Living with a Mongolian herder family

I was lucky enough to find a good friend on Couchsurfing who offered me to stay at one of his relative’s yurt (or ger in Mongolian, a traditional Mongolian tent) about a 100 miles from the town of Baganuur – which is about four hours drive from Ulaanbataar in total.
My friend’s relatives were a traditional Mongolian herder family, they owned two yurts, one which they lived in and the other one which served as a kitchen and storage space.
The family owned around 800 sheeps, 100 cows, and 50 horses which all roamed freely in the surrounding grasslands.
The head of the family, Nyamdala, close to sixty, was an experienced, short-spoken herdsman who spent his whole life as a traditional Mongolian nomad, taking care and living off from his animals.
This summer they stayed in a lush green valley – as lush as the Mongolian steppe can be – close to a river.
Not far from Nyamdala’s tent was another ger, home to a less wealthy herder family employed by Nyamdala who helped him take care of his numerous animals in the summer – this family didn’t own any animals, they just worked for him.

There was plenty of work for everyone, keeping the members of the camp busy all day long.
Nyamdala’s wife was a hard working and strong women, she had a tight daily routine. She spent long hours in the “kitchen”, making cheese, yoghurt, or noodles, and cooking meals for the family, milking the cows, or looking after the kids.
Nyamdala’s son and daughter have already moved to the town Baganuur, but they spent most of their free time in their father’s camp. They were both married and had children, who spent their whole summer holiday in the Mongolian countryside with their grandfather as well.
Nyamdala’s sister and her family, and his parents were also regular visitors.
Usually all the grown up members of the family were working on something, even the ones who otherwise had a job in town.
This was a sort of relaxation for them to return to their traditional lifestyle.
Urbanization as such, is a new phenomena in Mongolian society, as almost 90 percent of the people above the age of fifty grew up in traditional nomadic ger camps.
I asked the younger members of the family if they prefer the traditional nomadic lifestyle over the city life , and their response was that they would generally prefer the countryside, but that it is really hard in the winter. But they couldn’t imagine their life without the summers in the Mongolian steppes.

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