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  • Transcriber: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Ivana Korom

  • It's funny how foreigners ask me the same questions

  • when they first meet me.

  • Questions like,

  • "Wow, you're from Mongolia?

  • So do you ride horses to go to work?"

  • "Do you know what Coke is?"

  • Or, "Do you have chocolates in Mongolia?"

  • And if I want to have fun with it,

  • I say things like,

  • "Oh my God,

  • I've never heard any of those before.

  • What are Coke and chocolates?

  • Can you tell me more about them?"

  • It always works,

  • and we have a good laugh about it too.

  • In reality, our capital city, Ulaanbaatar, is very urban.

  • We have commercial buildings,

  • brand-name hotels

  • and beautiful art spaces too.

  • But all too often

  • foreigners fixate on what Mongolia lacks.

  • They look at our massive, untouched landscape,

  • traditional nomadic lifestyles,

  • and see it as a sign of poverty.

  • And I disagree.

  • In fact, I think there's a lot we can learn

  • from ancient Mongolian nomads

  • that will help us survive

  • in the years and decades to come.

  • This is a picture of me playing Mongolia's most celebrated traditional instrument,

  • morin khuur,

  • or horsehead fiddle.

  • I started playing the instrument when I was only nine,

  • and by 11 I was traveling the world

  • representing Mongolia at international festivals,

  • living and studying in places like Japan, China, Finland, Germany and Sweden.

  • But then suddenly,

  • when I was 21,

  • I lost my loving mother,

  • and just two years later

  • I lost my father.

  • As an only child,

  • I was devastated and lonely.

  • At the time, the only thing I had left was my country,

  • so I decided to move home.

  • When I was lost with sorrow,

  • my country gave me a feeling of safety and belonging.

  • I imagined eternal the blue sky of Mongolia as my father

  • and the untouched, gorgeous landscape as my mother.

  • Having lived in developed countries for over a decade,

  • I became very distant from the nomadic lifestyles,

  • so I wanted to reconnect and experience it for myself.

  • I often journeyed away from the city toward my grandparents' provinces

  • in rural Mongolia

  • to see where my parents and I came from,

  • and better understand my own identity.

  • Growing up, I'd always heard stories about how Mongolian nomads

  • were the most hospitable people on earth,

  • and I wanted to see with my own eyes

  • whether they really feed and give shelter to a stranger.

  • So I set off to the countryside,

  • driving along dirt roads for hours.

  • What's incredible about Mongolian nomads

  • is that the neighbors are often 40 kilometers apart,

  • and there's no private land ownership of pasture land in Mongolia.

  • In a way,

  • Mongolian nomads have the complete freedom,

  • moving about the gorgeous landscape as they wish.

  • Eventually, I spotted to humble yurts

  • and I pulled over.

  • Yurts, or ger,

  • are a traditional Mongolian dwelling.

  • They're made from one hundred percent natural material,

  • a wooden frame and floor,

  • leather rope

  • and thick blankets made from felted sheep's wool.

  • And it takes about only three to four hours

  • to assemble or disassemble,

  • and keeps them warm

  • through the minus 50 degree Celsius winters.

  • Outside the yurt,

  • the kids were playing with sheep and goats,

  • and as I greeted them,

  • their parents welcomed me inside.

  • The wife poured me nice warm milk tea,

  • and the husband offered me food

  • that they had already prepared on the table.

  • After some casual chitchat,

  • the husband politely asked my purpose,

  • so I replied bluntly

  • that I was just traveling

  • and exploring my grandparents' roots

  • and that I needed a place to stay

  • as the sun was setting.

  • And guess what?

  • He said I could stay as long as I needed to,

  • on one condition.

  • He asked if I would play the morin khuur,

  • our traditional Mongolian horsehead fiddle.

  • In my head, I couldn't believe it was coming true.

  • And the horsehead fiddle was like a ticket.

  • When Mongolians find out that you can play morin khuur,

  • you're instantly respected.

  • They say its two strings

  • express all the events of the world.

  • I ended up staying with them for nine days,

  • and they didn't even ask me to leave.

  • I think if I tried to stay there for two months,

  • they would have let me.

  • And here's the thing:

  • before I met them,

  • I assumed that Mongolian nomads were hospitable out of kindness

  • like anybody else.

  • But then I realized it was more than that.

  • It was about surviving as a community.

  • Because nomads live in extremely remote areas,

  • they are completely at the mercy of nature.

