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The Cradle of My Mongolian Civilization

December 14, 2010

Solitude = having no one at home to whom you can say, I’ll be back at a specific time, or whom you can call to say (or to whom you can just say), Voilá, I’m home now.

-Roland Barthes

How true and simple a sentiment, and something that begins to weigh a little heavy in a ger. It’s December in Mongolia, boy is it ever December, with the weather brashly forcing it’s way through even that extra layer of felt around my little circle of Mongolian real-estate.

In search of that rooted feeling, I made it back to my training site for a night during my two-week UB trip. I went primarily to visit my host-family and sit in the familiar backdrop of my host-mother’s kitchen, it being a comfort just to watch her cook up some buuz and milk tea while balancing my little host-brother on her hip.

I struggled under the yoke of questions about when I would be home for dinner or lunch this summer, but I’ll admit now that the independence granted by living alone in Mongolia is, at times, onerous. I think I understand why people have lived here in multi-generational units for centuries. The steppe is not a place to assert your independence—it’s a place to pay respect to those family members who kept you alive when you were young, just as I was something of a youngster and quite helpless here in Mongolia this summer (at least in the practical sense). So I suppose I also went back to pay my respects.

Walking around town, it was great to see some of my students from the summer and also both of my Mongolian language teachers who are both teachers at the secondary school in town during the winter. Even walking around the school brought back so many memories of all of us working together and the spectacularly busy (but fun) time that is Pre-Service Training. We sort of interrupted a teacher’s meeting in progress on the evening of our arrival, but my host-mother is the school manager, so she was quick to put the whole thing on hold to rush out and give me a hug—after which her first question was of course, “What time you come my home for dinner?” Her English is improving remarkably! I was most impressed, and of course comforted by the simple act of her asking.

I hitchhiked my way back to UB the next morning but was certainly sad to leave the home of my first experiences in Mongolian culture. I hope to visit again this summer.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Molly permalink
    December 14, 2010 11:57 am

    Should I be worried that you’ve started quoting Roland Barthes? I think I should be worried. He’s a little creepy, Rob.

    Let’s talk soon!

    Stay safe and stay warm,

  2. Erin Kaufmann permalink
    December 16, 2010 1:18 am

    i Rob, this is Uncle Dick…. Just wanted to let you know that we will miss you at XMAS. Take care…. and Merry Christmas

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