (we have been told). We hope that this blog can serve as a resource or inspiration for future travelers, Mongol Rally or otherwise. (See our Mongol Rally packing list here). Since last September when we last parted ways under an immense blue Mongolian sky, we have moved, changed jobs, graduated, and in one case, got engaged.

Casey graduated magna cum laude from Middlebury College in May and is now working at the Urban Land Institute in Washington, DC.

Jamie had an externship at KEEN, and is now enrolled in Stanford Graduate School of Business for the fall. Oh, and she’s the engaged one.

Kate is now gainfully employed at the Museum of Modern Art and finally has her perfect Lower East Side apartment.

Kishor, well…last we heard he was in Southeast Asia.

Robin has consolidated his professor-load into one school, St. Louis. It’s near the Pantheon and he was happy about it, that’s all I remember.

Tommy is focusing on being a great uncle and is about to kayak the length of the Thames, though he’s not even sure what a kayak is.

I have moved to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and work in the Academic Affairs department at the University of Central Asia. I still write and maintain a listserve, the Kyrgyzstandard. Anybody interested in receiving more updates from Central Asia is welcome to email me at grifpeterson(at)gmail(dot)com and I will add you.

We thank you again for your patronage and support during our journey. May the adventure never end.

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Tefta Kelmendi: My Hero of Modern Times

Masters Degree and a 3 month old boy?!?! AND HOW!!!

1. Ignore SciencePo’s inability to correctly place Prishtina on a map.
2. Credit is due to Aude Le Pape for the Hero of Modern Times concept.
3. The boy’s name is JoJo, and those are real Converse he’s wearing.

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July 22 – September 28: Full Circle

1,638 hours later and I made it back to the starting line.

Props to Alex, Alfie, and Seb for the parking spot.

And sorry for not smiling at the end, I was tired.

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On Airports

Nothing evokes the image of Muscat, Oman more than 10% off 2x1L bottles of Jameson ($40.76!) It’s why I love airports so much, even when only staying for a few hours in transit, you really get such a feel for the country.
From the security gate, which resembled every other security gate I’ve ever walked through, I made my way across the high-gloss granite floor, past an ATM machine and money exchange, and headed straight for the bookshop in front of me. I perused a random assortment of books for dummies, learning snipets about global warming, motivating employees, Blackberry Storm, neuro-linguistic programming, and quality control.
Note on neuro-linguistic programming: I had no idea what this meant, and the cover image of a glass of water didn’t help. I opened the book to a Sufi tale of a man being eaten by a tiger and lost interest.
A bit peckish, I walked to the food court where I confronted the same difficult decision I have faced at so many lunch hours before. Do I want a cookie or chips with my 6” Subway sandwich and Pepsi? The cookies look so delicious, but they are consistently a bit dry and the chips just seem more substantial. And they are those nice Baked Lays. After lunch, I headed to the gift shop to see if I could pick up something Omani. There was a great set of Greeting Cards heralding back to the classic year. Ooh! The Classic Years! The Umayyads? The Abbasids perhaps? Perhaps Portuguese colonization? No, alas, none of these. The greeting cards were from a much more recent time – Liz Taylor graced 1958, Tony Curtis 1959, and Burt Lancaster 1960. Nothing says Oman like Burt Lancaster. There were a few vestiges of culture that had been implanted from non-airport Oman. An ironic t-shirt that read “If you can read this I have lost my caravan!” and what appeared to be camel wearing burka post-it notes. In one corner there was some decontextualized frankincense and myrrh. It was unclear if it was meant to be burned, bathed with, smoked, or offered to baby Jesus.
With four hours until my flight, I made my way to the oversized magazine display. One thing that always blows my mind at airports, Barnes & Noble, and doctor’s offices is just how many completely esoteric magazines there are. There was an entire section of rack dedicated to yachting. Yachting. How many people even own a yacht let alone care to catch up on the latest yachting news once a quarter? 4x4ing, selling baseball cards, parenting, gardening, and losing weight were all thoroughly overrepresented. I have to wonder, if we just did away with all of this, and magazine racks only sold Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, and porn, would anybody notice what had gone missing? I was surprised to see that they still make Archie comics. Come to think of it, that was probably the biggest surprise of my time in Oman. That they still make Archie comics.
After this, I wanted to do a little sleuthing around the duty free. I have always been captivated by the perfumey aroma that fills each duty free. The aggregate scent of myriad sprays and samples throughout the day seems to be identical in every airport I’ve ever been in. I wanted to see if there was one particular scent that smelled similar to the sum of all of the smells, so I made my way through the women’s fragrance section, receiving a few odd looks. After 20 minutes or so, I stumbled upon Chanel No. 19 and was thrilled to have found a match. So, if you are ever looking to mimic the smell of an airport, don’t bother mixing all your perfumes together, you can just buy No. 19.
After this resounding success, I began making my way to the gate. Writing about the uniformity of airports, I had to laugh when I came across the pinnacle of airport clichés (and I can’t believe I almost forgot about this) – the car raffle. Needless to say, it was a Mercedez Benz ML350 SUV in a color that I jotted down as ‘smoke’ but which Mercedez Benz’s website refers to as ‘Palladium Silver Metallic’. Should have known.

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Band of Brothers

From Munich, I traveled to Hyderabad, India for a funeral. The circumstances aside, the week was filled with many laughs and memorable experiences among friends and family. Jaleel lives with his brother, sister-in-law, their four sons and nephew. Putting aside the obvious downfalls of a completely male dominated society, about twenty of us, aged 1-25 spent the week together, providing support for Jaleel’s family and engaging in our favorite pastimes, mostly chess, motorcycles, snooker, and eating biryani.

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He He He

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Anti-Bear Sentiment Undermines Oktoberfest Revelry

Germany’s economy has emerged relatively unscathed from the global financial meltdown of the late twothousandandaughts. With record growth through the heart of the crisis, a dizzying amount of exports, and a thriving democratic interchange between the CDU and SPD, it is easy to look past Germany’s dark truths. One only needs look south to Bavaria, where every autumn approximately 14 billion people – twice the population of Planet Earth – decend on Munich for Oktoberfest. While garnering great support globally, Munich’s Oktoberfest has been strictly anti-bear since it’s beginnings. Humans of all types have happily gathered year after year for three weeks of revelry, but, alas, the local bear population has been excluded with masterful precision.

It was with this fact – this inconvenient truth – this cross to bear (no pun intended) over the heart of the German people, that this intrepid bear reported headed to Munich for some answers. Reporting for an imaginary newspaper called the Bear Republic Daily, this correspondent attempted to understand people’s adverse feelings towards bears and figure out what could be done to create a more inclusive atmosphere in the future.

Saturday Sept. 17 0800hr: The queue for the Schutzen tent is already 1,200 people long. Not a bear in sight. Time to start digging.

Continue reading

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