I can’t tell you the name of the soum (village) where we’re staying during training. But I wonder if I should refer to it as “Deadwood.”

Our soum is booming. Since we’ve arrived, the village has received several new amenities, including:

  • A playground with Victorian-style streetlights
  • Work started on a paved cross-town road
  • Finishing touches to a new hotel
  • A brick lobby added to the local Khaan Bank branch
  • Medium-high speed internet in one schoolroom (or so the rumor goes)

Where do the tugriks for all those projects come from? I suspect it has something to do with the gold mines over the nearby hills. When night falls, the mine’s machines sounds like the yawns of some giant monster.

Perhaps the mining companies want to please the local government with public works. I aksed our Mongolian training manager about the projects. She thinks the largesse may come from a mining magnate who plans to run for mayor next year.


Mongol Bichig is rich

July 5, 2007


Mongolian writing, first implemented by Chinggis Khaan. Cyrillic still holds sway, but Mongol Bichig came back into Style after the Soviets left.

Photo from fantasai.tripod.com.

To learn more, read Chris Kaplonski’s article.

I’ll try to add a photo of my own name, written in my host sister’s Mongolian script.

Mongolians like to give their boys strong, bold names like, uh, Bold. Bold means Steel. Dozens of boys are named Batbold (Sturdy-steel), Ganbayar (Happy-steel), Altansukh (Golden-axe), or Tumurbaatar (Iron-hero).

Girls’ names are lovely and lyrical. For example:
Bolortuya (Crystal Ray), Erdenechimeg (Treasured-ornament), Oyuun (Intellect), Urantogs (Skillful perfection).

Ashley is not the best name to have in Mongolian. It sounds like “person with a bad reputation.” Meanwhile, Mike means “wife-beater-style t-shirt.”

Happily enough, Saraa is already a Mongolian name, meaning Moon. It can be short for Sarantuya, or Moonbeam. I like it especially because Moonbeam is my American family’s nickname for me.

Mongolian cuisine consists of just four dishes, say the guidebooks.

What the guidebooks don’t explain is that, luckily enough, these dishes are all tasty. The best and most fun to make is “Banshtai Tsai,” or Tortellini Tea. My five host sisters and I love it.
Here’s what you do.

  • Roll dough into perfect circles with a tiny rolling pin.
  • Fill dough with garlicky oniony raw beef. Pinch into miniature ruffled meat-doughnuts. These are your bansh. They taste a lot like tortellini.
  • Take fresh milk from the cows. Boil the milk together with lots of green tea. Add the old tea shavings to the pot, along with generous amounts of oil, flour, and rice.
  • Take about 40 bansh and plop them in the tea soup.
  • Boil to taste.

If you’re lucky, you’ll have some dough left over. Knead the dough and twist it back and forth. Slather it with sugar and butter, and more butter, and then deep-fry it; you will have Gambir pancakes… mmmm….


July 4, 2007

Have lived in Mongolia for the last month. Too much to tell, but a few thoughts may trickle in from my tired brain. : )