Friday, April 27, 2007


Brian spent some days at the ranch. He’s from the United States and Panama, and he lives in Japan. Riding the train, I told him how every day in Mongolia there is something new, even after years of living here. Then on Monday, we saw a few ducks on the river of a type I've never encountered before. The bodies and heads were orange, the necks and fronts of the wings were white, and the rears and tips of the wings and the tails were black. They had the body-shape and size of ducks, but they didn't sound quite like any duck I've heard before. These were accompanied by a couple ducks of drab brown coloring, presumably the females. Konchog, the American Buddhist monk in Ulaanbaatar who is also a birder, identified them from my description as Ruddy Shelducks, known in Mongolia as Lam Shuvuu: Lama Birds! I never suspected such a thing as orange waterfowl. The next day we rode to the ger-stead of Radnaa, Tseren’s older brother, up on the ridge to the northeast, where I’d never been before. That morning, Saraa had mentioned something to me about an accordion, the first time I had ever heard anything about an accordion. The lady who met us in the ger had four accordions, and she is a master accordion player. She played Mongolian and Russian songs on the accordions and on a guitar while she cooked. Every day, something new.

Brian’s sister wrote a book of stories about Panama: