Yesterday we visited a Mongol family, living 2 hours away from Ulaanbaatar, with a group of about 15 people. As this family are relatives of one of the VSO staff we could all come and they were prepared for so many people. This is how the visit went and some things about the Mongolian culture.
We came by bus, driving the main road (asphalt). At one point, the bus got off the road and just crossed the country. There were some signs of cars that have done that before, but it was definitely not a real road that we followed… The Mongolian family had already seen us (though we couldn’t see them) and when the driver called them, they could tell him exactly where he should be heading to (second mountain left, after the herd of sheep to the right.. stuff like that). It is almost always necessary to make a phone call to find a family. When we arrived, the farmer was already waiting for us and his wife had prepared tea with milk.
Entering a ger, you shouldn’t step on the doorstep and don’t lean agains the posts. If you trip coming in, it is considered good luck, if you trip going out, it is bad luck. We all came in and the men could sit in the front (just opposite of the door) and the women were sitting at the sides. We all drunk the tea which was very nice and not salty as usual (maybe because they knew foreigners would come). After giving some gifts, there was some talking going on. We had some people who could translate for us, which was very nice. The farmer told about his situation.
He held some sheep, goats, cows and horses. During day, the animals were walking outside in the field and the farmer checked them now and then by binoculars to check where they were. Around dawn, he would get a horse and bring the cattle home, where they would be staying for the night. These months is the time that the animals give birth and he expected around a 120 deliveries in a short time. He constructed a small open barn for the young animals and already one 2-day-old lamb and some older calves were in there. In April he would take his gers (one for living and one for storage) and belongings (including animals) and would move 25 km further to the summer fields. He and his family would stay there for about half a year and then come back to this place for winter. So they moved twice a year.
During our stay we could walk around freely and saw that this farmer had a satellite for his flatscreen television and two solar panels for electricity. He and his wife had a mobile phone as well. This complemented their lifestyle very well and is a nice mixture of a way of living that is many years old and the modern technology. Some neighbors came as they had seen the bus driving towards the ger. They were welcomed very friendly as well. When we climbed the nearby mountains later on, we saw that there were only two gers within a distance of about 1 km of this ger…
Children of this farmers’ family stay home until they are about 6 years old. Then they will go to some relatives in a nearby city (for this family that was Ulaanbaatar) and attend school. They have holidays for 3 months in summer and go back home then. The oldest son of this family had just won a horse race last year and was proudly photographed for that years’ calendar! The youngest two children were still at home.
More information about the farmers’ practices and the Mongolian lifestyle will follow!