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.
Every culture treasures mothers, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Mongolians love their mothers more. Yet, throughout Mongolian history and into today, moms have to put up with a lot more ~shtuff~. In this post, we explore what it means to be a mom, and by short extension, what is means to be a woman in Mongolian society.
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!”
Two articles ago, I wrote about China’s New Normal. If you haven’t read it, please refer to it now since it explains the background for this post. A quick review: China is transitioning from a cheap-labor manufacturing economic base to a service-oriented consumer economy. If done right, China will finally take its place as a… Continue reading Mongolia in the Shadow of China’s New Normal: Why I’m Still Optimistic