Tuesday, January 16, 2007


My fascination with Mongolia started about 10 years ago when I entered a writing contest. Each story entry had to include something about the colour purple and Ulaanbaatar, if I recall correctly. Since then, I have added Mongolia's history, horseback riding, yurts, Naadam festival, arid steppes, and the Gobi desert to my list of why I am drawn to the Mongols. And then, last year, as a Christmas present to the world, and to myself, I sponsored Lkhagvadorj, a five-year-old cutie-pie.

I received my fourth letter from Lkhagvadorj today. He lives in a little hut in a suburb outside Ulaanbaatar. Recently, to celebrate the 800th anniversary of his country he went out to ride horses.

Approximately 30% of the people living in Mongolia are semi or fully nomadic. I have absorbed many books on nomadic tribes and there is something compelling, something instinctive about moving as a way of life. Perhaps it is the horses and camels, or the yurts and tents. Roma (Gypsy), Bedouin, Mongols, Moors, Sami, Turks. Caravans, fire, music. Raw life. Sometimes, too raw.

Just over five years ago, my family packed everything up and moved into a mini-camper for six months. We travelled for 154 days and 36,000 kilometres, and into six countries. I still count that as the best year of my life. Modern nomadism for us industrialized urban bohemians. But nomadism just the same. Freedom to move. Freedom to stop. Freedom to wear flip-flops or bare feet everyday.

I just rented an evening in a yurt on top of Seymoun Mountain. Not quite a Mongolian night, but it will have to do. Here's to you Lkhagvadorj, I wish you could join us.

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