Ed Tan and Family Witness Nomadic Life in Mongolia
Ed Tan (Saybrook) reports:
“I have always been fascinated by the wide open steppes of Mongolia stretching across central Asia and eastern Europe that allowed Genghis Khan to conquer much of Russia in the early 13th century. By a quirk in history, this widespread territorial occupation, larger than that of the Roman Empire, integrated multiple cultures and religions under Mongol administration for over 100 years. Yet, for over 2,000 years most Mongolians have lived as nomads. Roaming the steppes of their ancestors, over half the population have been leading an existence based on herding horses, sheep and goats that seemed to resist the pressures of industrialization and urbanization. It’s a unique place to witness a rare form of continuing nomadic life.
“When an opportunity presented itself to take a family trip to visit Mongolia this past September, my daughter, Deandra (YC 2013) and I persuaded my wife to venture through this exotic land. We flew to the northern reaches of the country’s largest freshwater lake, Lake Hovsgol, then darted back south towards the Gobi desert and ended in central Mongolia to witness the Gun Galuut regional festival. In order to visit this vast country inhabited by under three million people, it was necessary to stay in round Mongolian ‘tents’ called gers, which were typically heated by wooden stoves placed at the center, or in some case, electric heaters beneath the wood and canvas floors.
“What we encountered was a land steeped in ancient traditions consisting of an amalgamation of 20 different ethnic groups living under extremes of temperatures ranging from 30 to 75 degrees F in September. Even harsher temperatures prevail in the winter and summer seasons. Mongolia’s recent history of occupation by the Manchu Chinese and Soviet Russian expansionists after WWII has been as brutal as its own 13th century invasion of lands to its south and west. Yet, this nomadic existence has somehow persisted, until now.
“The latest threat to this nomadic way of life appears to be the force of climatic change which in recent winters has all but wiped out the livestock of traditional herders who depend on their animals as a source of food, milk and wealth (see The New York Times article “It’s Not Genghis Khan’s Mongolia” of September 23, 2014, page D7: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/23/science/its-not-genghis-khans-mongolia.html?_r=0). For anyone interested in seeing how this nomadic lifestyle has managed to survive despite the odds brought about by modernization and climate change, I would highly recommend a visit to this land-locked country. Sandwiched between China and Russia, Mongolia is a place friendly towards the U.S. “