Saturday, May 1, 2010

There’s a ger in there…

We were a little apprehensive at first, despite the uniformly excellent couchsurfing recommendations. All we knew of the ger districts around Ulaanbaatar was that they were not places to be wandering around at night (mostly due to dogs rather than people). Our comfortable urban lifestyle had us in its clutches, but we figured all those surfers couldn’t be wrong. Most of our worries slipped away when we first met the smiling Begz, who met us on his own bicycle in Sukhbaatar Square, the centre point of the city. A ride eerily reminiscent of our first ride to Will’s place in South Korea followed: us nervously wobbling behind our new host as they confidently led us through increasingly rubbly roads and unpredictable traffic to god-knows-where on the outskirts of the city...

What we found upon reaching Begz ger was therapy to the madness of UB.

We were welcomed as guest group no.93 by Begz (who works in the city library as an IT manager) and his family: wife Soyombo, son Todo (11), and daughters Manujin (9), Gaadmaa (5) and Mungulun (3). This family have created something very special in their warm, friendly felt home. They took on couchsurfing with gusto 2 years ago and in doing so opened up their ger to travelers and the interesting worlds they’ve trekked from. They’re created a synergistic atmosphere where it feels that everyone leaves smiling having swapped recipes for stories or music for dance. This is quite a talented family, who moved back into their ger (from their adjacent house) 2 years ago in search of a more traditional life.

This is a what a typical day with Begz and co entailed:
• Wake up from our section of floor in the ger, while a squirming jumble of Mongolian children sleep across the room
• Breakfast of bread cooked overnight, milk tea (sourced from cows the previous night) and homemade apple jam
• Go out for busy, dusty, dirty day in UB
• Meet oldest children at Begz library and be led back to their Northern Ger District home on packed public bus
• Be greeted with cheeky smiles, and dancing from youngest children
• Wife, Soyombo offers fruit tea, fresh home-cooked bread and jam
• Enjoy tasty offerings while Gaadmaa sings, Mungulun performs an incredibly cute, lengthy rote-learned dance piece
• Get beaten at chess at the talented hands of Todo
• Get beaten at checkers by the remainder of the children…in turn
• Learn about traditional Mongolian foods while helping Soyombo chop and prepare tonights meal
• More board games. More dancing. More music.
• Swap stories and music – ali brings out violin and gives some impromptu music theory lessons
• Eat fresh yoghurt
• Prepare the ger for sleep
• Sleep soundly while temperature drops to minus 12deg C outside

Begz and Family


Нацагдоржийн номын сан said...

Dear Andrew and Ali,

Greetings to you from your MONGOLIAN family.

In 8th of May, we successfully finished the World puzzling by 500 pieces.

Good luck your bicycle trip in Mongolia!

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