Staying with a herding family is fascinating and, for once, I’ve found a place I could NOT see myself living.
It’s like we’ve gone back in time to the days of Chinggis Kahn (that’s how they spell it). Except they have solar panels to charge the lightbulb, cell phone and satellite TV. So they have modernity, but wether by choice or lack of education seem to lack certain normalcies and hygiene I’ve seen everywhere else… Even in the poorest communities.
I also don’t think they are poor. Certainly they don’t own much but they also have absolutely no debt, live off free land and sell their sheep for quite a profit. Its like they live impoverishedly in some respects, and again, we can’t tell if it is by choice or simple ignorance.
Regardless, it’s been fascinating. We are sleeping on the floor in the main family ger – there are two others for extended family members. We spend the evenings and mornings with the family and choose to withdraw ourselves “hiking” for most if the day.
The valley they live in is gorgeous. Beautiful green and brownish grassland with rivers flowing through it. Surrounded by huge grass covered mountains and large rocky outcroppings everywhere. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Cave of the yellow dog” it’s like we’ve gone there but not during such a green season. Our kids love that movie, by the way.
Random things we’ve experienced:
- They don’t brush their teeth much and most have a few rotten, especially the kids.
- They have NO vegetables in their diet. We brought freeze dried veg thank goodness.
- There are a few wild herbs and things like watercress and onion we have found that they could eat … Guess they don’t.
- The wife spends her whole day milking yaks and horses, making cheese, boiling milk and other milk related things.
- They eat a heck of a lot of milk. I’ve never seen anyone drink water. And it tastes nasty – either it’s warm or soured.
- No refrigeration.
- They slaughtered a sheep for us (and them for later) by cutting a hole in its belly, putting a hand in and ripping its aorta. The sheep didn’t fight until the deed was done. It didn’t die quickly but was pretty calm.
- They leave the – brand new this year – TV on a lot.
- The kids are left to fend for themselves a significant amount of the day. The 2 year old is naked most of the day while I’m bundled in long pants and a fleece.
- The animals are half wild. They wander all day to graze and are herded back toward the ger at dusk. The only ones penned are a bunch baby goats, 2 calves, and 2 yak calves. The 4 riding horses are tied to a line, but the rest are mostly wild. I would not say there is much animal “husbandry” more just dominance.
- When the wild horses are getting to close to the gers a kid is sent out with a coke bottle full of rocks to scare them farther.
- There is one nice dog. He deserves some love, but got a big kick in the pants for fighting with the other dog we were told was dangerous.
- The ger stinks of spoiled milk and hanging meat because it is filled with both, plus two beds, a stove, 5 chests of bedding and clothes, and a kitchen shelf.
- They don’t take their shoes off at the door. There is goat poo on the linoleum that covers the ground. I swept one day and got a look of confusion.
- The baby devours the fermented mares milk beverage. It took then two days to fully accepted that Bryan nor I would drink it because it becomes alcoholic. And it tastes like ASS! Spoiled milk ass. So nasty.
- I finally had to tell them to stop offering me milk because it hurt my stomach since we live in Korea where they don’t have milk. I lied: it just tastes sooooo bad I don’t want any more.
- We mostly eat meat or meat and noodle or meat and rice or maybe some packaged bread.
- They seem to have a huge lot of candy.
- They burn dried poo in the stove. It smells kind of sweet and nice.
- They eat and drink from ten bowls.
- There is no toilet at all. We all just wander a bit and squat behind a rise or down by the river, or anywhere, really.
where the meat is stored, until tomorrow when its shoved under the bed.
one of three cows…and grandma gathering dung
Avi just loves cows.
bringing in the yaks for milking
the nice dog