Today we are going to Mongolia.
We are going to be on the train for a very long time- one night and a day and half
We had to do school work on the train and we get off after noon tomorrow.
I am glad we are leaving ‘photo country’ because Chinese people love to take photos – especially of light hair people. I am one of them they take lots of photos of me and my family – I don’t like it when they take photos of me especially when they don’t ask me.
30/6/2013 – Bulgan Province, Mongolia
A the moment we are in the desert in Bulgan Province, Mongolia. We are staying in a ger with nomadic ger family. We are in their 2nd ger. Those of you who don’t know what a ger is it a big white tent. It is held up by two poles in the middle that are decorated. Inside there are two beds, a couch and some cupboards. Right in the middle is a a stove/heater which everything happens around.
The door is very small – you have to bob your head when you are walking in.
It’s tradition to walk in with your right foot first and when we first got here we had to walk in in age order, baba and mum first then me and all my brothers and sisters in order – Emilio last. The door always faces south and the visitors come in and sit in the west. Then when you go out of the ger you need to go clockwise.
We all sleep on the west and the east beds but there is also a couch in the north which becomes a bed. In between the beds and couch there are cabinets. There is always a special place in the north of the ger which is a cupboard with special things like trophies, photos and pictures of Buddha’s and other Buddhist things.
Outside there are lots of rock hills, sand dunes and grasslands without trees.
There is a little yard that the goats come into at night otherwise they just roam around except when they are round up to be milked.
It is very sunny right now but there was a big humongous windy storm yesterday which made rain come in through the top a bit because the top flap opening blew off completely and the stove chimney flew out of place and even the middle poles that hold the tent up blew out of place but baba and mum quickly put them back and we were safe. The wind was pretty strong though – I was pretty scared.
In the family there is a young 22 year old man who lives here with his wife (but she’s in Ulaanbataar cause she’s very pregnant and staying with her mum) – He is the youngest of eight kids but most of them have left to other gers or Ulaanbaatar because the youngest son is always left the family inheritance. I think this 2nd ger is actually his and we are staying in it. Then there’s a granny who is 60 years old and she does most of our cooking and there’s an older great granny who is her mum, she’s 80 years old and is very strong. We walked up the hill and collected dung with her yesterday for the fire. She just collected it in the front of her green gown thing that she wears – she’s pretty strong.
A the moment the granny is on the east bed with her big chopping board making us our lunch
In their own ger, right near the door there is a goat body hanging there and they just chop off bits to use each meal – but she makes us vegetarian food with some soy meat added that mum found in the State Department Store in Ulaanbaatar. They have lost of relatives that come and go. There is a 2 year old little boy that is here – his mum came to drop off another granddaughter but we haven’t really worked out whose child he really is, he’s a grandchild anyway. He loves coming in to our ger and plays Lego with the younger kids, today he came in sucking a big goat bone and left it on the table, baba is a bit grossed out.
The first two days they just left us alone a bit and we didn’t have much to do so we went walking and climbing up on the big rock mountains that are a bit behind the ger. it was steep and dangerous but we love rocks so we went up and we got down off a very steep and dangerous rock but we all helped each other except Kalika who found a better way and got down before us.
1st July 2013
We have three days left with this ger family. So far we have done lots of walking on rock hills, we have had a horse ride, we have milked goats and we have learnt how to make vegetarian dumplings.
There is a little yard for the goats at night – it is made of wood held up by string.
When we went horse riding for the first time we all had a canter or a slow gallop. There were four young foals, four young stallions, one grown stallion with brown and white patches, long mane and fringe – it is quite dirty and knotty.
They catch the foals to get the foals to get the mares to milk them – we don’t milk the horses in Australia but in Mongolia they do. There is one grumpy mare that always refuses to be caught but she was caught by lasoo on a stick. They caught her in the end. There are two female horses that look very pregnant. There are three other mares that aren’t grumpy but still not rideable. The four young stallions are 2 or 3 years old. It think they keep horses for milk, meat and riding. I wouldn’t want to try horse meat. We are all vegetarian while we are here because we didn’t want to eat horse meat or goat intestines or suck on animal fat.
In our second day here we went dung collecting for the fire and also stick collecting – while we were there we saw a little striped brown snake.
Snakes in Mongolia aren’t as dangerous as Australia. I’m not sure where they get their water from – there are no lakes or rivers in sight.
Yesterday another grandchild – a 9 year old girl called Voina came to visit. She and I were told to herd the goats. Milking goats feels weird. Do you know how to catch a goat to milk it? In Mongolia they catch the back of the leg and drag it to where they need to milk it. Then one of us holds the goat around the neck like a cuddle and the other person milks it into a bucket – but great granny doesn’t need anyone to hold hers – she can just do it herself.
The young 22 year old is called ‘Janba’- does most of the horse work and he took us riding with some other men.