Some time ago, when I still
lived in the United States, I remember watching a PBS special with my husband, one featuring the actress Julia Roberts. Roberts had traveled
to Mongolia to live with a nomadic family to learn more about their relationships with the wild horses native to the
land. I remember thinking how brave it was for a celebrity, who was no doubt used to a life of a luxury, to leave
her comfort zone to live with a family who, while warm and welcoming, didn’t speak a word of English. She spent
several weeks with them in their transportable home, or ger, with no heating or running water or any other
creature comforts we in the West take for granted. She was wonderfully graceful, and it was fantastically
educational. And I remember being completely mesmerized by the scenes of Mongolia.
I couldn’t help
thinking of this special as I read this
article in Conde Nast Traveler, which talks about the future of Mongolia, now that it is no longer a ward of the
Soviet Union. Author Jim Robbins tells of his travels in the wild country, in which traveling "requires a
Zenlike patience." And yet, his words are equally mesmerizing:
It is a strange and strangely
beautiful place, at once oddly familiar and utterly foreign. On the one hand, it looks strikingly like the
nineteenth-century American West, inhabited by a race of horse-riding nomads who look and live very much as Native
Americans once did. Yet the round tents, diminutive horses, exotic attire, and trees straight out of Dr. Seuss lend it
an otherworldly air.
Definitely worth a read.