Friday, July 20, 2007

Our Ger Experience

Though we didn't get to sleep in a Ger, a herdsman knew that we were coming to visit the Mobile Clinic and had heard that Dr. Munkhuu would be receiving an award with us, and as such, invited us in for a home cooked 5 star lunch. We dined in his guest ger—which was absolutely gorgeous. He's a rather wealthy herdsman, with 500 cattle of his own—though I don't know where he kept them because I only saw 2 or 3). Anika, by day President of Americans for UNFPA by night as aspiring interior decorator—was taking detailed notes on the ornate decorations. I will not be surprised if her daughter Amani's bedroom is soon decked out in Ger style. To be honest, the workmanship was incredible. It felt like a lifesize dollhouse. Even the entrance to the ger is done with beautiful workmanship.
There were four beds inside that lined with walls on the ger—all were carved and painted with an orange base and blue design work. The design seemed to have Moroccan influence and they basically felt like "Day Beds." We sat on them…apparently the men are supposed to sit on the left and the women to the right. They had an amazing coffee table in the same design and all of the spokes holding up the ger were also ornately designed in the same colors. The herdsman (in his spare time) built, carved, painted EVERYTHING. He said the coffee table alone took him four months.
Twenty of us gathered in their Ger—which I'm guessing was about 30 ft diameter. They fed the doctors, trainees, drivers, video crew and all of us from UNFPA and Americans for UNFPA. They served lamb, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, cubed cheese, crème( which was a cross between butter and clotted crème) and bread and Dr. Sumbertzel's wife and daughter packed us a picnic lunch with we shared with all of them. The food is cooked over hot stones and just before we ate, we each were given a hot stone to toss in our hands and improve circulation. It was HOT but I'd definitely do it again.
We also had fresh Mongolian yogurt (both Anika and I are big fans) and Horsemilk—which is fermeted milk which smells very potent of alcohol. The Mongolian tradition calls for either a drink of horsemilk or vodka 3 times during every visit—at the beginning, to line your stomach, at the middle (for fun??? I'm not sure, actually), and at the end to send you off. Right. In an effort to respect tradition, we had a sip each at the beginning and end….but lets just say, we'll stick to the yogurt!
As is obvious, we won't forget the experience. The herdsman and his family lived in the ger next door which was decorated in a minimalist style. While their home still had lofted beds, it is rather common for mattresses to be at ground level, or to just sleep in a sleeping bag on the ground.
I'm still worried about how things are going back in NYC…maybe I can convince one of my colleagues there to guest post and fill us in. A natural disaster, caused by rain that lead to a steam pipe explosion…?! I hope all is well.

No comments: