Thoughts and reflections about life in Mongolia

Orjan is a Swedish PhD student who bought a one-way ticket to Mongolia to work at the base camp of our long-term research project.  These are his adventures…

Its warm again. Which is nice, and what makes it even nicer is that it’s not super-hot. Neither the car nor the cook has arrived yet. Kim has worked in Mongolia before so she is not as naive as I am but both of us have learned a few new things about the herder-mentality.

1. As long as there is a tiny bit of something left, you do not need to get more. For example, if a car is going to town (which takes about 1 hour one-way) and there is one slice of bread left, we do not need to buy bread. However, when the car comes back and someone has eaten the slice we are in desperate need of bread and must immediately go and buy more. The same applies to water, vegetables etc. As long as you have some left, there is no need to replenish the supplies. Since many things can only be found in UB or Dalandzadgad this view of life is a bit frustrating. (though, this was not new for Kim).

2. “this water is not so good for drinking, smells a bit bad, good for shower or cleaning” might mean that the water smells a bit because it has been sitting in the jerry can for too long. But it might also mean “someone put gasoline in that can, better not drink the water”. I was a bit surprised when i noticed that the result of my latest shower was not that my body was immensely clean and smelled like roses; rather I had a lingering odor of gasoline around me.

3. How to tenderize your dried sheep meat: You simply choose a piece that catches your delight, put it on a big flat stone (the stone has been sitting on the kitchen floor since we came but we haven’t really paid attention to it before) and beat the crap out of the sheep with a hammer. Kim and I are both eagerly waiting for this to be shown on TV on a cooking show “and now, it is time to beat the sheep…”

4. The standard answer to many questions is “no problem”. Kim and I can’t really agree on what exactly this means. I think that the locals simply leave out the words “life threatening” in between so what they really say is “no life threatening problem” while Kim thinks that “no problem” means something in between “hopefully” and “in your dreams, sucker”.

Oh, got to write one last thing. A couple of days ago as I was sitting on my bed changing to my boots I noticed that something was moving in Kim’s bed. Kind of odd I thought and took a closer look. Sure enough there was a snake crawling around in the bed. I called Kim but the snake didn’t seem to appreciate the commotion so it tried to hide in the sleeping bag… Namshur claimed that it wasn’t toxic, grabbed it by the tail and carried it out (that ought to keep mom from visiting the camp…)

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