  • Heavy snowfall,

  • a sudden flood

  • or a raging storm

  • can devastate a nomadic family.

  • Today, it's a stranger who needs help,

  • but tomorrow, it could be you.

  • That's why they look out for each other

  • and welcome anyone in need of help.

  • This really touched my heart,

  • because I feel like we humans are becoming more and more selfish.

  • Staying with a truly nomadic family awakened me.

  • It was nothing like I've ever seen in developed countries.

  • The wife of the family

  • showed me how they produce organic dairy products from scratch,

  • like white cheese, yogurt, tsegee,

  • and even a traditional vodka made from cow milk.

  • And every tool they use is made from natural material by hand.

  • And inside the yurt,

  • we burned dried cow dung to stay warm

  • instead of using fuel.

  • Everything stood in sharp contrast

  • to my city life filled with plastic and steel.

  • And this was a five-senses experience to me,

  • a completely different form of sophistication.

  • The more I traveled across remote and rural destinations in Mongolia,

  • the more I understood

  • how ancient nomadic lifestyle was powered by Mother Nature.

  • Nomadic life is truly zero waste.

  • Over the course of six years,

  • I visited more than 20 families,

  • and my experience was always the same.

  • They invited me in, offered me food

  • and gave me a place to stay if I needed it.

  • I was surprised by how little they owned.

  • At first, I thought it was because they moved about four times a year.

  • OK, that's a very simple logic to understand.

  • You only carry what you need.

  • But then I learned

  • there's a deeper philosophy behind it.

  • Historically, nomads believed

  • that we are only passing through this life,

  • that people come and leave naked,

  • so they believe that there's no point in building anything that destroys nature

  • or in being greedy for materialistic things

  • when your life expectancy is only less than 100 years.

  • Instead, they invest in tradition,

  • heritage, history,

  • and pass it from generation to generation.

  • This ancient nomadic philosophy made me realize that I should think bigger

  • and further than my own convenience and comfort.

  • In the Mongolian countryside, I felt a true form of freedom,

  • and every time I came back to the city,

  • I looked for ways to live more minimally.

  • I digitalized all of my company's paper procedures.

  • What once took 20 packs of A4 paper

  • now takes just one.

  • I downsized my apartment, reduced my carbon footprint

  • and picked up a habit to rethink my actions,

  • like purchasing, choosing transportation,

  • and many other lifestyle choices at home and work.

  • And most importantly,

  • I stopped working on fast-moving consumer-goods marketing projects

  • and now work with organizations that promote sustainability.

  • But by far the biggest change

  • is that I've started to see development

  • with fresh eyes.

  • In cities,

  • living in a traditional yurt as a nomad

  • and having less

  • is often interpreted as a sign of poverty,

  • not just abroad

  • but at home in Mongolia too.

  • We think that the end goal for every developing country

  • is to become the next Tokyo or New York City,

  • with their skyscrapers, big shopping malls and toll roads.

  • Communities around the world are abandoning their traditional lifestyles

  • in pursuit of material wealth.

  • But let's not forget,

  • the developed countries

  • are the ones most responsible for climate change.

  • So we have to ask ourselves,

  • why do we keep on following the same blueprint

  • when we know it causes harm to the world?

  • We've all experienced the consequences of our choices

  • over the past eight months.

  • So doing right by Mother Nature

  • and focusing on earth-friendly, zero-waste habits

  • is not an option anymore.

  • And who knows the key ingredients better than our ancestors,

  • the ones who survived without the media

  • or technology

  • but with wisdom alone?

  • As a citizen of Mongolia,

  • I grew up hearing

  • that developing countries are inferior,

  • and I really took it to heart.

  • But today, I want to say loud and clear

  • that I don't see disadvantages from developing countries anymore.

  • On the contrary,

  • I see countries that have the biggest opportunity

  • to do things in the right way,

  • countries that can define their own kind of development

  • and have the most advantage to build a better and safer environment

  • for everyone.

  • What worked for our ancestors for thousands of years

  • can work for us now,

  • and in the future,

  • when combined with the latest innovations.

  • After all, we're all guests in this world,

  • so let's do right by the earth and each other

  • just like the ancient Mongolian nomads did.

  • Thank you.

Transcriber: Joseph Geni Reviewer: Ivana Korom

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B1 INT mongolia mongolian nomadic traditional fiddle ancient

The ancient, earth-friendly wisdom of Mongolian nomads | Khulan Batkhuyag

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    林宜悉   posted on 2020/10/23
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