Ever wonder about how a family or small community can survive out in the wilderness, hours away from the quick-fix amenities, shops and company that we take for granted.
During my time in theWestern Mongolia last year Sept 2017, our group of Photographershad the opportunity to visit a local Eagle Hunter family. It wasn’t a tourist trap set-up with the family taking money from passing visitors on a regular basis, but a lucky opportunity set up by one of our Mongolian guides who asked the family if our group could visit in order to learn more about Mongolian life.
The Mongolian yurt, or ger as it is known in Mongolia itself, has been used for thousands of years by the nomads of Central Asia and is still a common sight in many countries in the region.
Yurts (gers) are designed to be easy to take apart, transport, and reconstruct. Despite this portability, they are warm enough (for Mongolian locals who are already used to the weather) to keep the coldest winter temperatures at bay and strong enough to withstand strong winds and the demands of a whole family.
Photos below shows what our Ger/yurt accomodation looks like. I shared the Ger with a lovely couple Bill and Marty. The Mongolian traditional yurt or ger is covered with skins or felt and the structure comprises an angled assembly or latticework of pieces of wood. The circular frame wall are covered with several layers of felt or sheep wool, including a small portion ofthe grassy floor. In the center of the roofing is a small opening for the smoke to come out from that small fireplace in the middle of the ger. As there were no electricity, that small fireplace is their only source to keep warm. Mongolian Nomads spend a lot of their times during the day picking up dung or dried animal stools as they used that as material they burn on that fireplace. There were no smell from that dung. Luckily enough, every an hour or two during the night, the one of the Mongolian family go inside our ger and burn that dung to keep as warm while we are sleeping.
Inside the ger, we have to sleep on a single inflatable foam mattress bed. I bought with me a wool blanket and a thermal silvery foil blanket or they called it space blanket. It’s low weight blanket made of heat-reflective thin plastic sheeting. They are used on the exterior surfaces of spacecraft for thermal control as well as by people. Their design reduces the heat loss in a person’s body which would otherwise occur due to thermal radiation, water evaporation, or convection. I find this very helpful, it kept me warm, but despite all those burning of fireplace, the very cold wintery night, it absorbs cool air and turn it to water, so on waking up, I find my space blanket with lots of water on the surface.
Other than electricity, living in the middle of Mongolian dessert, water for Nomads is also a very precious commodity.
So what do we, in the developed world, take for granted? It seems as if there is so much. We have so many modern amenities that we took it for granted. Well, it is time to reconsider what we understand about the resources we depend on for survival and be thankful for it.
“We often take for granted the very things that most deserve our gratitude”. Cynthia Ozick