“I always ask, why are people so homophobic?” Dr. Dorjjantsan Ganbaatar, who goes by Jack, muses. The question hangs, just momentarily, for a split second in the air. He and I had been discussing the lives of LGBT people in Mongolia for close to an hour before we arrive at this question - a question… Continue reading Being LGBT in Mongolia
While I loved and appreciated the expat circles in Ulaanbaatar, I was determined to become someone who integrated into the society somehow. Inclusivity is a two-way-street, and in my case, the first few paces down that street consisted of learning the language, studying Mongolian music, and a stroke of luck to find a group of the most loyal, intelligent, and brave Mongolians to be my friends.
Ask a Mongolian to name a characteristic associated with being Mongolian and they might very well reply “toughness” or “resilience”. There’s a good reason for this - two very good reasons, in fact. First of all, Mongolians must deal with and survive the vast harshness of our geography and climate. After all, having to survive the bitter, bone-wrenching cold of a -40 degrees Celsius winter, and the unpredictable hurdles of the steppe will beat the “softness” out of anyone.
Despite having grown up in America, I love being in Mongolia, the country of my birth and my childhood. I love the crisp, cold mornings, and the perfect tinge of blue overhead. I love the architecture and the downtown, a blend of history and modernity. I love hearing Mongolian being spoken around me. I love the steam of freshly cooked buuz, the sizzle of huushuur and the savory smell of suutai tsai. But most of all, I love the feeling I get – the feeling of finally coming home, the feeling of being so totally accepted and fitting in.
As I finished crossing the busy Ulaanbaatar street and breathed a sigh of relief, the driver stuck his head out of his window and started yelling at me, calling me names and angrily asking (commenting?) on whether I knew how to cross the street with another sprinkle of cuss words.
Looking at the Mongolian countryside, it is hard not to notice the white specks by hills, rivers, or in the middle of what seems like nowhere. Getting even closer you may hear the loud barks of the dog to alert their owners of the visitor. By the ruckus of the bark, the owners will bow their heads through the doorway of the white speck, which is of course a ger, and call his dog closer.
To increase access to vegetables for the students of Khongor, Mongolia, we established a greenhouse. We are happy to report that it is still alive and operational four years later.
A recently released song called Toonot aims to bring together Mongol hip hop artists to sing a pan-Mongol song . We thought that this would be a great opportunity to talk about Pan-Mongolism and what it means in relation to this song. The song says “Mongol” over 30 times and has male and female hip… Continue reading Pan-Mongolism: What is it and Why do We Need it?
Recently, I was speaking with a friend about wanting to be called Mongol (versus Mongolian), but how when I say it in English, it sounds… wrong. She quickly reminded me of an episode of 30 Rock, where Jack Donaghy, played by Alec Baldwin, and Elisa Pedriera, played by Salma Hayek, have a similar conundrum: Jack… Continue reading Call Me Mongol
Four years ago, my nephew and niece, at the time aged ten and six respectively, saw Disney’s animated film Mulan. They gleefully watched a story featuring a red fast-talking sidekick dragon, the brave young Mulan, and the yellow-eyed evil Huns. The movie’s catchy songs were sung around the house calling everyone to “let’s get down to business, to defeat the Huns!”