I remember sometimes my hands would be numb from the cold in the morning- so numb that I had some difficulty tying the knot to tether the horses after tracking them down. Durukh showed me a “Mongolian” knot that he insisted I used when tying up the livestock. He was also very adamant about never letting go of the horses tether rope when in hand. I can see why as on 1 or 2 occasions we had to spend 2 hours or so tracking down lost horses!
Here is the knot:
You reaction may be “big deal” right? Well there is some significance to the knot.
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).
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!
One of my favorites was the homemade noodle, meat and vegetable dish called Tsuivan:
In the early spring, the day begins well after sunrise. At about 645 am, Biyambai, my host Durukh’s wife, would be the first out of bed (although sometimes I would lay awake under the warm covers, well before the others woke). As expected morning is the coldest part of the day, and she would brave the cold to first get the fire started in the stove, then head outside to gather water from the storage barrels next to the Ger. The day’s drinking and cooking water is usually boiled the first thing in the morning. The central and critical portion of the Ger is the stove. It’s most important function is providing heat and warmth.
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:
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!
I’ve been interested in geography and the world since I got my first map at 9 years old. When I was bored I’d try to match the country’s flags to the country on the map. As a young adult I became interested in “The Silk Road“ and the role of trade in the development of civilizations and culture. Sounds pretty nerdy right?
The whole trade caravan picture and nomadic lifestyle was always kind of appealing-kind of like a little kid wanting to be a cowboy.