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South Gobi Nomadic experience

My Scholarship entry - Seeing the world through other eyes

WORLDWIDE | Saturday, 17 March 2012 | Views [546] | Scholarship Entry

Travelling through the South Gobi in Mongolia, ironically I saw that in a way, the nomadic rural lifestyle helps breed more “neighbourliness” and social bonding than in a cramped city. Utilizing camels instead of jeeps, we had to stay overnight in kind nomad families’ gers as the tourist camps were too far. [Gers are portable, traditional Mongolian tents. Most Mongolian families, even in Ulan Bator, live in gers.]

Extremely welcoming, the families extended their generosity not only to us foreigners but more so, to our Mongolian camel guide – giving his camels water and food, and him, eyrie (fermented horse milk alcohol)!. In turn, he reciprocated by helping them set up their winter ger by wrapping thick sheeps’ wool and skin around the tents for wind-proofing. Winter temperatures can fall to below 50 degrees Celsius in the Gobi!

Bonding was also strengthened internally amongst individual families, whereby a family of up to six could be staying in one ger. Size-wise, the average ger can roughly fit two single beds, a stove and a table in the middle for eating. In other words, it’s a tight squeeze. But because of that, families are forced to interact and become closer. Imagine having to be face-to-face with your parents or siblings all-day. On the flip side, in most families today, you’re probably more likely to Facebook your mum than to speak to her in-person!

Near Bayanzag, a nomad family we stayed with clearly exemplified this – the grandmother, aunt and brother came together to separate one of their foals from it’s mother. Two hours, a lasso and countless motorcycle chases later, they managed to accomplish the task. There’s a lot we can learn from these so-called backward nomads, namely the importance of family, community and enjoying the simpler things in life. I hope that as Mongolia’s economy starts to play catch-up with other countries due to their mining boom, these values will not be eroded away.

Tags: camel, desert, ger, gobi, mongolia, nomad family, tent, travel writing scholarship 2012

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