December 6, 2011

U is for Uuld

Before I went to Mongolia, I held the unmindful notion that Mongolians were all one ethnic people. I couldn't have been more wrong. 

There are as many as 20 different nationalities and ethnicities, and the aimag (province) of Hovd, where we spent most of our time, is home to as many as 17. Historically, each group speaks a distinct language or dialect and has its own traditional dwelling and settlement pattern, dress and other cultural features such as literary, artistic, and musical traditions.

Today for Our World Tuesday and ABC Wednesday - where the letter of the week is U - I introduce to you a warm and hospitable family of the minority group Uuld (also spelled Ööld). 

The family compound with a traditional ger (tent) and a converted 20-foot container is in the provincial capital of Hovd. 

 Hovd, 2007

We were first invited into the ger. There we met the extended family headed by the patriarch.



Ruth was on a search for unique footwear, but she was only shown modern Mongolian boots. The youngest two generations no longer wear traditional costumes and I wondered (as I often do) whether our globalized world wasn't losing some of its richness.


I asked the mother of the younger boys, "what do you teach your children to make them feel Uuld, as distinct from Mongolian?"

She replied, "We feel both Mongolian and Uuld. We have commonalities with all the ethnic groups, except the Kazakhs, and there is much inter-marriage these days. We may have different accents, but we all now speak dialects of Mongolian."


When we left the ger, she proudly showed us her vegetable garden.


Finally she invited us into the converted metal container. 



Ruth was slightly disappointed not to find her boots, but for all of us meeting this Uuld family gave us a special and unique glimpse into another way of life... yet really, how different is it?

34 comments:

Gaelyn said...

The Patriarch may be the last to live in the old ways. Though I'd like to think that western looking clothes doesn't determine cultural traditions. I like the ger which seems similar to a yurt and of course can identify with the trailer.
This must have been an interesting adventure.

Sylvia K said...

You do have some fascinating trips, Cisca! I really enjoy your post for the day and your wonderful captures! Thanks for sharing the fun and information! Terrific! Hope your week is off to a good start! Enjoy!

Sylvia

Indrani said...

A good peep in to their regular lives... hope they will be happy always!

Rajesh said...

Wonderful people. It is sad that new generation is forgetting their tradition. It is happening everywhere.

ladyfi said...

Wow - fascinating pictures. The inside of that tent is beautiful!

J Bar said...

How interesting.

Lesley said...

There was a yurt put up in the park where Occupy Toronto had taken over (used as a library) and I really wanted to see it before it was dismantled. But I missed that opportunity.
When these traditions die out in favour of homogenized western styles, travel becomes a little less exotic and fascinating.

cieldequimper said...

I'm pretty sure we are losing traditions unfortunately. This is a wonderful post, I've really enjoyed it despite the fact I'm not quite awake yet.

Traveling Hawk said...

Globalization did this in the whole world. There are probably very few places left (and these could be also remote) where the old days could be tracked down. Even in more simple places (like some mountain villages in Romania)one will find at least one sign of globalization. This is the road we are walking on...and it's difficult to say if it is right or wrong...

Gemma Wiseman said...

I had no idea that there were so many nationalities in Mongolia! Sad to see old ways trading for new alternatives! I agree that cultural colour seems to be slipping away! Fascinating photos!

Andy said...

I'm still convinced that you work for National Geographic. Today's posting has done nothing to change my mind. Just in case I'm wrong you should really apply for the job. Keep on clicking.

FotoAnna said...

So fascinating and so beautiful!
Greetings from Holland,
Anna :-))

LindyLouMac in Italy said...

Calling by as another Our World Tuesday participant, a very interesting post.

aka Penelope said...

Very few cultures nowadays wear the clothing of their heritage. But it is important to have access to the richness of the past by preserving it in various ways. This appears to be a lovely family … thank you for the opportunity to have a little look into their lifestyles. I’m impressed that the people adapt and learn all the dialects around them. I think knowledge of several languages must be very mind-opening. :)

Andrea said...

