|Please indicate if you have any of the following symptoms: Fever__ , Cough__ ,Headache__ , Diarrhea__ .
Four times I filled out the paperwork with these questions on the train journey from Beijing to Ulaan Baatar and three more times I had a sweaty thermometer stuck under my armpit by doctors dressed in level 3 hazardous waste gear. And even though no one understood my pun when I said "make pars not SARS", I felt strangely like I was returning home when I crossed the border into Mongolia for the first time in nearly two years.
Sitting in the dining car for breakfast on the second day of the journey, I watched the Mongolians around me down bowls of meat and noodle soup which were followed by enormous plates of meat, potatoes, rice, and carrots. The women drank beer for breakfast and the men drank vodka. Clearly, I had left China and was now in the land of a uniquely proud and distinct people, strong in stature, confident in their manner.
A young man introduced himself to me and I thought he said his name was Bogey, which the golfer in me took as a very inauspicious sign. It turned out his name was Mogie and he was returning home after studying in Denver, Colorado for the past year. "If you need anything while in Ulaan Baatar, you can call me," he said as handed me his home and mobile phone numbers. It was exactly this kind of hospitality that made me fall in love with Mongolia on my first visit here in 2001 and what has now drawn me back for this quest to see the land in its entirety.
Over the next five months, I'll rely heavily on the Mongolians' unfettered offers of generosity toward passing strangers that have been a part of this culture for centuries. I'm often asked if I'm worried about losing all of my golf balls, or getting lost or becoming ill while walking across the countryside. In truth, what I worry about most is being able to give enough back to the people of this amazing land who give humanity a good name.
But, alas, I hear my name being called to the first tee. Let the adventure begin!