This is my student.
On top of being a really good student, she is also an awesome person. And she comes from a family of herders in a nearby village, so when she offered to take us home with her for a weekend, Swiss Friend and I were like YES. But in German, so JA.
Our trip began with a five-hour bus ride into the countryside, in which I entertained the entire car by only knowing one Mongolian song which I enthusiastically sang every time the CD we were listening to repeated itself (approx six times). We thought we we had made it when we pulled into her family’s yard in the village, but as it turns out, we hadn’t. In the summer, the herders take the animals out to better pastures, and said pasture took another 45 minutes to reach by car. We pulled up to the lone ger at eleven pm and promptly fell asleep. We woke up to this:
I mean, wut?
If this wasn’t a picture of me in my obnoxious pink fleece standing by their ger, I would have a hard time believing this happened. BECAUSE LOOK AT WHERE WE ARE.
Saturday started out a little rainy, so we spent the morning hanging out and getting to know her family. She has three brothers who are super nice and her mom I just wanted to hug forever. Her dad was really funny and got a kick out of playing my ukulele.
And this is her sister, who was our constant companion the entire weekend.
She dragged us around and kept up a constant stream of chatter, but didn’t seem to be bothered at all by the fact that we had no idea what she was saying. I think she thought we were simple.
At some point, this happened.
Yes that is a small child in a deel holding a baby goat. It doesn’t get more Mongolian than that.
By Saturday afternoon the rain had cleared up, so her dad took us up into the mountains to explore a bit.
According to local legend, khöömi throat singing comes from this river. I think this is what the rock says, but I couldn’t tell you for sure.
The view was just aiite, I guess.
So aiite that we had to stop the car so Swiss Friend and I could get out and continue staring. At this point, it wasn’t just the five-year-old who thought we were simple.
After getting back to the ger, Swiss Friend and I wandered around with the small child in tow. Or, rather, the small child wandered with us in tow. At one point the child handed me a baby goat.
Then I realized said baby goat still had its umbilical cord attached so I gave it back to its mom and forcibly dragged the child over to the goats that were more than just, like, two days old.
This goat in particular got hauled around and loved every second of it.
This goat, however, is Todd.
Todd desperately wanted to come inside, so he spent most of Saturday parked in front of the ger, waiting for his opportunity. When someone left the door open, he jumped inside and lead the brothers on a merry chase as he dived behind furniture and under beds. You wouldn’t think it would be hard to catch a baby goat not once, not twice, but three times in a round hut ten feet across, but that just goes to show you’ve never tried.
We finished Saturday by singing to goats, collecting dung for the fire, and–my personal favorite–a horse race. My students’ brothers decided to race their horses to see which one they would enter into the race at Naadam, and the rest of us piled into the car to speed alongside the galloping horses.
And then I milked a goat.
Sunday was a very relaxed day–we wandered around, ate lunch, and I milked another goat, which Mongol Mom said I did “very well.” At some point we played a game with painted seashells and thumb tacks that involve counting, and I understood it not at all.
Despite the fact that it took me 20 minutes to make it onto the board, my team (i.e., me and a brother) still managed to win. I just don’t understand how because numbers.
After lunch, we drove back to the village and walked around a bit before catching a ride back to Khovd.
While we were waiting for our ride, my student taught us some Mongol dance steps. When we attempted them, she laughed so hard so had to sit down, so there was that. On the ride back we had packed 18 people and their stuff into a van meant for eleven, but that didn’t stop the van from demanding a song from us–good thing ukes are compact. We played and sang and they laughed, so that’s the last time I sing American folk songs in an overcrowded van full of Mongols.
And that was my most Mongol of Mongol weekends. I’d done the ger weekend thing, but never with an actual herding family and final verdict: it was awesome. Definitely one of the coolest and most memorable things I’ve done in Mongolia.