It looks like only the old man wears the traditional costume, the daughter is already very modern with her sleeveless top and shorts. I'd like to tell you that I've encountered only one Mongolian yet, while we have a one month training in Taiwan. I wonder why they sent someone who doesn't speak English yet, can only read a bit. We had a difficult time teaching him conservation vs conversation, because he reads both as conversation! Does Ruth speak Mongolian?

Kaori said...

Thought provoking post, Francisca! And since I don't wear a kimono everyday I really can't say anything...but I do hope they'll preserve their traditions and not let it die out. Beautiful photos of your visit!

Roger Owen Green said...

YES - I had no idea there were such diverse people in Mongolia!

ROG, ABC Wednesday team

Gigi Ann said...

What a nice post. I love meeting new people and their way of life.

Elisa said...

Such a wonderful post Francisca!
Thanks
Elisa
P.S. My French travel blog was 2nd!

tapirgal said...

Globalization. What a crazy topic. It's good, it's bad. I glory in the fact that I live in an era when I can experience the traditional and the new. I feel sad for those who won't know what it means for one culture to be differentiated from another, even the regional differences that are becoming lost within each country. That aside, I love the patchwork of colors and patterns in your Mongolia posts. To me growing up, Mongolia was reading about exciting discoveries of dinosaurs and ancient fossil mammals.

photowannabe said...

Absolutely fascinating. I had no idea there were so many cultures in Mongolia. it really was rather surprising to see the lovely woman in shorts and sleeveless top. As others have said, I hope they do maintain there culture and pass down their history to their children.
I always love coming here and seeing the world through your eyes.

FrankandMary said...

I am glad(well, sort of) that I am not the only one being occ. unmindful.

Wonderful pictures. ~Mary

VioletSky said...

This was so interesting to read. I do believe you are the only blogger around who has posts from Mongolia!

Genie said...

The stories and photographs of your trips continue to interest and amaze me. This one is especially poignant...learning about this extended family and how they live. The portraits you shot are awesome....absolutely beautiful. I know you will remember your visit with them for years and years to come. genie

Oakland Daily Photo said...

Like you, I had not entertained the possibility of diverse social and language groups in Mongolia. It sounds like such an exotic place. Would love to visit there. In the meantime, your posts fill in some gaps.

Ann said...

We have a silly sky TV ad with a woman driving a grass cutter to mongolia, and a Mongolian asked her how much her yak was,

Shooting Parrots said...

An interesting read, as always. The thing that strikes me about the Uuld is that they 'make' there own world, ie their gers and converted congtainers, their gardens etc. I wonder how long we might survive in the west if we had to house, feed and clothe ourselves?

Sallie (FullTime-Life) said...

A great post -- so much I don't know and am happy to find out. I think your last sentence says it all -- different way of life, but alike in so many ways (or so we would hope) -- strong families, love of family and the wish to pass traditions on to the next generation -- great values.

JM said...

Once again 'The Weeping Camel' came to my mind. Great post!

EG Wow said...

I really enjoyed this post, Francisca. I think it's fascinating that as so much of the world is becoming homogenized some groups are fighting to keep their specialness.

NixBlog said...

Amazing glimpse into what for most of us is an extremely remote and very exotic part of the world. Your pictures bring geography book descriptions to life.

helenmac said...

Wonderful post, Francisca! During my university days I hung out with the students in the Uralic Altaic Studies department and a very good friend was a student of Mongolia and then professor of Mongolian History at Indiana University. Thanks for the fond memories you have brought back to me.
HelenMac
ABC TEam

Evelyn said...

Lovely. One of the pleasures of travelling is meeting the locatl people and getting to know local customes etc.
Fabulous!
I think over time, our way of life is becoming similar...

Emille said...

Oh such rich fabrics in the ger! Thanks for sharing your experience with this family:)