I sat down on the stool and immediately second-guessed myself. Duma, the wonderful office assistant who had accompanied me to translate, had asked me earlier to peek in the room and see if it was the same eye doctor as last time; I had removed my contacts, but when I peeked in it looked like the same doctor. Now, sitting on the stool, I wasn’t so sure – the doctor last time hadn’t cracked a smile the entire visit, and really didn’t say much at all, yet this doctor was smiling from ear to ear and was talking Duma’s ear off as soon as I sat.
I was really hoping it would be the same doctor as last time. She was good, very direct and to-the-point even if she wasn’t very talkative or, seemingly, very happy. She definitely knew her stuff, and didn’t dilly-dally. I had been in to get my eyes checked because I have a blind spot just off-center in my right eye and, naturally, was concerned to be overseas and potentially losing my vision.
So when the gal I was seated across from, whom I couldn’t see well because I didn’t have my contacts in, started chatting with Duma with a huge grin, I seriously doubted myself and wondered if I would need to explain (through Duma, of course) all over again what the problem was. Interestingly, she didn’t even bother to start checking my eyes until after her conversation with Duma. I was a bit miffed. It was my appointment after all, not chat-with-the-interpreter-because-the-big-white-guy-can’t-understand hour.
Finally, the nice gal stopped smiling and turned to check a few notes. Then Duma explained what the conversation was about.
From what I understand, my beard and big frame stick out a bit in Mongolia. What perhaps has stuck out more, apparently, is my resistance to the cold. The reason the gal (who indeed was the same doctor from last time – she resumed her stoic antisocial nature promptly after the conversation) had been smiling and chatting was because she had recognized me; she lives in the same neighborhood as us, and she had taken note of the big white guy who stood at the bus stop without a jacket or coat in the morning when it was 14 degrees out as she rode the bus the opposite direction in to work. It is sorely out of place for a person not to be wearing a coat, let alone a foreigner, and she was entirely amused that this insane foreigner was now sitting in front of her for an examination.
I laughed. I’ve become famous in a city of over 1 million because I’m crazy, even by Mongolian standards.