"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Mongolia, A Report from the Field: The Time Machine, Part Three

We’re batting .500 as we pull up the educational ger site in Mongolia’s 13th Century complex.   The guards at the guard site were AWOL and the nomads at the herder’s site had gone off as nomads tend to do.  We left the craftsman’s site with a small hand-carved falcon head on horn, tied with a leather thong.

Now, at the educational site, a woman and her son greet up as we park and walk up the path.  She shows us inside the ger where numerous artifacts are on display.   Among them are her calligraphic rendition of The Secret History of the Mongols, a blend of historical and fictional accounts in poetry and narrative.   The history is thought to have been written a few years after Chinngis Khan’s death in 1227.

It is a most unusual piece of writing as it is probably the only piece of literature created by a nomadic people.   Known for many years as Uighurjin Mongol script, it is now called Old Mongol.   The Mongols began using the Russian Cyrillic alphabet during the Soviet era of the 20th century.   Since then,  the literacy rate has soared.

Snow leopard pelt.

Ankle bones, a fortune-telling game.

This time I kept the bag of lemon lozenges in my pocket and pulled out 3 for the boy.

She asks me to print my name on a scrap of paper, then renders it in graceful, flowing old script.

So glad we use the Latin alphabet.


From there, we drive to the Shaman site.   Several gers contain artifacts used in different types of shaman ceremonies.

These sharpened poles will keep out the devil.

This sacred tree is how the Shamans communicate with the spirits, even though it was killed by lightning.   Must have been a fiery message.

Three of the ceremonial gers.

Proper etiquette in exiting a shaman ger is to do it backwards so as not to offend the spirits by turning your back on them.

(Photos of the insides of the gers follow this post.) 

A final ger is off limits to women and foreigners. 

It’s lunch time when we leave the Shaman, so we drive to the King’s Palace, a large collection of ger’s.  The main ger is set up to entertain a large group expected later, and the attendants have just fired up the heat.   They suggest we dine in another ger, smaller and warmer.

The shaman complex from above.

First, though, Yusef attempts to help me don traditional garments of Mongolian royalty.   A Mongol woman finally comes to his rescue and gets me properly outfitted.


Then, lunch is served.

 The woman adds dried dung to the fire and leaves the ger.   Soon she returns with other women bearing trays of food.   I wonder is she washed her hands, and am reminded of a story that a friend told me when he and his wife visited Nepal many years ago.

They hired a guide for a long trek.   When meal time came, the guide picked up some dung, molded it into a round shape, amd slapped it on a surface to dry.   Eventually, he prepared their meal--never washing his hands first.   My friend said he doesn't think his wife ate anything during that trip.s

Milk tea

Aagii, the driver, and a large bowl of soup.

Waiting for me outside the King's Palace is a sorry-looking, two-hump bactrian camel.   One hump is flopped over to the side, indicating that is has been using its supply of fat stored in the hump and is in need of replenishing.

Trying and failing to hold up the camel's hump.

Remembering the bumpy road ahead, I request a bathroom stop.   I'm shown the outhouse where I take care of business and.....

...carefully lock the door behind me.

We leave the 13th Century company through the unmanned gate and return to the Chinngis Khan statue.

While I'm out photographing the main gate, the "airplane ride" Yusef had mentioned casually this morning appears in the sky above the statue.

OMG!!!   It's an open cockpit gyrocopter and I am crushed that I didn't do this.  It's now too late in the day and I don't have the cash anyway.

I would SOOOO have done this!

As we approach our gers, a man informs us we must move to different gers because ours has a frozen plumbing line.   I though I’d recognized the symptoms of a water line freezing (flow, trickle, slow trickle, barely a trickle, nothing) when I tried to take a shower that morning!


Nonetheless, the new gers are very warm and comfortable and, for the time being, have running water.

This large bowl of beef broth with Mongolian dumplings makes a nice dinner, but....

...but I want Yusef's eggs and chow mein style noodles and veggies.

 Off to bed.   Tomorrow is a BIG day!

Following photos were taken inside the Shaman's gers.

Photos taken in this ger show relics that closely resemble those of the American Indian Shamans.


  1. Will you frame and hang your name written by the woman in old script? You look regal in the royalty attire. The headpiece couldn't have been easy to wear for any length of time.

    Live and learn. You did that with the lemon lozenges, avoiding another tantrum. :)

    Mongolians love color, very bright colors; that's obvious.

    I enjoyed this intimate glimpse into life way back in history.

  2. Very nice Jeanne. It is interesting how they have kept living their ancient culture while adopting a few of our modern conveniences. Great pictures.

  3. Even though I was there myself, about three days or so after you had been, this post gave me a more thorough "education" than I got on my own! My humble thanks!! Patti

  4. What a stunning and absolutely amazing post this one is. I loved the magical flying machine down towards the bottom of the post. I asked Patti and neither of us would have flown in it. Great that you got outfitted in the ceremonial outfit and great photos of you. It seems like we were just there. Interesting about the fat in the camel's hump and the one hump being depleted. Cap and Patti ..