Sarah Rajabalee - General Journalism Projects in Mongolia
Sain bainuu from the land of the blue sky!
This is a country full of contrast and adventure. Sandwiched between two of the biggest countries of China and Russia and only having been out of Soviet Russia for just 16 years, this country is just finding its feet with tourism and western ideals. There are only 2 million people in this massive country, half of which live in the capital Ulaanbaatar, called simply UB. The other half still live the nomadic lifestyle out in the countryside.
There are two ways of getting to Mongolia, either by plane, where you would have the dubious pleasure of waiting in the lovely Moscow airport for several hours, or take the Trans-Mongolian railway. I took the latter and spent five days traveling though Siberia. This was the start of my Mongolian adventure which was to be filled with an alien language, crazy taxi drivers and a lot of mutton.
I was met by the lovely Otgoo, one of the Projects Abroad staff in Mongolia, who treated me to a traditional dish, called buuz which is a dumpling filled with lamb. I would eventually get to try the whole range of Mongolian cuisine whilst living with the nomads in their gers. The food is based on dairy, rice and mutton. However, UB has a whole range of different restaurants from Chinese, Korean to Western food all of which are very good and cheap. The choice is yours.
I was placed with a very welcoming host family who treated my like their own and made sure I would never go hungry. This is a great opportunity to learn each other's language and to really get to know the city. We had huge Mongolian/English dictionaries around the flat and a Japanese electronic translator which we would use to understand each other. An interesting process, but it worked. The host family themselves are often related to each other so you get to know other volunteers even before you get to meet them.
I was fortunate to be at the famous Nadaam festival, which is held every year in UB to celebrate the three manly sports of archery, horse riding and wrestling. Nadaam just means festival, and is a great excuse for the Mongolians to have a family get together and watch some sport. This year, 2006, is the 800 year anniversary of the Great Mongolian State, where Chinggis Khaan united the warring tribes, founded Mongolia and established the military. You may know Chinggis Khaan as Gengis Khan.
Being on a journalism placement and therefore, part of the TV5 crew, we were able to film in the press pit and exchange stories with other foreign journalists. It was great to see how other TV stations worked in a third world country and surprisingly, how technologically advanced they are. TV5 is one of the biggest stations in Mongolia and the crews are there at most major events.
There is so much more to Mongolia than the Gobi desert. I wish I could put down more, as I the experiences and adventure I have had can only have happened in a place such as Mongolia. I won't lie, it is a challenge but then I've had so much fun.