Alyse is a Community and Youth Development Volunteer in a public school in Zamiin Uud. When I visited her she lived in a small ger in a yard with two other gers. I forgot how difficult ger life can be and it gets even more difficult when you live alone and have to go through two FRIGID Mongolian winters. Alyse handles it all with grace and ease. She truly deserves a "Suck It, Apartment Dwellers" Peace Corps badge. I complain about having no hot water . . . she has NO running water!
Here is how to survive in a ger (as seen by an outsider)
Get your ass up and out of bed! Mind you, your bed is warm from the cocoon of blankets and the toasty, Peace Corps issued sleeping bag. Gotta start that fire.
-Alyse proceeds to beat the smoke pipe to knock all the ash into the stove. Then she exits the ger (in frigid temps!) to dump the ash. Next she begins her magic making fire technique. It involves expertly stack wood and alternating with paper to make the perfect fire.
-I wouldn't stand for this crap . . . I would probably just pay someone to make my fire. Alyse is too amazing for that!
After you have started your fire, get back in bed and wait for exactly one hour.
Your ger is now warm enough that you can walk around and be quite warm.
-Make your breakfast (yogurt and granola!), get dressed, wash your face and brush your teeth. But . . be careful with water consumption because there is no running water. Conserve that H2O!
After this time we would just hang out, browse the interwebs, listen to her amazing music selection and as Alyse put it . "occasionally talk" which works perfectly for us.
Before Alyse would leave her ger to go out for the day, she would throw a huge piece of coal on the fire. This piece of coal would make the ger uncomfortably hot if you were to stay in but when going out it will serve to keep the ger warm until you come back.
If we stayed in her ger for the day, she would have to constantly shovel more coal and wood on the fire to keep it going. Her day revolves around that fire. Without it, you just can't function.
Other thoughts on ger life:
- Going to the bathroom is always an ordeal. You have to gauge how badly you have to go . . . if the urge isn't that strong, wait a bit. Then when the time comes, put on your shoes, put on your coat, grab some toilet paper, and head out to the outhouse. Mind you, it gets really cold in Mongolia at night (-40 F/C) and you notice it on your bare skin!
- Speaking of cold, at night your water will freeze and if you are gone for more than a day the things in your refrigerator will freeze along with everything else in your ger.
- Everything can be burned. Traditionally, Mongolians don't burn trash in their ger stoves but Alyse would burn anything papery as it made good kindling.
To all my friends who live in gers . . . you effing rock!! You have survived two really hard and difficult winters in Mongolia and you have thrived. Well done!
And to Alyse, you are an amazing person, a true friend and a great example of a Peace Corps Volunteer. Check out her blog: Words Not Made With Lungs
Here are some pictures of her ger
|The ger stove|
|Shovel that coal!|
|Speaking of coal . . .|
|The large pieces used to keep it hot during the day|
|Looking amazing while keeping me warm!|
|Notice how I am only taking pictures and not assisting in any way.|
|Her perfectly made and maintained fire|
|Her beautiful ger poles. I love this look!|
|Her khadag (traditional blue scarf)|
|The support post of the ger. So beautifully decorated!|
|The other gers in the yard.|
|The throne . . .aka outhouse.|