I have a lot of flying dreams. Two kinds: just flying and airplane. Last night I had an airplane flying dream. I was in a mid-sized passenger jet, like a 737, with my family. I don’t know where we were coming from. I think we were heading home. But whoever was flying the plane decided to take a detour. So we were flying all over the world. At one point the pilot landed to avoid an electrical storm, and drove the plane past a dark green mountain covered in trees and vines, where stone men stood stoic even as the moss softened their sides. “Machu Picchu,” said my sister S. “Wow,” I replied as my eyes followed the mountain into the distance. “I’ve always wanted to go. We’ll have to stop there next time.”* Soon after this we got back into the air, but my Dad decided to take us on a detour, especially for me. We landed on a hillside in Mongolia and met a herding family. I was petting a lamb in my lap when I woke up.
I think I’ve been to Dream Mongolia before. About a week or so before my trip to Real Mongolia. In Real Mongolia, I stayed in the dusty, cramped capital, Ulaanbaatar. In Dream Mongolia, I was on a hillside, probably that same hillside my Dad flew us to last night. But I didn’t pay attention to the landmarks last night, so I can’t be sure. On my first visit to Dream Mongolia, I arrived at the ger (yurt) where I would be spending the summer, then took a walk up the hill to visit my new home. The hill sloped up to a snow-capped mountain. Between our yurt and the mountain stood a lamasery.
I did visit something like the dream on my final night in Ulaanbaatar. My host family drove my classmate and me to a family on the outskirts of a “ger district” to celebrate a little boy’s sixth birthday. The heart of a ger district is parched and yellow, but the family where the little boy lives owns a flock of goats, and green stretches past the end of the block into the folds of the hills. That night we ate boiled sheep organs and drank homemade yogurt for dinner. Afterwards my classmate and I drove out to bring vodka and food to one of the family friends, who was out watching the goats in the dusk. The little boy ran at the flock as I walked behind them. Oh, and I did hold a kid that day. Not a lamb. Must have been visiting a different family in Dream Mongolia. When it got dark we went back for birthday cake.
A regular flying dream is how it sounds. For instance, a few years ago, when I was still in college, I was walking down the library steps into the spring afternoon, and decided not to walk the five blocks home. Well, I won’t walk home, I’ll just fly. So I launched into the air halfway down the steps and started to float over campus, over the other students plodding on the brick path, towards 41st and Locust.
* Clearly, I have not looked at enough photos of Machu Picchu.