The Nomad Economy

I had often wondered about how the Nomads earn a living. My impression was that they just “lived off the land” meaning they get whatever they need to live/survive from their animals and land itself. “Barter” and purchase of goods are fundamental to any people and culture though, and the nomads are no different. So what are the sources of “income” for the nomads?

IMG_0180 Continue reading The Nomad Economy

Arts and Crafts of the Nomads….

As I’m sure I mentioned earlier, the Mongolian nomads are very resourceful, meaning they can find uses for all things around them.

After the butcher of a goat, sheep or cow, the skin (leather) is treated and stored a well. I didn’t experience the animal butchering (although I have seen it elsewhere before). I saw Durukh using the leather to make repairs to a saddle and a couple of other things during my stay. One day he asked for my help after cutting a few strips of leather with what looked like large ‘sheet metal” shears.

Continue reading Arts and Crafts of the Nomads….

Leaving Mongolia

I woke up at 630 AM  to pack up my electronics and laundry. Surprisingly, Altai’s mother and stepfather were already awake! I started to gather my laundry which had been drying for about 7-8 hours. I noticed that my jeans were not there….I was worried about whether or not they would be dry by morning.

Altai’s stepfather had somehow dried the jeans. He handed them back to me and I felt they were warm. I am guessing he ironed them by hand because I couldn’t see how else he could have warmed them up!

My early rising also caused Joseph to wake up. I learned he had arranged with

Amma, Altai’s brother and our driver, to go sightseeing around Ulan Bator that day. I wished I could have arranged the same!  So Joseph was sharing a ride again with me to the airport and then off with Amma afterward.

Altai’s parents had prepared a nice breakfast for us that morning which I wasn’t expecting. I continued to be impressed by the gracious hospitality!

Amma arrived and we left promptly. There was bad traffic as I had anticipated. Amma is an aggressive driver and changed his route a couple of times to avoid traffic. We arrived at the airport a little over 1 hour later ( in what is a 20 min ride without traffic). I was relieved to get to the airport on time with about 1 hour are before boarding time. I thanked and said goodbye to Amma and gave him a 10000 Turgik tip which is only about $4.00.

I checked in to my flight on Turkish airlines and walked around the very small airport a bit. I reflected on not being able to see much of Ulan Bator. There is a famous tourist site with a huge statue of Genghis Khan that we drove past. A lot of tourist like to take their picture there, but I settled for this smaller one in the airport 😛

Well I bought a cup of coffee.Being paranoid the whole time about losing my boarding pass, I sat down and started working on my blog in the airport coffee shop. Now you can loop back  to that post !!!

The route to Pakistan was through Bishkek, Kyrgzstan, then Istanbul, Turkey. I met another Californian in line in Istanbul (we are all over the place) and passed along my blog address.

Well this is my last post for Mongolia. I arrived at 400AM in Pakistan eventually to visit Synergy MMA as a guest coach.

I would like to make some general posts about Mongolia on subjects like “nomad economics” and there is actually quite a bit of material that I haven;t shared (photos and videos) so I will make some short sporadic posts about those.

As always thanks for reading. Please subscribe and share with friends! Your comments encourage me so feel free to do that as well 🙂

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Back to Ulan Bator

courtesy of @farmerboy242

About 15-20 minutes after driving off we arrived at another nomad camp (with no roads and few landmarks I’m still wondering how the driver and others navigate).  This is where we are to pick up a fellow volunteer from Australia whose name I later learned was Joseph.

There was a fellow inside the Ger preparing the evening meal, but nobody else around. I saw a huge suitcase and backpack propped up on one of the beds. It turned out that Joseph and one of the hosts had decided to water some of the livestock while waiting for the driver to arrive.

Continue reading Back to Ulan Bator

Leaving the Nomad Camp

It’s my last few hours in the nomad camp, Altanbulag District, Tov province, Mongolia.

