Imagine a wet misty meadow rolling into vast plains with soft rounded green mountains in the background. There are very few roads in Mongolia and we crossed the great steppe by 4×4 at best on tracks otherwise on virgin pasture. We came across a lone ger in the distance and drove towards it, at first the inhabitants think we must be government officials come to register their vote for the up and coming elections. Grandmother pictured above was wearing a long dress with a thick dressing gown. Daughter, 3 grandsons 6-16 and 1 granddaughter aged 10 come out to meet us. Could we pay them a visit? We are immediately invited into the family ger – there are two beds, men on the left women on the right. A small central table with a large bowl of mares milk fermenting underneath, painted chests for clothes at the side, a small Buddhist shrine and a solar powered TV.
We are offered the mares milk which is like slightly fizzy milk that has just gone sour flavoured with essence of horse wee (traditionally 3 bowls are consumed by each person – we break with tradition), mares yoghurt – surprisingly good, and rock hard dried cured which tasted similar to the mares milk.
We asked if we could take grandmothers picture but she was far too shy and refused. Games and picture making with the children diverted us from the consumption of yet further mares milk.
Photos are taken of the children standing to attention and looking very serious. We go to leave but grandmother says ‘wait’ she dives back into the ger and reappears a few minutes later in her best ‘dirl’ and hat – she is now ready for the photo, she tries to look serious but it is not long before that expressive face cracks and she is all smiles. As we leave we all get hugs and kisses, some how I think we will be the ‘news’ item for the coming week. I will certainly remember this family for a long time.