Mongolia -Ishee’s Home
One of the most special nights while we were out in the field is when we were invited for dinner at Ishee’s home.
Ishee was one of the few archaeology students who grew up in the countryside and he always seemed to outdo the other guys in all of the “manly” tasks I mentioned before, from horse riding and wrestling, to rock throwing and goat killing. He was also one of the most friendly and welcoming of the crew.
His family’s ger camp was just over an hour’s drive away so we got to stop work early one Friday and head over for a day of fun and feasting.
I’m really glad we got to see what ger life was like. They had two gers and set up an extra tent for us to chill out in for the evening. Ishee’s parents were there as well as his older brother and his brothers wife and young son. I’m not totally sure, but I think they all lived there. It is also common for people to live part time in the city and go into the country for extended periods to help out with livestock etc. Another family had their ger set up in the valley not too far away, which is typical for security.
If you don’t know much about Mongolia, you may not have known that even today, many Mongolians are nomads. Their gers can be taken apart and loaded on carts within a few hours so that they can find better pastures for their livestock (almost exclusively goats, sheep, and horses, and sometimes camels). They are not constantly moving, usually only once or twice a year (summer and winter pastures), and they go back to the same spots often. Ishee’s family had a generator so they can watch TV and they have all the normal household goods you would think of, just more compact in some cases (like the stove) or organized more frugally (for instance, a lot of items were stuck inbetween the wooden slats and the felt covering). It was all very cozy although I wonder what it’s like in the winter— Mongolia’s temperatures can drop to -30!
We had the best meal that night— heaps of mutton that had been slow cooked over hot rocks. My mouth waters even now, thinking about it. The met is cut up and put into a large silver bowl which is then passed around. Pick out your favorite cut and eat with your hands (and a knife if you have one). Works for me!
After that of course, the vodka. Ishee’s father was in charge of pouring while Ishee passed out the cups. Everyone had more than their fair share. The rest of the night was spent socializing before heading out to the first of our ger camp parties.
It was lovely of his family to invite such a large group of clueless foreigners to their home, we all had a wonderful time!