I have to confess – life in a Ger is not for me.
Let’s try to find the positives: you get to live with the indigenous people. Certainly the family in the first Ger were nothing short of inspirational. The family in this (2nd) Ger are different – and do not rate in the ‘positives’. Then there is the locality – there is the outlook across the wide Mongolian plains, At this time of the year they are just recovering from winter’s icy blasting. Grass is short brown and shriveled – if it exists at all. This terrain may look beautiful under snow, or when the grass is shooting up in all it’s greenery. Right now the outlook is bleak, barren and lifeless. Not really a positive.
What about the amenities? Well in the first Ger, from your enforced crouch position in the ‘dunny’ you could see a glimpse of the rolling hills in the distance. There is no enforced squat in this dunny – it is just an open shed-like extension off the end of the decrepit wooden building the owners call home. The view is unobstructed as the dunny is doorless – an open vista spreads before you. The malodorous gathering heap beneath your teetering tail does not bear inspection – but you have to check in case some beast is lurking down there to drag you in. No, sorry – not a positive. Ahh but I was too hasty in my judgment. We have since discovered two very civilised sit-down dunnies in a very tidy shed – complete with lights . So that was a positive.
What about a shower to freshen up? H’m well of course you don’t find piped water in a Ger and in this one there is no hint of a jar of water in sight. One hopes there will be a basin in the adjoining house.
We have just dragged out all the squabs and duvets and beaten the daylights out of them to remove as much of the Gobi as we can, and we do have ‘beds’ to sleep on. So we should get some sleep. This Ger is obviously built a lot lighter than our previous one: a Susuki vs a Volvo. You can tell by the way this one shakes rattles and rolls in the wind, that this one does not have the layers of felt cocooning you from the elements raging outside. Our hostess told us that tomorrow they are taking one of the two gers down. From the look of things as I write, maybe the one we are in may beat them to it!
Our hostess is a German lady who has apparently lived here for the past 9 years. She has a Mongolian husband and (I think) 2 children. She is something of an oddity, as I guess you would expect. Living in a Ger with a Mongolian husband is not the norm for the average Fraulein. She is what we would call a ‘hard case’ having a brusque but friendly-enough disposition; a colourful vocabulary and a liking for a cigarette in her mouth most of the time, The husband keeps out of sight. Not being able to communicate may be rather restrictive. Sabina is clearly using this system of housing guests to supplement her income. The food Rach bought yesterday for our dinner has mysteriously shrunk to half size. the lollies she bought seem to have disappeared!
She drives a car as a ‘taxi’ to supplement her income when necessary. The Taxi service in this city is a little obscure. When someone tells you to get a taxi they mean get out on the street and just eyeball the drivers. The ones available are looking out for you and will pull over. Meters? You’ve got to be joking. Sabina’s ‘car’ has to be seen to be believed. We have all had a ride in it so we know what we are talking about. It used to be some sort of Hyundai but has long ago passed its prime. Missing door handles, (which mean only the driver can actually get out of the car un-aided)missing window winders, rear view mirror and anything else that could fall off. The brakes and clutch work with vicious, snatching efficiency. The shock-absorbers gave up the struggle with the pot-holed roads long ago and so the ride is bone-jarring every inch of the way! Every jolt is accompanied by crashing sounds from the remains of the boot. Later inspection reveals that the wrap-around rear bumper assembly is hanging on the rest of the car by the skin of its teeth, flapping and clashing with every new jolt, and useless shock-absorbers rattle their bones in a frenzy of frustration. The steering linkage would appear to have lost all bearings and bushes as the steering wheel is wildly swung this way and that, taking up the slack to avoid pot-holes or even to maintain a straight course. A drive in this car is not for the faint-hearted – but we have survived.
Dinner has been had, and I have to report that camel-meat tastes pretty good. Blended with a delicious vegetable stew it went down very well. My thanks to J14, Rach and hostess, who seemed to be preparing it in shifts. Kyle did the washing up squatting on the floor of the kitchen in the house, and before I forget I should pass comment on the ‘welcoming’ nature of our hostess. Having abandoned the cooking process she lit up a fag and settled down to play solitaire on her battered old computer. Solitaire is usually a quiet game but this lady evidently finds loud Mongolian music helps sharpen her acuity. So with music blaring, cigarette puffing away and with back firmly to our guests, she left us to it. Not that we were looking to be entertained at all, but it was a bit strange being in the same room and being treated as if we were not there!
Now we are all settling down to get to bed. It;s a bit off a squeeze as we have 6 cots to sleep 11 of us. Mum Dad and some kids will be ‘sardined ‘ onto 2 beds stacked together and others top and tail. Being an old fogy I have been granted the luxury of a cot to myself. The cots are hard planks. the padded coverings are thin so it looks like being a not too deep sleep tonight!
To add to interest, we had a bit of a sandstorm this afternoon. We have been getting accustomed to clear blue skies for weeks on end and it was something of a surprise to see the skies darken. Then the wind got up and rapidly developed into a mini-gale’ With the wind came the sand. This quickly blotted out all the surrounding scenery and all but the closest objects – filling the eyes,ears and nose very quickly. The elements were endured long enough to take a few hasty pics
and then I retreated to the safety of the ger. Fortunately the storm was over quite quickly, but of course the dust remains. The dust is in every thing: your nose, eyes, ears and hair, not to mention your clothing, the floor you walk on, the stool you sit on, the table you eat from and the plates you eat off. Our Hostess and family had long stopped fighting the elements and wore grimy clothes with hands and faces to match. There was no evidence of any discomfort with this situation, which I found disconcerting.
On the plus side, we did get to witness the taking-apart of a Ger – something nomadic Mongolians did on a regular basis as they shifted their herds of goats and yaks to new pastures. The process was surprisingly speedy and relatively simple, as the accompanying photo-essay will reveal.
What the pics do not reveal is the clouds of dust which accompanied every new layer peeled off the unit! It took something like 3 hrs to pull the whole thing apart, and apparently it should go back up almost as quickly. Not bad for a finished, livable house.
Our next move is to a Ranch, where we shall be living in a couple of gers for a week. At this stage I am fervently hoping that things will be better than this last!Tags: Digs, Observations, People, Weather, Tag Index