Some friends sent me some questions regarding Mongolia, my answers are below.
1. What does it smell like, the air outside, during the day and at night? It smells dry. The Gobi Desert is one of the driest places on earth. It smells of dryness and dust at all times. During the few rainfalls, it smells muggy and stale. This does not take long to change, the sunshine is exceptionally bright here, and the moisture in the air soon disappears.
2. What noises do you hear at night? The desert is silent on most nights. In the past two weeks, the wind has been blowing all day, every day. At night when every thing else goes quiet, you can hear the strength of the wind. It’s crazy how strong the force of the wind hits my window; you’d think it’s going to break. I live in a one level resident block, so it’s not too bad but the guys that live in the gers have it much worse when it's windy. A Mongolian Ger is a wooden post structure covered by layers of fabric and sheep's wool felt for insulation and weatherproofing. The sheep’s wool will act as a barrier for the wind, so the Ger is a homely place to live but the sheep’s wool cannot insulate sound. The straps that lock down the fabric to the wooden structure can flap very loudly.
Remember if you are ever in Mongolia, it is a Ger; do not call it a Yurt. It does not insult the Mongolian people by calling it a Yurt, but it is not proper to refer to as so. The Ger has been used for thousands of years by the nomads of Central Asia and is still a common sight throughout Mongolia. They are designed to be easy to take apart, transport, and reconstruct; perfect for the Mongolian Herder. Despite this portability, they are warm enough to keep the coldest winter temperatures (-40C in winter) at bay and strong enough to withstand heavy winds.
The Mongolian Ger
3. Do you have different dreams when you are over there? Interesting question, I’m a constant daydreamer, but rarely do I remember my dreams. When I first got to Mongolia, I had several dreams about my love ones back home. They were not pleasant dreams. I dreamt that bad things were happening to them. These dreams were probably a result of me leaving home and worry about not being there for them. As I got use to my new home, these dreams stopped. Now that I think about it, I don’t remember a single dream I’ve had here, except for the ones involving my family.
4. Do you find the air quality there better or worse? Do you have more allergies, less allergies, more sickness or less? The air quality in Mongolia is, lets see, how do you say this politely, well there is no way, it’s horrible! Ulaanbaatar, the Capital of Mongolia, is the second most polluted city in the world. The city’s main power source is coal and the plants are right in the city, as you can see in the picture. The Gobi Desert’s air is a lot better then Ulaanbaatar but still horrible in comparison to home. The Gobi is extremely windy and it hardly ever rains, so there is nothing that can keep the dust down. The dirt in the Gobi is very fine and with the wind, you tend to breath in a lot of dust. It is so dusty here, that when I comb my hair at the end of the day, my hairbrush is covered in dirt and I need to wash it daily. All that dust that is collected in my hair, is what I breath in everyday.
My allergies are worst in Mongolia then anywhere else I have ever been too. I have to take an allergy pill everyday, if I don’t, I can’t stop sneezing and it feels like I have a feather up my nose. Mind you, I have bad allergies back home, but they are seasonal. In Mongolia, they are all year. I had two-sinus infection in my first month living in Mongolia alone. Since I’ve been in Mongolia, I have had four-sinus infection and two cases of tonsillitis. In 10.5 months of living here, I have been on antibiotic’s six times; I’m averaging getting sick about every seven weeks and that is not including the times I simply have a cold.
I don’t think I can blame all my sickness strictly on the dust; working ten-hour days, working 52 days out of 56 before I get a break, may have something to do with me getting sick, but the dust doesn’t help. I never get this sick, this often at home. I’m on antibiotics once maybe twice a year tops!
5. What is the weirdest outfit you have ever seen while over there? I wouldn’t call it weird, certainly different from home, but not weird. The deel or kaftan, is the garment traditionally worn in Mongolia. It can be worn on both workdays and special days. It is a long, loose gown cut in one piece with the sleeves; it has a high collar and widely overlaps at the front; the deel is girdled with a sash. Mongolian deels always close on the wearer's right, and traditionally have five fastenings. They can also be very warm. I have seen these tradition garments worn by the locals on numerous occasions. Mongolians are a very proud people and their traditions are kept very close to their heart.