Lindsay Myron
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Fermented Mare's Milk? Top Seven Things I Just Can't Get Used To

September 26, 2009 @ 4:20 AM | Permalink

I’ve been in Mongolia for one month and a day.  Though I’m a third of the way through my stay here and adjusting to the Mongol lifestyle, there are still some things that I just can’t get used to.  And the top seven are:

1)      Ulaanbaatar public transportation:

As I noted in my first blog, my so far attempts at the UB bus system have been sub-par.  Perhaps I arrived to the city in the thick of road construction, but the constant rearrangement of bus routes has made it impossible for me to master PT here.  My fingers are always crossed when I hop on one of the crowded carriers.

2)      Airag:

Airag (pronounced airak) in Mongolian means beer, but it’s not your ordinary brewski.  Airag is fermented mare’s milk and Mongolians love it.  The pungent, milky beverage is enjoyed at most family gatherings or parties and though I’ve tried to keep up with them it hasn’t been easy for me.

3)      The cars:

Mongolian law may say to drive on the right side of the road, but that doesn’t mean the steering wheel has to be on the left.  Mongolia’s collection of motor vehicles is a hodge-podge of Hondas, Nissans, Hyundais and GMCs, but what surprised me most was the mixture of right and left sided driver’s seats.  I still do a double-take when I see a toddler riding left shotgun.

4)      Mongolian saddles:

Riding a horse in Mongolia is nothing like riding Western, especially when it comes to your seat.  Mongolian saddles are beautifully decorated with colorful leathers and silver ornaments, but their narrow wooden frame makes for a slightly uncomfortable canter.   

5)      Boiled blood:

For nomadic herder families when one of their animals is slaughtered, not a drop of blood goes to waste.  While most animals are painlessly bled, all of the blood is collected into a pot and later poured into the intestines to boil for lunch.  With a rich texture and flavor, I’ve had a hard time savoring the post-slaughter meal in its entirety.

6)      The weather:

Mongolians say you can experience all four seasons in a day and it’s true.  While the morning will be overcast, at noon there might be a light snow, in the evening bright sunshine and by nightfall intense winds.  I feel for the meteorologists here.  Whatever instinctual abilities I had in the States for dressing correctly in the morning didn’t follow me to Mongolia.  If I’m dressed light in the morning I’m cold by mid-afternoon and when I dress warm, I’m burning up.  Layers are bittersweet.

7)      Aaruul:

Aaruul is both a food staple and delight in the countryside, though equally enjoyed in the city.  These dried cheese curds are made by boiling fresh yogurt and drying the thickened concoction in blocks for several days in the sun until they becomes rock hard.  As they’re offered to every guest, I’ve tried to get into these slightly sour dairy bars, but they’re not my favorite Mongol treat thus far.


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Lindsay, Enjoyed the woven threads of humanity in the family lesson on telling time. Thanks for sharing. TIm

Tim Matthews on Nomads Give New Meaning to the Cuckoo Clock 2009-11-03

Ouch. Not a fun way to finish off the semester. Get well soon and safe travels; look forward to seeing you back on the hill next month!

Matthew Hintsa on I've Never Been More Afraid of Pigs 2009-12-06

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