14 Oct Mongolia group has emerged from remote West Mongolia with tales to tell . . .
The Mongolia group has emerged from remote Western Mongolia with stories and photos. . .
Noah ’15, Mongolia, 4/13/2015
We began our day with a delicious breakfast consisting of a rice dish accompanied by a selection of homemade jams and pastries at our home stay in Olgii before climbing into our retro vans straight out of the 70’s and embarking on our next journey. Our driver hardly had a road to guide him as he navigated the ever changing scenery of this mysterious and unfamiliar country.
Three hours later we arrived in Altay, a small town with a population of 3000 tucked into a small valley just 20 miles from the borders of Russia and China. Here, Kazakh and Mongol cultures meet and live in harmony together, something that we would see in excess when we arrived at the Altay school. Having had the privilege of traveling with the school on two other occasions, I have been to multiple schools in different countries and expected this one to be similar to these where we meet some kids and talk and interact with them for a while. This expedience, however, was quite unlike the others that I have had.
As we entered the halls of the school, we were met by hundreds of students lining the walls and clapping their hands while we walked by. When we came to the end of the hall, we were each asked to pass and drink a warm bowl of of curdled milk, part of a Mongolian tradition. After we had tasted the milk, the teachers threw candy at us and we had to pick it up and eat it, a Kazakh tradition. I will say I much preferred the Kazakh candy to the curdled milk.
As if the attention wasn’t enough already, we entered the auditorium and found front row seats to a concert put on by the students followed by a dance with the older students and a lot of pictures. I was finally starting the enjoy the attention when it was time to leave. We drove back to our new home stay, ate a full meal of horse meat and yack yogurt, and called it a day.
Alex ’16, Mongolia, 4/13/2015
We started the day off relatively early at 8 and soon afterwards went to the school to teach in pairs. Something that has been interesting is the idea of time here and the lack of keeping a tight schedule, at least for us. We haven’t been on time for anything yet, and not of our own fault. We were suppose to be at school at 9 and arrived at 9:20ish, and not because we aren’t trying to be on time, rather nobody seems to really care. Breakfast was ready at 8:50, and none of the guides really cared. Nobody seemed to care, we arrived at the school and teachers were still arriving. We went to our classes and nobody seemed to care the slightest about this and I just found that very interesting. Anyways, after 40 minutes of teaching we went outside and played a game of duck duck goose, and the difference between the way they play it here and how it is played in the United States is that instead of tagging somebody you drop a ball behind them and then run. It incorporates a level of sneakiness that the American version doesn’t have. After that we returned to the home stay and napped. Everybody was in need for that because for some reason, everybody was just tired to their bones. After that we returned to the school and we had a volleyball tournament. They split us up so that the teams were a mix of Americans and Mongolians. Each game went to 15 points and you had to win by 2 points. But it wasn’t just one game that was played, rather best out of 3 that actually decided the victor. There were 4 teams and 4 little tournaments so that each team to play all the others. The team I was on came second, behind the team Perri and Paige were on. Though they did get carried by one player on their team that was probably the best there, each had a moment or two to shine and get a round of applause from the small crowd that had gathered around. After that they had a basketball game the same way and Callahan and Wu absolutely crushed. And by crushed, I mean that they played very well and even though Callahan could simply hold the ball over his head and nobody could get it, he passed around quite a bit and was a very good sport. So was Wu. Timmy asked me to write a poem about to today so here you go:
The breeze always there
People traveling in pairs
The sun almost here
Little children smile as we come near
We see the eagerness to learn
As we go the chalk board to write, we turn
The students in the back not caring
I grab at my hair in frustration, it tearing
The knowledge slowly seeps
A smile of understanding is what they reap
And a little bit of English for them to keep
Maddie ’16, Mongolia, 4/16/2015
The past two days have been spent in a cozy Kazakh home just near the border of China eating buuz (the local dumplings), riding horses, and playing cards. We arrived at this house, which I must add is just about in the middle of nowhere, yesterday around three. We had woken up at about eight, all sleeping on the floor of our guide’s (Ibek) parents house in the town of Altay, ate a hardy breakfast of what seemed to be gravy soup, and got into our 1970’s Russian vans for a six hour drive. There were no roads where we were, and I am curious as to how our drivers even knew where to drive. Nonetheless, we arrived at our destination after the long and bumpy ride. After putting our stuff down inside and having a snack of milk tea and yogurt curd we went outside to a pen that had what seemed like a hundred baby goats. We got to go inside the pen, pick up, and play with the baby goats. It had to be one of the cutest things I’ve ever seen. Once we went inside, Badnaa and Napcha (the chef) showed us how to make buuz which is surprisingly hard.