I woke up about 615 am today, 20 minutes earlier than usual. The driver (Amma) is supposed to be here at 1200pm, so there’s still time to do some work. Durukh has been using a motorcycle to do some of his herding, and bringing in some untamed horses. If your curious to see what “hobbling” is you can have a look here as well as read about it in my previous post. Durukh is undoing the horse hobble:

Continue reading Leaving the Nomad Camp

Day 11- Last Full Workday

Today’s the last full day of work in the camp. I’ll have a partial day of work before the driver arrives from Ulan Bator tomorrow afternoon. I’m hoping to get into Ulan Bator a bit early so I can do my laundry, clean myself up, and maybe look around a bit, if time permits.

It’s colder today than yesterday. It’s funny how the weather temperature fluctuates at this time of year. When I first arrived in the camp I could wear just my grey sweatshirt outside as it was about 10C/50F. I’m guessing its about 1C/34F today. I never mentioned it before, but my daily wear has been:

Continue reading Day 11- Last Full Workday

Day 10- Trash Duty

It seems like I’m doing less and less every day as the end of my visit approaches. I thought it would be the opposite. I woke up feeling a bit regretful because the night before Annjah had invited me to go on a horseback ride with her to the nearby river. I said yes of course, as long as it was OK with my hosts. Her host and my hosts had exchanged a few words on this topic I’m guessing and nothing more was said.  It was unfortunate because I had a lot of idle time this day anyway.

After discussing her volunteer experience, Annjah seemed to have a lot more free time than I.

We did the morning horse pickup on motorcycle today instead of walking around and looking for them. This saved a lot of time. I did the regular goat sorting in morning and evening as usual. This day however was characterized by trash duty.Wheelbarrow of (mostly) vodka bottlesI would guess for about a 150 meter radius around the Ger, my task was to gather up the trash which consisted of:

  • Animal bones
  • Empty glass and plastic bottles and containers
  • Metal gadgets including auto and machinery parts
  • other miscellaneous garbage, like discarded kids toys.

Wheelbarrow of Animal bones Wheelbarrow of general garbage







It actually was not very hard work at all. Because I had nothing else to do, I did a very thorough job for the net 3 hours. The trash is gathered into a wheelbarrow and then moved into the back of the nomad’s utility truck like this one:Nomad Utility Truck

The whole time I was gathering the trash, I pondered upon the irony of doing this in the beautiful and natural Mongolian landscape. The fact is that except for the animal bones, all of this trash was generated by nomads themselves. Nature is a luxury for us city dwellers, but just the everyday environment for the nomads.

I’m guessing they do this kind of clean up periodically, maybe once or twice a year and then haul the trash to Altanbulag (about 1 hour drive away). I’m wondering if anything gets recycled, but no way to tell.

The day ended as usual with the evening meal, and some TV.  Tomorrow will be the last FULL workday and then about 1/2 a workday on the day of departure.

Day 9- Rain!

I woke up to the sounds of rain ( <– Isn’t that a  song lyric? ) early this morning! It’s the first substantial rain since I’ve been here. It is welcome as most of the land is barren and the grass needs to grow so the livestock can feed.

The world doesn’t stop just because it’s raining (or snowing or any other kind of weather). There is still work to be done and animals that need tending. The Nomads have very nice modern rain gear similar to a jumpsuit. The foot portions are extra large so that they can fit over the horseback riding boots the nomads need to wear.  Boots covering the ankle and lower shin are required otherwise the “stirrup” will dig into your shin (leg).

Continue reading Day 9- Rain!

Evenings in the Ger

The early evening work would usually end between 800-830pm. The very last task of the day was to “hobble” the riding horses (tying three of their legs together) so they could graze but not wander too far. This usually occurred in the dark of night.

As I mentioned in the last post, sometimes we would eat dinner before or after this point. Biyambai usually prepared the evening meal in the late afternoon. She is a skilled and talented cook, and prepared a variety of dishes. With a few exceptions, almost all food in the camp was made from scratch (natural ingredients) even the noodles!

Homemade food- natural ingredients.

One of my favorites was the homemade noodle, meat and vegetable dish called Tsuivan:


Continue reading Evenings in the Ger