Just a quick post/ video here. I hadn’t really properly prepared in terms of learning some of the language before I left. I doubt it would have helped much. I was able to get by using a phrasebook that I bought on ebay for about $4.00 😛 and using body language. You can learn a lot about a people/culture when trying to communicate in their language.
Just a short post and video about a small interesting thing I learned during my stay:
It wasn’t until I returned to the USA that I learned certain types of goats (pygmy goats in this case) have a nervous reaction like possums when they get scared excited. They play dead. I thought they were sick or dying……
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.
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.
Mongolian 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.
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:
I was just reviewing some video the other day and noticed that I used some phrases/sayings that we may use in everyday language in the USA to mean something similar.
Phrase #1: “The local watering hole”
People use this ( or used to use this) to refer to a bar or restaurant where they may meet regularly to informally discuss a number of things -typically after work or some other type of regular meeting (like a team practice). A good example would be corporate employees going to a “happy hour” after work.
Phrase #2: “Seeking greener pastures”
Usually meant to leave one thing for something better (eg job, boyfriend/girlfriend, home). Well I’m pretty sure that the literal phrase came from moving livestock from one location to another as the nomads do.
I arrived in Mongolia about 1-2 weeks after the snow melted. The animals were weak and skinny because they had to dig through the snow with their hooves to find vegetation. The landscape is still pretty barren as you can see. When the rain comes, I’m sure the nomads will move their camp in search of “greener pastures.”
The livestock usually fatten up over the spring/summer in order to survive the incredibly cold Mongolian winter.
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):
I usually go to sleep at 930 pm in the nomad camp. Work finishes between 730-800pm followed by a couple of hours of Satellite TV. The most popular show among all the nomads (and I’m betting in all Mongolia) is “Mongolia’s got Talent”. I’ll talk about TV more in another post.
Anyway about 1030pm, Durukh, my host woke me up, and I was surprised that there were a bunch of other people in the Ger. He asked me if I wanted to go to his younger brother’s house. Well, I was sleepy and tired but couldn’t say no….
Five of us and one child piled into this Mongolian style field truck/flatbed and drove in the pitch black night to his brother’s Ger. The details are in the video:
Anyway it was great to meet Anna. She was just finishing the last 2 weeks of her stay and going on a tour of the Gobi Desert before returning to Switzerland.
Anna if you’re reading this please leave a comment and message me your contact info!
This morning was very cold (4/10). I would guess it was about 10 degrees colder than the previous day. If you add in the wind, it makes the working conditions rather tough. It started out as usual with the search for the horses. Today they also wandered further than usual, but not as far as the first day, which had me thinking that I may have actually attached the hobble correctly.
As I said earlier, the job of a nomad can not be performed without his horse. It’s comparable to a computer programmer trying to work without a computer.
I stayed in for a good part of the morning due to the conditions. This gave me the opportunity to take some pictures and video of the Ger. The traditonal layout of the Nomadic Ger is:
I forgot to mention the night before I had a real Mongolian treat of Khuushuur, which is similar to what we know as a Piroshki.
Minced horse meat Khuushuur
Yes, the caption says “horse meat”! If your response is “yuk” read my post regarding cultural relativism.
Anyway, I woke up physically sore as hell! In addition it was incredibly cold and windy even for the nomads today. I told my hosts Durukh and Biyambah I was fine, but they wanted me to take it easy today and help near the Ger.
So I mostly just helped with the sheep and goat sorting today. The nomads have the uncanny ability to recognize their livestock. I could see no distinct brands or markings other than the colored horns, yet they were able to match goats and sheep with their respective offspring to ensure the offspring were being fed/weened.
I talk about the work here. The vid was actually taken on the (warmer) day before. I was however mistaken/misunderstood about moving the GER which they didn’t do while I was there.
As always, thanks again for reading and I hope you’re finding the posts interesting. I should have some pretty cool GoPro video of herding on horseback in my next post so stay tuned!
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