Friday, December 14, 2007
Living In Mongolia
People often ask me what I think about living in Mongolia. I think they see it as I'm married to a Mongolian so I'm "stuck" here. It's like their way of asking me if I'm happy with my choice. Either way, I like it here and wouldn't want to live anywhere else. I do miss friends and family in Mexico and the States, but I'd find it hard to call those places home. My English and Spanish are quickly giving way to Mongolian as my most fluently spoken language. People here think I'm lucky. Mostly my brain just feels confused a lot of the time.
One thing I enjoy about modern day Mongolia are the contrasts. It's very interesting to see how Mongolia has advanced in some areas but not so much in others. I once saw a sheep being shoved into the back seat of a BMW for transportation. Then, the other day, on the way back from Ulaan Baatar, Hetee and I saw parts of a "ger" (yurt) being transported in the back of an American style pick-up truck. And there's always the dilapidated shack with a sign boasting "High Speed Internet".
Every day we see things that make us smile. Like an elderly person dressed in the traditional Mongolian dress, trying to call someone on a cell phone. Contrasts like these provide a steady source of entertainment for us.
The contrasts are visible in the families, as well. Some people have become very independent of their extended families while others are still very much under the influence of the "akh" (older male relatives) or "egch" (older female relatives). These kind of relationships were hard for me to get used to as I grew up in Mexico, away from my older siblings and relatives. Sometimes I would even get angry at people here when they'd let their older so and so make decisions for them and run their life. Then I thought about how my outlook would have probably been different if I had grown up next to my siblings and aunts and uncles back in America. Then again, there's not as much influence from the extended families in the States as there is here but it probably would have helped me understand the ties between people and their older relatives here. At any rate, I deal with this sort of "akh/egch/duu (duu=younger relative) dependency", as I like to call it, a lot because many of the reasons behind a girl getting an abortion here are tied to some older relative telling them to. (Maybe it's not so different from the States after all.)
My favorite part about living in Mongolia would have to be the drive between Darkhan and Ulaan Baatar. It's a 2.5 hour ride through the countryside. I always see something that reminds me that I'm living a National Geographic adventure every day of my life. Like a herd of yaks, or a Mongolian cowboy, in traditional dress, rounding up a flock of sheep. Or some Bactrian (double humped) camels or Mongolian horses grazing along the road.
Unlike Julia Roberts or Richard Gere, who come cause a stir and then have to go home, I get to call this place home. My love for Mongolia kind of crept up on me. I didn't see it coming but I've truly come to love this place.