Sunday, November 09, 2008

Sunday Ride

Today Maggie and me went out to visit our friends in the countryside.  Sunny was nervous about where his sheep were.  He nervously asked his shepherd boy their whereabouts. It occurred to me that grazing your livestock over open range would be a little like you or me placing 50$ bills on the hillside, maybe under a rock, or tied to a branch.  You'd be pretty concerned about whether anyone was watching that field.  In the case of Sunny's sheep, he is much more concerned since he's seen a pack three wolves prowling nearby of late.

Not only that, but no one has seen 8 or his cows for three days.  By American prices that would be about 5,000$ that had disappeared.  He was less nervous about that than I would have been.  
So we're off to find the cows, but first have to round up the horses.  Sunny and his son each were mounted, but I wasn't.  So they pushed the whole herd close to the river where we would have the best chance at catching one.  Thankfully I was able to catch mine.  Sunny also caught a fresh mount, since he'd been riding his for three days.  I had my saddle and bridle with me, and soon we were headed up a rocky crag in the nearest hill.  

We crested a hill and rode along a ridge with golden grasses dancing in a light breeze.  No cows. Sights set on the next ridge, we descended into another rocky draw.  As we crested that hill, a cow became visible on the next hill over.  But it turned out to be part of someone else's herd.  

So we rode all the way down to another bend in the river, where there were a couple cow's watering, also someone else's.  From there we turned north and headed for high ground, pushing our horses along paths ridden with basalt rock and loose gravel.  My horse didn't appreciate the steepness or the footing.  

A mile or two later we approach a jagged peak of a hill, and the horses naturally want to rest. Directly below beneath some brush in a gully, some cattle are visible.  We circle back around on the same face we just climbed.  Going down the footing is even worse.  It feels more like a snowboarding than equestrian.  But we make it alright to find the missing 8 in question.  

They look fat and unapologetic for having wandered 6 miles from home without coming home for three nights.  It made for a nice ride anyway.  

On the way back we stopped at Sunny's dad's homestead, a couple felt tents and a shed, with a horse tied out back.  I followed Sunny into the ger.  A man of 70, he leaned up in bed and talked with me the whole time I was there.  Someone said I was a Jesus person, and he said "hallelujah", and pointed to his New Testament sitting on his bedside table.  

After we left, he said his dad hasn't been able to get out of bed for some time.  Yet still, here he is living 10 miles from town on the prairie, with his wife to take care of him, at least a mile from any other herdsman family.  These people's toughness amazes me.  Their wealth would surprise you too.  Sunny said to me as we rode away his dad owns over 1000 livestock, whereas he himself only has 200 or so.

I turned my horse loose on the open prairie, put my saddle back in my car, and said goodbye to Sunny.  Drove back up to his tent homestead, picked up Maggie, and drove home thinking.

It occurred to me that this simple life, not much changed from three or four hundred years ago, still must risk loss to produce a financial gain.  I guess his life isn't all that different after all.

Pink Shoe

This morning just before it was time for church two young Mongolian ladies knocked on our door.  They announced they were with the 'Pink Shoe' Union.  I had to confess that "pink shoe" was a word that hadn't made it into my vocabulary yet.  So they explained how it wasn't really a religion, but had to do with creating and using good energy for a healthy and life known as Ping Shu.  Mongolians frequently switch the pronunciation of F and P.  So I was finally able to gather that this was some kind of Chinese Mysticism that it seemed like I'd heard of before: Fing Shu.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Mongol (The 2007) Movie

Has anyone out there seen the movie called Mongol, that was released last year?  

Looking for reaction and recommendation as to whether it's worth seeing/buying.


Sunday, November 02, 2008

Weary Travelers

Here's the bus that carried us and 23 other passengers 1000 miles over dirt and sand to Hovd Province, Mongolia.
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Bus Window View

This was the scenery that passed our window for two nights and a day. So big and empty you get thankful even to see a large rock or old dead tire to rest your eyes from looking at near nothingness.
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Fermented Camel Milk

My first try of what they call "hoormog". Imagine maybe your milk after your corn puffs are all gone, then stir in a table spoon of cottage cheese to similate the clobules of milk fat floating under the surface. All in all good, but not as nice as fermented horse milk.

The bonding time here with our bus driver was worth stopping for this liquid meal. He, like me, after 30 hours on dirt roads through sand scaped desert roads, needed something to quench a thirst so deep your eyes even begin to feel empty. He probably knew better than me the fat calories of camel milk would drive us the 6 or 8 hours on to our destination.
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Small Town Pastor and Wife

Three years ago this man was destitute and drunk, with his family scattered. Now he is shepherding a small church in a tiny countryside town. In this tiny little chapel adjoining his house (where 3 or 4 happy little children politely greeted roomful of visitors), he spoke of his struggle in seeing men like he used to be saved by the grace that same him and which he said he loved singing with us about.
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Rubble Living

Houses in Hovd are building out of mud block or rock like this one. When you look around at the gravel that surrounds, you can't blame them for making at least some use out of all the stones. Walls and fences are made of rocks as well, which I'd never seen any where else in my travels in Mongolia.
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My New Kazak-Mongol Friend

I didn't believe this guy when he told me he was Kazak. I should have known by his name, Salinbaba. But he'd been passing around the bottle with his pals and I thought he was joshing me. After I went outside to the car, I was told he really was Kazak, and came back in to get thisi picture. Maybe I was thrown by his language. They speak Mongolian perfectly, which makes me jealous. But then three days later when I met him again, I heard his speaking Kazak to some people who looked Mongolian to me. But then they spoke back in some language I couldn't understand. These Kazak-Mongols I spoke with seemed interesting people. Who would have thought knowing Mongolian would make it possible to befriend Kazak people?
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Western Mongolia Moonscape

This month, two of us took off for a 9 night visit to the capital of Western Mongolia, Hovd. The landscape makes our part of the country look like fertile green paradise. We had to travel through the Gobi desert, a 36 hour bus ride, to get there. This photo was taken just outside the capital city of Hovd Province.
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