The Merit of Natural Ingredients- Mongolian Diet

I lost ~ 6 lbs (2.7 kg) in 2 weeks while in Mongolia. Much of this had to do with the physical activity (work) every day, but also because of the good diet.

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With the exception of store bought bread, flour and condiments, I can’t remember anything we ate that wasn’t made from “scratch.” Even the flour was rolled out into dough to make noodles.

Continue reading The Merit of Natural Ingredients- Mongolian Diet

Improvisation and re-purposing.

Just a short post.

As I mentioned earlier, the nomads are quite resourceful. Here they’ve used what looks like an old truck tire as a feeding trough. Maybe it is not a truck tire because I can’t understand how they could elongate/ straighten it out (without a lot of heat). I had plenty of questions like this while in the camp and without proper language skills no way to figure them out.

Any ideas? Please comment.

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

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 8 -Back to normal

Thankfully I woke up with my strength back this morning. I was very relieved as the day before I had thoughts of having to go to Altanbulag (the closest town, 18 miles/30 km away) on the back of a motorcycle, over outback terrain, while feeling like hell to see a doctor. Then the though of even going to Ulan Bator to see an English speaking doctor crossed my mind which would mean ending the job at the nomad camp.

IMG_0165Mongolian Brand “Mustang” Motorcycle

BUT, my body and mind redeemed themselves and I felt much better than the day before:

Still my hosts told me to take it easy today after the morning goat sorting. The day was rather uneventful, and I just did a few random tasks and helped with the evening herding and sorting. Rather than writing a boring post about today, the next one will describe the typical day of a nomad.


Day 7-Feeling Sick

I woke up at 630 am and realized that I had slept with my mouth open. I felt my through was a little raw. After getting out of bed though, I realized that I was feeling weak. I did the morning ritual horse tracking and goat sorting, but by the end of those tasks I knew I wouldn’t be able to do the herding on horseback. I resorted to the handy dandy Mongolian phrase book:

Continue reading Day 7-Feeling Sick

Day 6 afternoon and a “Boats” Dinner

After returning from the morning herding and having a quick lunch, I was again asked to pasture the goats. I think my usefulness is starting to come into play and Durukh and his wife Biyambai are starting to do things that (I’m guessing) usually can’t get to…..or so I would like to think. I noticed that Durukh is working more with the cattle and horses yesterday and today.

Anyway, the task of herding is still new to me. Here’s some clips from the afternoon. You can get an idea of how windy it is from the audio!

Continue reading Day 6 afternoon and a “Boats” Dinner

Day 5-The Well Mission and The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

The type of work I do at the camp generally depends on the particular need for that day. I made this video the following morning which sums up day 5:

So as I said in the video, After the ritual horse tracking and goat sorting in the early morning, we left the Ger on horseback towards the area where some of the livestock were grazing. Durukh headed in one direction to herd cattle and asked me to meet him at the well after performing the following mission (my best video of the trip):

Continue reading Day 5-The Well Mission and The Boy Who Cried Wolf.