Нийтлэгдсэн огноо: 2018-12-14 09:27:00
A young man in a traditional military uniform watches the horse races during Nadaam
From the passenger seat of an old Toyota van, Mongolia’s scenery seems to change with the breeze: Rocky lunar landscapes give way to rolling grasslands, while purple mountains crumble into flaming red cliffs. It is not uncommon to see herds of roaming camels or wild horses running in the distance.
As we drive, I chat with Aldar, my 20-year-old translator, travel guide, and companion. He was born and raised in Mongolia, and has just completed his freshman year at the university in Ulaanbaatar. Like many young people in his country, Aldar embodies a world in flux. He wears black jeans, black leather boots, and a traditional Mongolian tunic. His black hat is in constant danger of blowing away in the wind.
Aldar speaks five languages, although he says Mongolian doesn’t count. He loves YouTube and the American singer Lana del Rey—neither of which his parents, who came of age during Mongolia’s socialist era, understand. “When my friends and I switch our conversation to English, old people on public transportation look at us funny,” he says. “But they just don’t understand. Memes are too hard to translate into Mongolian.”
The drives certainly feel eternal, with up to six hours between destinations. Save for a handful of asphalt highways, the roads in rural Mongolia are unpaved; the locals call them “Nature Roads.” Our driver, Ganbat, does not speak a word of English. He is extremely focused: much of his time is spent scaling steep rock faces or rumbling over ravines. There are rarely signs, landmarks, or tire tracks to follow, and he uses no maps or GPS.
“Mongolia is open to anyone,” Aldar says, as if to explain the boundless terrain. “Even if you do own property here, you don’t put up fences. Anyone can pass through or set up camp for a while. It’s the nomadic way.”
I soon learn that the nomadic way runs deep in Mongolia, especially in the countryside. For centuries, nomads have lived in yurts, called gers in Mongolian, which still dot the landscape today. Nomads move several times a year and live only off of what they can bring with them. Agriculture is rare, and most meals consist of mutton, milk, and bread cooked in makeshift ovens fueled by cow manure.
One afternoon, as supper cooks and a hot wind blows through the ger camp, I watch Adam and Aldar play with three nomadic boys who have appeared out of the dust on the steppe. Their families’ gers are just down the road. Over the next several hours, the boys ride their bicycles, chase goats, and sword fight with sticks. At sundown, their parents round them up for dinner.