how to survive in mongolia

There are mountains back there somewhere....

I’m down to my last month or so in Mongolia and I’m starting to reflect on my time here.  Before coming here, I had this perspective of Mongolia being mysterious and remote and completely different from life in America.

Well, there are definitely some differences, but it’s not nearly so mysterious as it’s made out to be.  One thing I’ve definitely noticed is the tendency of photographers and film makers to focus on some small aspect that is quirky or interesting, and then generalizing this to the rest of the country.

But Ulaanbaatar is a thriving city, much like any other in Central Asia or even the rest of Asia.  The countryside is of course not like rural America, but it’s not like being on the moon (except for this one part in Olgii…).

Anyway, some tips to survive living in and visiting Mongolia:

  1. Spend some time in the city.  A lot of people don’t like UB, but no one can argue that it’s the best place to get anything.  So yeah, maybe you hate cities and want to get to know the “locals”, but sometimes you just want a spinach and feta salad.
  2. Get out of the city.  It’s not beautiful, it has no stunnng architecture, and the traffic is horrendous. Not to mention the pollution.  But the countryside is beautiful, adventure is always to be had, and you will always be welcome at a ger when you get horribly lost.
  3. Embrace the care package.  Sure you can rough it.  Or, you can just enjoy your little pleasures in life.
  4. Learn to cook.  I complained about not having Mexican food.  And then I learned to make it all myself.  When I return to the US, I’m never buying store bought tortillas (or pita or ricotta!) again. Even better, invite some friends over.
  5. Don’t be a jackass.  Look, no one likes an outsider who comes in, throwing their weight around and acting like they own the place.  So don’t.  Just kick back, relax, and learn to embrace tardiness and stonewalling.
  6. Be friendly.  That one really needs no explanation.
  7. It’s not that cold.

There will be more to come, I’m sure!


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