Learning to drive a standard car is nothing like learning to drive a standard tank…

I know.  Shocking but true.  This was a earth-shattering revelation discovered and stated by one of our colleagues.  How did she come upon such a discovery you ask?  Well, it all started with a little adventure that, oddly enough, involved driving a tank.

Tanks and Guns - T-55

This isn’t just any stock photo of some random tank
taken from the Internet.  This is our very own fully
operational T-55.  Driven by us.  Read on!!

Before we go any further, this story needs a preface.  As you are all well aware from the previous post (which was, as it turns out, yet another surprise in the saga of my 29th…), the date of my birth has just passed.  Now, Jen had done a pretty good job surprising me last year by inviting some of our close friends over for dinner, but I hadn’t been expecting much this year (especially since we live next door to all of our friends here).  Just another another day, maybe something low key.  Nothing on the scale of what is to follow though…

So, I must admit, I was somewhat surprised, but I was also highly suspect that something was going on, as everyone at the school had been behaving a little oddly in the days leading up to the weekend and had been making comments that didn’t really make much sense.  Jen did her best, and I think her valiant effort did pay off as I wasn’t able to determine the source of everyone’s erratic behaviour… until, of course, I stepped out of our apartment and Jen sprang the surprise gift of the century, perhaps even of the millenium (<gasp>!!).

We had been talking a while about doing something crazy like driving tanks and shooting guns in Mongolia.  Actually, our friend Colin had even asked me about it before we had even arrived here in Mongolia.  However, there was just a lot of talk and nothing much had happened in the past three months.  One of the other teachers here did finally look into it though and had gone around asking everyone what kinds of things we’d all like to do.  He told us that once he had an idea of everyone’s interest level, he’d look into it further and then get back to us when he found out when we would be able to go on such an adventure.

And so… surprise!

But enough about the boring stuff about how we got there.  Driving a tank was a powerful experience.  I was extremely excited and I still gasp in awe that I was in control of a fully operational machine of war.  Always fascinated by machines and feats of engineering, I can’t pretend to not be excited by this experience.  It was beyond cool.  But, there’s also a part of me that is scared by the whole thing too – both by the fact that people who enter the confines of these sorts of machines often die, and that, as amazing a machine that this may be, it was created for the sole purpose of destruction.  It’s hard to reconcile these two feelings.  Still it was a great experience and one that I won’t ever forget.

Tanks and Guns - Everyone on Board

There were fourteen of us who decided to take a turn at
the helm.  We all rode on top and enjoyed the ride, and
heckled the driver for their poor piloting skills, though
with the noise from the engine, there was little chance
of being heard… I’m not a military expert but I can safely
say that this thing has never acted surreptitiously

Tanks and Guns - Jen DrivingJen in the driver’s seat.  Not as cramped as I had
expected, but then again, I only drove it for less than
a kilometer.

Tanks and Guns - Tank ShadowAn interesting perspective…

Tanks and Guns - ExhaustI don’t think I can call myself an environmentalist
anymore.  Three-hundred and fifty litres of diesel for
every hundred kilometers.  Yikes.  I wonder if they can
make hybrid tanks now…

Of course, what tank driving experience would be complete without firing off a few rounds from an assault rifle, a sniper rifle and yes, a machine gun too.  I’m not sure if I would ever survive in a real battle, but I had decent aim, managing to hit a few targets.  Again, I had this immense sense of power in my hands.  It was odd.  I had never before held any kind of firearm in my hands, nevermind one that was so powerful as any of the three that I fired that day.

It was amazing how deafening the sound was too.  And that was from just one weapon firing at a time.  It kind of gives a bit of perspective to how it must have sounded in a full-scale battle when hundreds, thousands of firearms are firing at the same time.

Tanks and Guns - Sniper RifleThis is the sniper rifle.

Tanks and Guns - RPGOur friend Pat decided to fire an RPG (for those not
familiar, that’s a rocket-propelled grenade).  I’d say
that it was definitely another notch up from the rifles.
I think Pat still has hearing loss from the firing of the

One of my friends here was surprised that I’d be so into this kind of thing.  And in some ways, I am surprised at myself too.  Always being a passive person and a peace-maker, abhorring any kind of violence, I can’t stand the thought of any kind of war.  And yet, I still can’t shake these words:  Best.  Birthday.  Surprise.  Ever.

I am a walking contradiction.  I don’t understand it.  I had a great time.  But it also made me reflect, and that’s never a bad thing.


~ by dawseng on December 11, 2008.

3 Responses to “Learning to drive a standard car is nothing like learning to drive a standard tank…”


  2. WOW! I am really, really jealous!!!! The next thing to top this off is to fly a jet plane like in Top Gun. Then the Space Shuttle (or the next generation space craft) to see the world(s)… Oops, that is my dream.

    Glad that you guys are able to have all these experiences.

  3. Wow. That is really incredible! I will have to do that when I’m in Mongolia in June.

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