Mongolia— characters and setting
I have a lot of stories about Mongolia and my short trips afterward to Beijing and Ko Samui, so I will have to break it up into several posts after the next few days.
Rather than a day-by-day story, I guess I’ll start with a description of our site and the people I met there as well as a short blurb on what we were up to.
First of all, I was one of eight volunteers who met in Ulaan Baatar (UB) and were trucked out to site where the excavation had been going on for a few weeks. We were the second phase of volunteers to come through and work with a team of Mongolian and American archaeologists as well as Mongolian students of archaeology. Our volunteer group had a wide range of ages and backgrounds which made for an interesting trip from the get-go.
I arrived in UB (more about the city later) three days early and stayed in the dig apartment while the others trickled in from their flights (and one train). Those of us who had the energy did some sightseeing and sampled our first Mongolian dishes (beer too)!
We were told to be ready to go by 7am the day we had to go to site, but of course, we didn’t really take off until almost 10 (this is Asian time– you get used to it). We embarked in an old Russian jeep and van with drivers Bada and Hashbat for a 6+ hour drive to Baga Gazaryn Chuulu, an area of small rocky outcrops and mountains in the Gobi (map above). No sleeping or reading on this trip though, the roads outside UB are unpaved– just tracks that are used until they are too rutted and then new tracks are made.
We made it to camp just before sunset and had to hurry to set up our tents before it got dark– an exciting start.
The camp has three large main tents– the kitchen, laboratory, and supply tent– a latrine, a hand washing station, and some chairs and tables. We had to bring our own tents, gear, and water pumps as the water came from a well near the site.
The whole area was rather picturesque especially during sunset when the sun caught the rocks just right.
We woke up at 7 for breakfast and tried to be in the vans by 8 to go to our sites (several were being worked on at one time). We’d come back from 1-3 for lunch and rest and then go out again until 7. It got dark by 9:30-10 so that left a little time for dinner and volleyball or soccer before turning in.
The best thing about this whole trip was working with the Mongolian crew. We would never had been able to get to know local people on any tour in such a way, working and playing together everyday. They were friendly and kind and always tried to help us out as we were adapting to the weather, food, workload, and language and cultural difficulties. They were also just a lot of fun! Always joking around and turning everything into a game or contest. I miss them terribly!
Dinner in UB. This isn’t everyone but the core of the people I really connected with. Left to right (with some haziness on spellings) Jargal, Zola, Jagaa, Eugene, Ryan, Amelia, Boldoo, Dukka, Saadia, Daugua, Alyson, Emma, Galdan, Patricia, Dalai, Me, Hatnaa. This was a fantastic night!