Friday, April 25, 2008

Ghenghis Khan Country!

This picture was taken in January while in Mongolia of last year. I was expecting huge piles of snow and freezing temperatures. The freezing temperatures we got...however, as it was too cold to snow, there was only about 4 inches of snow on the ground! Can you imagine a place where it is too cold to snow? Apparently we were lucky to be there during this particular January, as it was only 22 degrees F below zero--making it a mild winter! The previous January temperatures had been considerably lower--about 50 degrees F below zero. But it still doesn't explain why my face ached when being outside for longer than two minutes during these "mild" temperatures!

When I was in the 10th grade, my girlfriend, Gail Perry did a history paper on Ghenghis Khan. I remember thinking to myself, who on earth is that and how did she know this guy existed? I wish I could ask her--I would be interested in her answer after having experienced Mongolia for myself. She would be amazed to find out I have been to Mongolia! So, thanks to Gail, I knew that Ghenghis Khan was a famous Mongolian! The longer we were in Ulan Bataar it was very evident that he is a historical figure of great significance. There are references to him everywhere--from an incredibly tall sculpture in iron and steel, to a life size replica in ice!

What I was surprised to learn was that Russia had occupied this country for over 50 years. However, after seeing the architecture in Ulan Bataar and Darhan the influence is obvious. Nothing too inspiring--just myriads of block type buildings without design details. In fact, if you are like me and unfamiliar with this aspect of Mongolia's history, you would guess it when viewing the city. This photograph shows you what I am talking about.

As we were driving in from the airport there seemed to be a heavy fog hanging in the air. Not only that, but there was a strong smell of campfire. I asked about this and was told that it was not fog, just heavy smoke from the Mongolians burning coal and wood in their gers! I wish you could have seen and smelt the air! Amazing.
What is a ger you ask? They are tent like houses that can be set up and taken down in record time--as little as 1/2 hour. These tents give the people the ability to move to a new location when needed. They are round and quite large, housing a family comfortably. Inside you will find regular household furnishings--tables, chairs, beds, drawers, etc. The stove is located in the center of the ger with a pipe going up thru the middle of the roof. The Mongolians have been living in gers for hundreds of years and almost three quarters of the Mongolian population live in them.

Driving to Darhan, (about a 3-4 hour car ride from Ulan Bataar) we entered a snowy, frost laden wilderness. Miles and miles of rolling hills and a few animals seen in the distance. There are few glimpses of human habitation. As we were riding along, an amazing thing happened. We would encounter one or two Mongolians all bundled up walking along the side of the road. I couldn't believe it. I would look north, south, east and west and see nothing except snow and hills! Where on earth had this individual come from? More importantly, where he was going? Growing up in Canada, I had experienced snow, cold temperatures and nasty wind chills first hand. Living here, I could only imagine how hardy one would have to be to brave those freezing temperatures with no shelter in sight! We were told that eventually a car would come along and pick up this person (for a fee) and take him as far as they were traveling. An innovative touch to hitchhiking!
We saw this cattle herder while traveling to Darhan. I asked if we could stop for a minute and take a picture. The cute thing was that after taking his picture with the herd of cattle, he came over to the side of the road for his closeup! Turns out he was just a young boy with a sweet smile!

What is most impressive about this country? The opportunity to meet the people. They are warm hearted and courageous. They live in a climate that is mostly unforgiving for much of the year, yet they are cheerful and hardworking. There are many challenges to be faced, and they do it with courage and strength. They made me feel at home with their beautiful smiles and faces. I loved Mongolia!


  1. What a fun adventure. Cold, but fun! I think it is amazing that you are able to experience all of these fun cultures. What a rich learning experience.

  2. I love that you make me feel like I'm a world traveler. I love this and love that you helped me feel like I was in Mongolia.
    You're the coolest blog-mom I know!

  3. I feel like you took me to Mongolia with you. Thanks Mom. And you know that first picture is one of my favs of you and dad.

  4. I adore that picture of you and dad. You both look so stately and elegant. And look at this life you lead, Mom! Wow doesn't even begin to describe it.

  5. Hey cousin - You're both looking great. It was excting to see your blog. Such a fun way to share your precious experiences