Letter to dear Nominzaya
Hello, Nominzaya! How are you? I want to remind you of our memories in Mongolia.
Four groups including 24 students, two professors, and an assistant arrived in Mongolia through a program hosted by the Department of International Relations at The University of Seoul. We met Odka, who would help us, and left for Amarbayasgalan. As soon as we got out of the city, there stretched out endless grasslands and I felt much relieved. Where we first got out of the bus to do our needs was like a conventional toilet in Korea. Next, we stopped at a wild plain. I was embarrassed about what to do at first, seeing that Odka had relieved herself near a bush. Since there was a wide-open view in front, I felt ashamed. So, we concealed each other by using a blanket to solve that problem.
Jagar blowing out candles on the cake that we made
Our group went to the Davaasuren and there were Mr. and Ms. Davaasuren, Jagar, Khookhondoi and you. Upon arriving Davaasuren gave us a bowl full of Airag which is made of horse milk. We unpacked in Ger and played with your friends while taking pictures. You named us Odnoo(Star), Naraa(Sun), Saraa(Moon), and Tsetsgee(Flower). It was hot in the daytime but very cold at night despite our sleeping bags.
The next morning we woke up to the sound of screaming sheep. Mr. Davaasuren kept sheep drugged outside. You and Jagar were grabbing the sheep legs, and we also snatched the legs of cattle and took them to Mr. Davaasuren. I was surprised that the cattle were strong. Although you were such a little girl, you did the work much more easily than us. And then, you, the experienced instructor, gave us a demonstration of cleaning dung. It was difficult to clean because it stuck to the ground, but you did a good job!
In the evening, Mr. Davaasuren came to our Ger bringing a bottle of vodka given by the professors. He poured us drinks till the bottle was empty. We served baked ham and talked with Jagar and Khookhondoi. Khookhondoi helped us onto a horse, and it was bigger than I thought. The sky seemed to spin because of the alcohol. As it turned out, Mongolians have a custom that they think serving alcohol to a visitor until he/she gets drunk is a virtue.
A few days later, it would be Jagar’s birthday, so we had his birthday party. We made the only cake in the world with Choco Pies and peanuts and presented him with two T-shirts. On one of them, we wrote our Mongolian names. He liked them very much and smiled beautifully. When we got out of the Ger, the stars were twinkling in the sky like sand scattered on black paper and we could see the Milky Way. The sky looked pretty like Jagar’s smile.
Posing in front of Urts, a tent where the Tsaatan lives
The excrement from the cattle had been cleared when we woke up in the morning. You called “Tsetsgee, Saraa” when we had a rest in Ger. You were washing your younger brother’s soiled pants and we helped you. How nice you are! On this day, there was horse racing to select the people who would participate in the Naadam festival. It consists of wrestling, horse racing and archery. We walked about an hour to watch the preliminary horse racing and talked to each other while sitting in a circle.
The participants in the game were almost all seven or eight-year-old children. They did not seem like children because they were skillful players. Next, we treated ourselves to strip and wash in a stream. I squeaked because the water was cold and the horses looked at me in a very strange way. After taking a shower, we went to eat Khorhog for dinner, a traditional Mongolian food, which is sheep or goat meat that is cooked by using hot stones. We felt sorry that Jagar, Khookhondoi, and you could not go together.
Khorhog was delicious like grilled pork ribs. While returning, we cried because the next day was our last day with the Davaasuren. Mr. Davaasuren felt the same way, so he invited us, speaking in Korean, “Let’s drink a little bit of Mongolian Soju.” We happily took a late-night snack together and went to bed.
The next day, we prepared to leave and gave you some hair bands. I was pleased that you liked them very much even though they were not new. We tied your hair in many ways and took a lot of pictures. Our languages are different but I felt it did not matter because we could communicate through our hearts. After arriving at the head office, we prepared dinner to treat Mr. and Ms. Davaasuren. We could not wait until they came, so we were very pleased that they did come! We got Tteokbokki and Kimchi pancakes from other groups and made Sujebi. We packed and gave the couple leftovers wanting you to also eat the food. I watched their retreating figures for a while. Despite being together for only a brief time, it was long enough for us to know each other.
The next day, we left for Khuvsgul which is a lake that is large enough to cover Jeju Island in Korea. We finally arrived at our destination after 26 hours and the twinkling lake greeted us. There were some yaks and many trees around Khuvsgul, unlike other areas in Mongolia. We went to the place where the Tsaatan, minorities in Mongolia, lived. They were nomads and originally lived freely in a tent called ‘Urts’ with reindeer in the woods. However, the Mongolian government prohibits hunting. Therefore, their lives became difficult so they came out of the woods to earn money from tourists. It seemed like a droopy reindeer which kept on and the life of the Tsaatan were similar.
The following day, pushing our way through a road consisting of mud, we made it to a little airport in Murun. The air plane was so small that I felt like it was a chartered plane for us. As we approached Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, the grassy plain and brilliant blue sky were becoming murky. To me, even though there were some inconvenient things, living in the countryside with nature was better than in the city.
I totally felt the beauty of nature and affection among the genuine people in Mongolia. The most precious experiences to me were the days we spent together. I miss you, Nominzaya! I will write you again.
At the start of fall, Sincerely your, Tsetsgee