Thursday 6 September 2012

Nomads for a day

While we were staying in Mongolia, we got the chance to stay with a nomadic family. On the day of our trip we headed off to their ger on horseback. The family were settled not very far away from the lodge. On the way I had a serious attack of hayfever. I don't know if it was the horse hair, the open air or the numerous flora around the place but my nose was running away with itself! Of course I was prepared for this and had got my mum to send lots of antihistamine from home, but on this particular morning I had forgotten to take the tablet and hadn't even packed them in my overnight bag. Crisis! Thankfully, as the family's tent wasn't far from the lodge Mary and I walked back later to pick up my tablets.

Over the course of our stay we got a small sense of what the family's day to day life is like.

Firstly; the wife and mother of our family did not stop the entire time we were there. Almargo (I have romanised how I think her name should be spelt..) was constantly preparing food, stocking up the fire, re-filling everyone's tea cups, clearing away or organising the Ger. She was up at dawn the following day to get the fire going again and milk the goats. She was a trooper and I didn't envy her one bit...

Jack (the man of the house) and his son were also busy, especially in the morning and early evening when they had to organise the animals. But unlike Almargo there was time during the day for them to stop and sit down.

The family is from Kazakhstan, but have always lived in Mongolia. Their ger is simple, 3 beds, a kitchen area, a few cupboards around the place and 4 battered suitcases indicating their nomadic lifestyle. Behind one of the beds is a bright handwoven rug. This was a gift from Almargo's mother-in-law in 1976 and I comment to Mary that as a genuine handmade Kazakh rug it would probably fetch a tidy fortune. It is in incredibly good condition and clearly a family heirloom she will pass to her daughter-in-law one day.

The two young boys were fascinated by Mary's iPad, and at one point they were so busy playing around with it they stayed at the table when they should have sat away from the adults. Jack wasn't very pleased with them and they got a telling off. This demonstrated to me how easily technology can come between age-old traditions, respecting your elders and doing what you're told.

There is no toilet or bathroom in the ger. I managed to hold on until the morning of the next day before I can't take it any longer and the cups of milk tea I've been plied with over the past 12 hours get the better of me. Not something I wish to ever have to experience again, there is nowhere to hide while squatting in the open steppe.

As we are preparing to leave the morning of the second day, a Japanese couple with a toddler appear for their stint with the Nomads. This breaks the spell a little, although as the family can obviously supplement their income by welcoming foreign guests it's perhaps understandable. Oggie tells me she's met Jack and his family before, a couple of winters ago when they were last based here.

I enjoyed spending time with the family, and observing how their lives worked, and call me bourgeoisie but I can't say I'm ready quite yet for a life without a flushing toilet and running water.

Lunch of homemade fried noodles with mutton and vegetables.

The poor cat got a bashing from this child!

A cat on a lead... odd

Everyone is fascinated by the photos on the iPad

This plate of bread and cakes was produced every meal and snack time and didn't ever seem to go down.

The solar panel supplied the electricity for the lights and this battery served as the ger's only plug socket.

Bit of a dodgy photo of Jack's sister's family.

Almargo on the right, briefly sat down for this photo before she got up to start preparing more food.

The 6 has worn off of the 1976 date

Handwoven rug

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1 comment:

  1. wow this looks like an amazing adventure! Your pictures are really vibrant and beautiful, love!