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December 2010

As we made our way down the tracks, the smell of garbage lingered in the air. Up ahead I could see children laughing and playing, and parents were busy working or sitting by their doors. Then, out of nowhere, a woman and child approached us. They were running and overjoyed to see us. High fives ensued, along with greetings. We continued to walk along the tracks, and within minutes we could hear the sounds of children laughing. Soon, we could see them. They were already in the little makeshift school area, sitting on chairs, and waiting for us.

"No. You cannot visit." "Really? Why not?" "We didn't see letter until this morning. Too late!" "We've been faxing you for days. Can you please let us in today?" "Boss won't let us." I was starting to grovel. After begging mercilessly on Twitter for volunteers to come to IDC with me, I wasn't going to give up easily. The guard hid behind his boss. When I asked if I could see his boss so I could suck up to him directly, I was denied. I offered the to buy the guard lunch, that didn't work. Although his excuses were ridiculous, he was a lot nicer than many of the guards would have been. Reluctantly, I walked away from the window. I felt terrible for bringing volunteers with me and then being able to talk our way inside the detention center.

When the plane touched down in Bangkok this afternoon, I was hit by complete and utter exhaustion. Three days of staying up until 2 or 3 a.m. and waking up at 7 a.m had finally caught up with me. As I walked off the plane and into the terminal, all I wanted to do was get to my hostel, check in and fall into a deep coma for 90 minutes. But, as it turns out, fate had a different plan for me. Instead of a 90-minute power nap before my dinner plans, I would 'forget' to take the connecting train at Siam BTS. In my confusion, I would walk in the complete opposite direction of the hostel for 6 minutes, before realizing that a.) I was going in the wrong direction and b.) the reason why I couldn't find my hostel was because I got off at the wrong station.

"It's hot in here. Why is it so hot in here?" I was distressed. After 5 glorious hours of sleeping on the train, I woke up sweating. Our cabin was hot! I'm talking bathing suit, sitting on the beach, sipping a drink from a coconut, hot. As I looked around, I discovered the source. There were shiny heaters under both seats, as well as the outer wall. That's 3 heaters in a cabin that was about 6' x 6'. I used my hand to grope the heater, hoping to find an on and off switch. Nothing. Next, I scoured the walls looking for a control panel. Nothing.

I just finished traveling with sadists. Poor Rachel. She looks like she's in so much pain. Actually, she'll be the first one to tell you that she is in a lot of pain! One of the downsides to taking a tour in Mongolia is that your guide and driver have learned most of their English and behaviors from other tourists. Although it can be humorous at times, it can also big a giant pain, literally! Our driver, Togo, didn't speak English. I think he understood the words yes, no and please. But I think he chose to ignore the word 'no'.