Archive for April, 2010

Correction to previous post re dzud

Apologies, the link at at the end of my previous post to the World Bank info on the Mongolian dzud and other problems Mongolia faces has now been repaired on that post…and it is also given here below.


April 11, 2010 at 4:35 am Leave a comment

A little first-hand story about the dzud….

Judy and a little friend

Recently, I gave some money to the World Vision office here to buy some food for a herder family out in the countryside (hoodoo). They had lost many animals and deep snow had made it difficult to reach them. A few sunny days here and there and a little melting had begun. So we decided to try it. I went along with the local director of World Vision (Tuul)

Tuul from World Vision and the baby goat

and two of her staff (Gaana and Moogie) to deliver the food. Muron is in a broad valley between two mountain ranges. We followed what they call a road here back into the mountains and, as it climbed, it began to snow, first lightly then heavier and heavier. Along the way we saw signs of the dzud—dead animals alongside the road, either starved or frozen. Gers are few and far between. At one point we saw a group of men on the far side of the road and one of them waved us down. Their motorcycle had broken down and so we took one of the men with us towards his home. The road got steeper and steeper and snowier and snowier and we finally got almost to the top—but, alas, there we got stuck in deep snow. Just over the top, there were a couple of wooden buildings and some men appeared to help push, but to no avail. We tried and tried but we just spun deeper. At this point, it was late in the day and the men said that getting to the family we wanted to visit would be very difficult. So we decided to go back. We finally were able to back down and turn around and headed back towards town.

Little kids (goats) in a box

Along the way, we stopped at a ger. The family was looking after a number of children whose parents were elsewhere in addition to their own so we decided to give our food to them. Inside the ger there was a box near the stove and when we peeked in, there were four baby goats.

Kids sound asleep

They would never have survived outside. From there we returned to town without mishap and will try anther day. I’ve written about the dzud in the last couple of posts but if you’d like to learn more, there is (to me) a fascinating discussion on the World Bank site (link sent by a friend in the State). Shows how interrelated all the problems in Mongolia are and the challenge of finding the right solutions. There also is a video/slideshow that shows conditions similar to the one I encountered on this trip. Click on link below.

April 9, 2010 at 7:05 am Leave a comment

Dzud update and life goes on

In my last blog post, I told you about the Mongolia’s  dzud. Here’s the latest update:  According to the statistics of the Food, Agriculture and Light Industry Ministry, 5.067.395 — cows, sheep, goats, yaks, horses and camels — have died so far, with 60 percent of the country still buried under deep snow. The last major dzud occurred over three straight winters from 2000 to 2002, with about 2.5 million animals dying each year. This year’s dzud has been even more deadly, and so more animals could die before summer. Herders with 200 animals or less have been hardest hit. Inexperienced and ill-prepared for the harsh winter conditions, many have lost 50 to 60 percent of their livestock. Some 20,000 herders have joined in the carcass removal program. The Labor Ministry has so far distributed MNT241.6 million as payment to them. The beginning of warm weather means the carcasses in the countryside would decompose and may trigger infectious diseases. The work is expected to be over by May 15.

Two little boys in their deels

Meanwhile, life goes on here. Despite the cold and the impact of the dzud, January through March include many holidays.

Jamscren (my boss's father) and me at Tsagaan Car

After New Year’s, there’s Tsagaan Car to prepare for—the lunar new year celebration that stretches far beyond its official three days in both directions.  First, there is the preparation of buuz, the steamed meat dumpling that is the centerpiece  of  every gathering (even I made buuz),

Buuz in the steamer

Buuz in the steamer

and then there is the holiday itself when everyone visits everyone else, dressed to the nines in their deels and boots and hats.  Gifts are exchanged and the holiday continues until everyone has been visited, greeted in a special way, and eaten as many buuz as possible, along with many rounds of vodka.

Government Tsagaan Car celebrators plus me

Shortly after Tsagaan Car, Khovsgol celebrates its annual Ice Festival at Khovsgol Lake north of here.  Last year I said once was enough—it is soooo cold. But I gave in to an invitation to go with a friend since we were invited by a woman whose in-laws own a ger camp right on the lake a short ways from the actual festival.  It was fun to see the ice sculptures and go for a ride on the little sleds pulled by horses and watch the tug of wars on the slippery ice.

Ice sculture at the Ice Festival

Ice sculpture at the Ice Festival

Last year I shook hands with Mongolia’s president and his wife.  This year there was a newly elected one but he didn’t come. However, my friend and I were interviewed by a crew from a major Mongolian TV station and ended up on national TV.  I heard from friends in UB that they had seen it and many of my friends here in Muron also saw it though I never did.  People I didn’t even know recognized me on the street and shook my hand!

Then there was International Women’s Day.  It’s a holiday here. Men wish us a happy holiday and  men are supposed to do something nice for their wives that day.

Little girl in her deel at Women's Day concert

Little girl in her deel at Women's Day concert

I celebrated by attending a concert with friends at the theater where a number of women received medals for something or other and there was entertainment with traditional music and dancing.  Before the entertainment began, the governor of our aimag (like our states) came in with a small entourage and sat in our row in seats reserved for them.  Before he sat down he shook hands with those of us around him, so we felt officially wished a happy holiday.

And there was Old Men’s Day.  It’s more of a day for old soldiers i think and was relatively quiet.  And then there’s Teachers’ Day and on and on.  Meanwhile, the temperature is beginning to moderate a bit, beginning to come up above zero F. Hooray!

April 3, 2010 at 4:41 pm Leave a comment

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