Week 6

The last week of interning consisted of leaving the city for some fieldwork. I am very grateful to my boss, Sergelen, for sending us out with the surveyors because it was just an excuse to let us travel around the country.

Upon exiting the capital, paved roads and skyscrapers gave way to dirt tracks and vast open steppe. It was a long, bumpy bus ride but a beautiful one, too.

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We spent a few days in Mongolia’s second largest city, Erdenet. It is populous because the nearby copper mine employs hundreds of thousands of workers. The food options were far more limited and none of the surveyors we traveled with spoke much English. However, I thoroughly enjoyed hiking up the surrounding hills, watching a cow almost enter a store, and strolling through ger districts with a new friend, a surveyor the same age as me.

The property of a family I helped interview.

The property of a family I helped interview.

Besides being kind of funny, I'll remember this as one of the few moments I made a sincere connection with our colleague, Bayer. We did not share a language, but we both thought this was funny.

Besides being kind of funny, I’ll remember this as one of the few moments I made a sincere connection with our colleague, Bayer. We did not share a language, but we both thought this was funny.

One of my favorite things about Mongolia is the hospitality, both in homes and when traveling by car. In cities, you can hail any car like a taxi and passengers pay a fixed rate of 1,000MNT per kilometer to wherever they want to go. On this work trip, I discovered that these unspoken rules also apply when traveling between cities and towns.

Our colleagues found a stranger in Erdenet also headed towards our next destination, two hours away, and gave the four of us a lift for a small fee. Then, our colleagues arranged for Chris and I to get a ride from this same women to a different village, where then her friend picked us up and drove us two more hours away to the city of Moron for roughly 11USD. I think that was the closest I will ever get to hitchhiking!

I should point out that Chris and I had no common language with our chaperones—we just went wherever they signaled us to go. So when we were going from car to car, driver to driver, place to place, we had no clue what was going on!

Once in Moron, Chris and I found a random hotel for the night before finding another stranger willing to drive us three hours away to arguably the country’s most beautiful lake. Chris left early, so I spent four nights mostly solo at a waterside ger camp. I filled my phone-service-less days reading, hiking, biking, and befriending other foreigners at the camp. It was lovely.

Khovsgol Lake in northern Mongolia

Khovsgol Lake in northern Mongolia.

Yaks are my new favorite animal.

Yaks are my new favorite animal.

This was my own little yurt for four nights! My favorite part was the stove/fireplace inside which warmed my freezing body throughout the night.

This was my own little yurt for four nights! My favorite part was the stove/fireplace inside which warmed my freezing body throughout the night.

I returned to Ulaanbaatar by plane. Moron’s airport made me laugh: it is basically a big gas station.

I spent a few more days working before my dad and brother landed in Ulaanbaatar to begin our ten day trip around the country. We met Sergelen and Sumati for dinner the following week in order to introduce them to my family (as expected, they hit it off) and express my endless gratitude for their help in making this such a rewarding experience.

My 12-year-old brother, Thai-Son, my dad, Bob, Sumati, a colleague, Sergelen, my boss, and me.

My 12-year-old brother, Thai-Son, my dad, Bob, Sumati, a colleague, Sergelen, my boss, and me.

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