Life in the Gobi

Means sand on your floors, as well as on your computer, and on your iPod, and in your shoes–even the ones you haven’t worn.  It means heat.  And sweat.

No longer am I at my host family’s house with its shower and indoor plumbing and guaranteed meals.  I am in a ger, which is one big round room in which to do everything but one’s business.  If I want to get clean, I have to use a tumpin, which is big round bowl in which everything gets clean (clothes, dishes, bodies).  My meals will be prepared on a stove, which will most likely be a big round place in the center of my ger on which stir-fried veggies are cooked and in which a fire will have to be maintained.  (The stove is supposedly coming tomorrow, however.)

Life in the Gobi is probably hard.  I say that as I look at the thick layer of sand on my floor, blown in from a minor wind.  What will happen when there are major winds?  Will I actually have to walk outside in the sand storm and fold up (or down?) the cover of the ger?  (I know the answer to this, by the way.  Please.) And why does everyone keep asking me if I can live in a ger?  As if I had a choice in the matter.  As if I would even know.   I just smile and nod.  Of course, my nonverbals say.  ‘Can you make a fire?’  No.  Good thing it’s still summer, I think.

A good thing about a ger is that it can be decorated.  Mine came complete with a rice cooker, a fridge, a tea kettle AND water boiler, two king-sized chairs, an iron, dishes, tables, bed, dresser, 10 kilos of rice, etc.  I taped some photos to the sheet that counts as a wall, set out the Matrushka doll set my Eej bought me from Russia, and hung my scarves like wings from the bars that count as the roof.  It feels like home.

This is what I’ve come up with so far as a to-do list: make friends to make my ger-dwelling life easier (because, as I’ve said, I don’t know how to make a fire, and they say that’s kind of important);

buy a broom to get rid of the desert that has become my floor;

learn how to live in my own filth OR buy a fan OR tumpin more often;

differentiate China from Mongolia in the browns on the horizon.

My life in the Gobi.  Piece of cake.


7 thoughts on “Life in the Gobi

  1. You will not only survive life in the Gobi desert, but you will thrive, my strong, resourceful Alyse!
    So thrilling that you had such wonderful welcome gifts. The bowl in the picture is so beautiful! I look forward to more pictures of your scarves, chairs, view, friends…
    Be blessed, Babe!

  2. A ger? Really. Wow. Rhymes with ‘burrrr’. which gets me thinking about those fire building skills come winter. (-: sounds like you’re holding up quite well and your sense of humor is keeping you sane, most days anyway. things in seattle are good. i am volunteering with street yoga on monday. my 1st time. you are an inspiration to all who are insecure about trying new things, like me!! thanks! take good care of yourself and hope to see pictures of your decorated ger soon. all the best, diana fujinaga

    • Hi Diana,

      It’s great to hear from you! I am so excited for you to start with Street Yoga– I’m hoping to be able to use yoga in some way here with the kids I work with. I already led a few sessions for my fellow trainees this summer.

      By the way, ger kind of rhymes with ‘hair,’ which is something I don’t have a lot of, so your burrr comment will still pertain. 🙂



  3. dear alyse,
    i know we went through the last year together hearing over and over that rural life in the pc is anything but romantic…but i admit i’m still a bit jealous of your ger. and i’m glad for your sake that it comes with a tea kettle and a rice cooker! so proud of you for all you’ve done done so far and all you will do soon.

    can i send you something to decorate your new home with?

    all the best,

  4. Damn, I knew we forgot to do something when you were here in MT…like learning how to build a fire. As always, your words are beautiful and I agree with Casey that life in a ger sounds desirable. I miss you my little vegan/fregan. This weekend I am drying fruit to send to you to spice up your oatmeal or rice 🙂

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