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Life in Quarantine in Mongolia

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

When we last left off we were waiting on a bus in the hotel parking lot for an hour. Our hotel is downtown, in the heart of the city which is surprising because I expected to be more remote and isolated. The hotel and parking lot are completely fenced off with police barricades. The parking lot also has a mini police station (think construction site office) with full time police assigned to the hotel. After waiting an hour for the bus in front of us to finish checking in we were the first to get off because we were traveling with a baby. All the workers were in hazmat suits. We got a short speech about how we are not to leave our room for any reason. We can’t even step into the hallway. Then we were escorted up to our room.

It’s not easy to see, but the workers are in full hazmat suits.

It’s a corner room on the 14th floor. A little bit bigger than I expected. 2 queen beds, a table with 4 chairs, a desk, fridge and sink, microwave, and a small TV with lots of western channels. We have 2 windows that overlook Peace Avenue, the main shopping street downtown. The bathroom is tiny but has a fancy Japanese heated toilet seat / bidet. This whole hotel, which has been contracted out just for the passengers (and crew) on rescue flights like ours, is part of a Japanese chain.

5 of us on 2 beds. The kids are small so we all fit.

21 days. That’s how long we’ll be stuck in a hotel room together. We knew this before we agreed to come. We didn’t want to do it, but we realized this was the only way we were getting here. For a little while it was actually worse. 21 days in the hotel and then 14 days at home quarantine but the extra 14 day quarantine was canceled. That’s a big deal for us because the kids will be able to start school as soon as we leave the hotel.

Not much space but I was expecting something even smaller.

The first week was surprisingly easy but I think jet lag may have had a lot to do with it. Mongolia is 12 hours opposite Florida. We didn’t realize how beat up we were from 48 hours traveling. Wearing a mask the whole time only made it worse. All of our ears hurt from the mask straps and the skin around our mouths felt both dry and raw. We mostly spent our time sleeping, watching TV or movies, and playing video games. We were tested for the coronavirus on the first day (we would be tested 3 times in total) and we have our temperatures checked daily.

Our “kitchen” for 3 weeks.

Breakfast comes around 9, lunch around 2 and dinner around 7. An announcement is made before each meal and we have to put our dishes out on a table in the hallway that blocks our door. They knock on the door after they serve our food. No choices, everyone in the hotel gets the same thing. It’s almost always beef, rice, vegetables, bread, and soup. My wife and I loved it at first as everything is fresh and high quality. Now the food is getting repetitive and we can’t wait to get out and go to our favorite restaurants. The kids can’t stand the food, they have been spoiled by pizza and chicken nuggets.

Almost the same thing everyday.

My wife’s parents can drop off almost anything for us. We stocked up our fridge with all our usual favorites: fruit, snacks, drinks, milk, cereal. We also had them drop off some reading and math books that we had in our carry ons but transferred to our checked bags. Now the kids do a couple hours of school work each day.

Study Time.

What can we possibly do to pass the time? The kids play and watch way too much TV. The internet is incredibly slow but they still play a lot of video games as well. We spend a lot of time just watching the traffic outside and looking out for any drama. We talk to each other a lot and it feels like we’re getting some quality family time. Lastly, we are making our plans for what we are going to do when we get out.

It looks nice and orderly at night, but during the day this intersection is complete chaos.

The worst part of this whole thing has been the weather. Ulaanbaatar is the coldest capital city in the world and today winter started. But for the past 2 weeks it has been sunny and in the mid 60s and we couldn’t go out and enjoy it. It’s snowing right now and the temperature will stay below zero from now till the end of March.

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Jay Muller

Author of The Flight Advisor

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