I thought it would be helpful to explain some of the lingo that I will be using during my time here in Mongolia. I’d rather not go to another source and paste in their definitions. In fact, I guess I don’t want definitions at all, but my own perceptions and understandings of these things. The more I learn, the more I will add to it. I’m starting with the basics.
Aimag – (Aймаг) The different regions of Mongolia. Maybe these most closely resemble US states. My training site was in Selenge Aimag. My permanent site is in the Aimag Center of Govi-Altai Aimag. Basically, Aimags Centers are much larger than soums, both in terms of numbers of people and things available (services, foods, etc.). I’ve heard various figures, but my Aimag Center has ~15,000 people (on the small side), and the entire Aimag of Govi-Altai has ~45,000 people.
Countryside – (хөдөө, pronounced hudoo) Where people live if they do not live in the soums. Those pictures of lone gers are most definitely in the countryside, but that could be as close as a few miles from the soum or even a city.
Deel – (дээл, pronounced dell) – the traditional Mongolian dress. A Deel is sort of like a wrap-around robe, with a long scarf wrapped many times to make a belt. The winter deel is heavy. We also used deel to describe the fancy dresses and men’s shirts that we used for our Naadam and Swearing-In Ceremony.
Ger – (гэр, rhymes with “care”) – the traditional Mongolian round home. Mongolians are historically a nomadic people, and indeed a great many still are. Gers can be assembled in a matter of hours, making them quite the mobile home. We got to help set up a ger during PST! The ger is built of 4-6 walls, 40+ poles, a large round ring, a door, and layers of felt. The walls, which look like a lattice fence, are bent a bit and tied together to become the circumference of the home. Two poles in the center of the ger hold up a round ring. Poles, which will serve as the roof, are inserted into holes along the edge of the round center ring, and the other end of the pole is attached to the fence. Felt is wrapped around the outside of the ger and draped over the roof. In the summertime, the bottom of the felt layer is lifted to allow the cool breeze in. About 6 layers of felt are added in October to prepare for the winter. The felt layers are strapped down and a giant tire or massive stone is used to hold down the straps. The stove is in the center of the ger and the stove pipe exits through the round ring in the center. It isn’t unusual for rain or even snow to get in through the center ring.
Naadam – (наадам) the National Sport Festival of Mongolia, consisting of wrestling, archery and horse racing. Naadam is celebrated in July and is a national holiday. The big event occurs in UB over several days. Every Aimag and Soum has their own Naadam celebration. I was reminded of a “county fair” because entire families came; children were flying kites, and there were carnival-type games (balloon popping with darts and a bean bag toss).
Soum – (сум) the very small residential communities. These vary in size, I’ve heard from 3,000 to 6,000. We were told our Training Site, Orkhon, had 2,300 and found out later that some of those people actually lived in the countryside.
Togrog – (төгрөг) The currency in Mongolia. One dollar is about 1400 togrogs.
UB – Ulaanbaatar – The capital city of Mongolia. This is where Peace Corps headquarters is. During PST, this is where our mail was sent and held for us. Their office has a shower which Volunteers and Trainees are welcome to use. And I did. UB is a sprawling mass of office buildings, restaurants, apartment buildings, nightclubs, bars, movie theaters, hotels, hostels, etc. It’s big and getting bigger because the ger-districts surrounding it keep getting bigger. There are approximately 1 million people in UB. The entire country has about 3 million people.