After a big dinner of a ton of buuz that we had made, Ibek led us outside on a walk. It was so windy, and cold, and felt incredibly long. Apparently we went on the walk for the sole purpose of making us sleep better. I think it worked pretty well because when we got back we all went to sleep within thirty minutes.
The next morning we woke up to crying babies, people stepping through the room around our sleeping bags, and breakfast being made. We had Korean Raman noodles for breakfast and got ready for the day. We found out that we would be riding horses but only three people at a time. We took turns going out, riding to a nearby lake and back for a bout an hour and returning home. Meanwhile, the people who stayed at home would play cards, drink tea, play the guitar, and sleep. Once everyone got back we ate dinner which was lamb with vegetables and rice before playing more cards before finally going to bed.
Perri ’15, Mongolia, 4/18/2015
Yesterday, we left the nomads content with full bellies and a clear, beautiful view of the mountains. The drive was supposed to take us six hours, which ended up taking near ten, but it wasn’t boring. We traveled through what we might call a small village, but in Mongolia it is more like a city. We stopped in a small one room home to listen to a local man throat sing and play tradition Mongolian instruments. We traveled a bit further and stopped for a delicious lunch of potato and beef boos (Mongolian for dumpling). We also enjoyed some delicious strawberry cake for Tim’s birthday. As we began the final leg of our journey to visit the Tuva people we got hung up in a field of mud. This was only a minor set back for our trusty driver Bogey. He had us back on the road in no time. When we arrived we were greeted by three friendly, non-rabid dogs: Poodle, Garlic and Tiger. Our eyes were wide with the overwhelming beauty of the snowy mountains. It didn’t take much time to discover the pen of adorable baby goats. We all settled in for the night in a small but cozy house.
The next morning, we struck out for the ridge on horses. The horses are smaller than American horses but just as hearty. We climbed to the top of the ridge to admire the breath taking view from above. We were surrounded by frozen rivers, jagged valleys and huge, snow capped peaks. As our ride continued our butts ached with pain. The saddles are much different. They are attached to the horse using two thin, tight cinches. The saddle is made of wood with a thin pad covering it. There are large metal hooks in the front and back of the saddle. The stirrups were very short. So short that some of the taller members of the group looked like an adult on a tricycle, myself included.
We stopped for lunch near some ancient petroglyphs. The view was exquisite, you could see for miles. Being able to see in all directions made us realize how far we are from civilization. There were only a few homes/gerrs, sheep, camels, and, of course, mountains in sight. No town. No roads. No buildings. Being so far away from what we are used to is a fun adventure. It has brought our group closer and it will make us appreciate a hot shower, and paved roads more when we return to Ulaanbatar.
Andrew ’16, Mongolia, 4/20/2015
Today we woke up after a long restful night at Aybek’s house. The group gathered bright eyed and bushy tailed around the breakfast table to enjoy big volcanic bowls of ramen. With our bellies full and minds rested we all piled into the Russia-mobiles and headed out of town. After a relatively brief car ride on non-existent roads, (2 hours) we arrived at the home of the world’s premier eagle hunter. In typical Mongolian fashion the homestead had the mandatory pen of baby sheep and goats. In addition the modest home was much nicer inside than the outside might suggest. The eagle hunter herself was a shy girl who was only 13. After a cup of steaming tea our group of 12, accompanied by the girl and her father, went to the base of a hill. After a brief photo shoot with the 11 pound golden eagle the girl’s father took the eagle on his arm and rode to the top of the hill. The girl took a dead rabbit on the end of a rope and flung it away from the group. The eagle, now unencumbered by the ever present hood took after the carcass like the bullet from a gun and impacted it with an astounding amount of force. Once the demonstration had concluded, we packed into the vans again and ate a lunch of pasta in front of ancient petroglyphs that stretched along a 17 kilometer long range of cliffs. From there we drove back to our home away from home and ate a big dinner of rice and mutton. After dinner the group took a stroll downtown to peruse the local supermarkets; the only things still open at 8:30. All told it was a rather relaxing day that was well received after the hustle and bustle of the past week.