A couple of weeks ago, we wrote that it was not easy to put our Transsiberian experience in writing and make a summary of it. Well, it's even less easy to summarise our Transmongolian one! Very dense, very much changing every day. From a Ger* to an apartment on the highest floor in the middle of Ulan Bataar. From chaotic Ulan Bataar to silent Sainshand. From a cafeteria where you can only get rice after they pour huge quantities of a meaty sauce on it, to the BEST vegan food we had on our trip so far at Luna Blanca!
*a Ger is the nomads' traditional house (scroll down for a picture).
Light bulb - what we have learnt
Ale: the role of women of all ages at home and outside. I asked one of our hosts what was his favourite decision-making technique. He said: “Now, I would consult with my wife. When I was a child, I would not ask my Dad. I would always ask my Mom”.
Fra: the role of games, puzzles, sheep ankle bones in Mongolian culture. If you ever pass by Ulan Bataar, do not forget to visit the International Intellectual Museum.
Heart - what we have loved
Ale: the enchanting music that goes along with Buddhist prayers.
Fra: the caves we visited in the Gobi desert. And the desert, more generally.
Smile - what made us laugh
Ale: our adorable host Begz when he told us a traditional Mongolian tale. His mimicking, his gaze and sound effects were so entertaining!
Fra: it was -3*C or less. We were in the middle of the desert visiting the Shambala energy centre. The man who was accompanying us was very lightly dressed. Not even wearing a hat or a pair of gloves; his jacket (not a coat…) was open. In pure Mongolian, he explained to us the procedure to make the most of the energy centre: take off your shoes, lay down, crawl following a circular path and pray. And concluded: “but I won't take my shoes off, it's too cold!”. E figurati noi! (Italian for: "can you really imagine" how cold WE are?!)
Pointing finger - what we take away
Ale: the flexibility of a one-room circular house. Furniture and various objects appear and disappear depending on the function they have to play - eating, sleeping, cooking, studying, playing, etc. The one space changes all the time in the course of a day!
Fra: the Ger architecture, its shape and its interlocking technique.
(If we end up living in a Ger, you’ll know why!)
Shaking hands - what connections we have made
Ale: Begz, his family, his energy. Bookbridge Mongolia - such an inspiring organisation that facilitates social entrepreneurship. Victoria, whom we hope we'll host soon somewhere! Mongolia Train Tickets who helped us with our visa. УРЦ | URTS - from which we received a lovely badge!
Fra: I was asked to design a logo for a new organisation. How exciting is this?
Rooted foot - what we had known already and was important to remember
Ale: modern technology does not need to be in contrast with traditions. Introducing a pre-paid card system to distribute water in Ger district is helpful, respond to a very basic need and improves living standards.
Fra: building one’s house is possible and can be fun!
Bin - what we’d kick away (didn’t like that much…)
Ale: people constantly kicking each other when walking in the street. I was under the impression to walk across a rugby pitch all the time!
Fra: Ulan Bataar’s traffic jam. The absence of a Ч29 bus stop in the city centre. A sort of arrogance among bus and Land Cruiser divers... :-)
Does anything resonate with you? Whether you have travelled to Mongolia or to somewhere else, whether you had similar or completely different experiences, feel free to use the comment box below or email us :)
Reflections on social impact in Mongolia will come soon… Watch this space!