Phenomenology is the new black

One Ger at a time



image of ger

mongolian ger

For a country so rich in traditional culture and identity, with its natural minerals that have the world rubbing their hands together you might find it strange to imagine that 70% of the population live in the ger district in Ulaanbataar. A ger is the traditional home of Mongolians – somewhat like the Inuits with their igloos of ice but here they are constructed with wood in a circular fashion and wrapped with fabrics that would shield any family from the harsh winters and unrelenting summers. Being a nomadic race this essential form of housing is easy to assemble, easy to transport and can be pitched at a moments notice. The interior that we see in books is festooned with rugs and animal pelts and a central fire keeps the wolves at bay – literally! All’s well and good when living the traditional lifestyle but picture if you can the climate changes that currently affect the world which in turn causes lifestyle decisions to occur even in this way of life – the extremes of weather destroy herds, livelihoods are destroyed and the strife to find food, money and a job become a life or death situation. Hence, the massive surge of traditional nomadic families pitching their homes in this urban sprawl of a city all eager to reap the supposed rewards of the metropolis. Some have been stranded here for as long as twenty years with no opportunity to change this downward spiral. Along with being misplaced, add alcohol, no work no income to the mix and the situation is stalemate – how can this be changed? As I mentioned previously, this is a country Mingolia as it is becoming known – so rich in coal, copper, gold and natural resources you do question where is this new wealth being spent?  – the divide between the  rich and poor is escalating but in spite of all this the country remains incredibly optimistic and hopefully in the right hands and with some careful guidance Mongolia could press forward and benefit from its own riches to further education, employment and so on. Obviously, tourism is a huge positive factor and the country is embracing all the benefits it can reap from showing us Westerners just what an incredible country this is and how much they want to share it with you. Nationalism is infectious here and long may it last.

So back to the ger district. Though a chance meeting with an English Teacher on the Gold Coast, Australia, I heard about this wonderful group of individuals who are trying to make life just that bit more bearable for families in the capital city. It gave me a chance to come head to head with the ongoing situation of life for most residents in UB. Enter the Tvrdiks a family of 6 from the US who moved here in around 2009 who are trying to make a difference. They put together An Interactive Workshop on Poverty

Flourishing Future-NGO | Facebook…/Flourishing-Future…/17056697.

that gives you a smack in the face idea of how hard life can be here in UB. Along side them is Tvshoo Tsoogi whose first hand experience of being from a successful family now hit hard times and she lives and works in the ger district. She is incredibly informative and speaks excellent English – she is without doubt a jewel in the crown of Flourishing Future. The group I joined hailed from USA, Germany, Canada, Hong Kong and Australia – each one of us would return to our respective homes and countries and talk about our experiences/ thoughts and spread the word. We all took part in filling up water carriers, then pushing water carts or carrying by hand these incredibly heavy drums of water – not a drop must be spilt – water in Mongolia is extremely precious and not to be wasted especially when you are shelling out $1 USD for each container – might not sound much to your or I but imagine your monthly take home pay is $100 USD and that is if you are fortunate enough to be employed! Troy & Shari are doing their level best to educate these people to hang on their funds, feed their kids, try to get them to school but above all care for their families – orphanage rates are high as is teenage pregnancy and if you can’t feed your kids what are you to do? Unless you have endured days maybe weeks of little or no food how on earth can you be expected to make the right decisions? The Tvrdik’s are trying to convert the situations to healthier options, literal safe houses for families who are struggling, alcohol free areas, the chance to find employment and make their lives better.

It all sounds easy but we all know nirvana is not around the corner and some serious hard work and tough decisions have to be made. I suppose being a mother of four myself I could identify with some issues, I too have been a single parent and know only too well that of course you sacrifice anything and everything for your kids – but here it is also tough love and Shari knows that you can’t make it all better it has to come from within.

image of children in the ger district

children in the ger district



image of ger district

ger district


image of water station in ger district

water station ger district

$1USD per container = 1,362.00 Tugrik


image of kids playing in the ger district


image of poverty workshop team

The Team with Shari & Tuvshoo at the rear

One of our group is a young man, Taylor Weidman, busy on a photographic assignment documenting vanishing cultures,

check out their site:

please find a moment and check out these sites and maybe you can share these organisations with your friends or check them out if you visit Mongolia.

Nothing is stronger than the spoken word!


This entry was posted in Dancing on thin ice | 薄冰起舞 | Bó bīng qî wŭ. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

One Comment

  1. Warren Maynard
    Posted August 27, 2012 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    Hi again, It looks like the changes in today’s world are not confined to the western world. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have to change my life style and way of being who I am because of the changes that are occurring in the climate due to pollution. it must be very bewildering esp when there is such a gap between rich and poor.

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