Traveler Thursday, Week 6: Daniel’s Journey to Mongolia

This is the third of a series of five interviews of kids around the world, called “Reach the World Kids: Field Notes”.  All photos in the series are courtesy of the traveling interviewers.

Traveler Bio: Dan is a University of Wisconsin and a Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship recipient studying abroad in Ulan Batar, Mongolia.


“Growing up on the Move”

I yell “Chu!”

(Mongolian for “giddy-up”) and Tanner, the faithful Mongolian horse under me starts into a trot. It is the last day of my two-week homestay with a nomadic family in the countryside and as the sun is rising I am riding out to herd in the cows for milking. I think of how I will miss the simple but hard lifestyle of the Mongolian herdsman. Can you imagine what daily life is like for a kid your age here?

In the Mongolian countryside, kids learn to ride horses before they can walk and have a backyards bigger than Central Park. My homestay brother Biamba is a really great guy. He agreed to share information about his life with you. Read on to see how he answered questions in my interview with him!

What do you eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner?

Breakfast is simple and fast because I usually have work to do right away. Usually I have some homemade bread and milky tea. My favorite is when mom makes sweet rice pudding called boata-te-tsai.

Lunch is almost always noodles with meat from our sheep and goats. If we have guests over we make my favorite meal, milky meaty dumpling soup.

Dinner is our biggest meal of the day. If we killed a sheep or goat that day it will be the animals steamed entrials. Marmit is my favorite

dinner, but you have to get lucky and catch one in a trap first. Do you know what a marmit is? It looks like a big fat rat.

For dessert we eat homemade yogurt.

What is your house like?

I live in a ger which is a big tent made of felt and wood. It is a fun place to live and I like being able to move every few months to a new spot on the steppe which I can explore. There are only two beds in our ger and I have six brothers and sisters, so three or four of us share one each night. I don’t mind because it gets very cold in the winter, especially at night when our stove goes out.

What chores do you have at home?

During the day I help my father herd our goats, sheep, cows and horses around the steppe to fresh grass. This is an important job because if our animals do not eat enough food in the fall to fatten up, they will die during the winter when there is not much to eat. I have to be careful to not let our animals mix with other herders animals because it can take all day to sort them back out.

I also help my mom around the house a lot, chopping wood for our stove and babysitting my little sister.

My favorite chore is my most importain one: Training our horses for racing. Each night I ride out into our large herd of horses with my brother and father to catch several horses with lassos. Then I ride each them as fast as I can across the steppe, being careful to dodge marmit holes and not fall off. To make the horse go faster I sing as loud as I can old Mongolian songs my father taught me.

What jobs do your parents have?

Both of my parents are herders and really good ones too. My father works with our sheep, goats and horses while my mom cooks, takes care of the house and milks the cows.


Herdsmen hard at work.jpeg

Herdsmen hard at work.

My dad is also a horse trainer which is great because I get to ride as fast as I can every day.

What time does school start, and what time do you go home?

I start school at 9am and finish at 4pm. I live with my grandmother or dormitory during the week because my family lives so far away from the town where my school is.

How do you get to school? Are you allowed to go to school by yourself?

I love going to school because I get to go by motorcycle. My father and uncle both have small motorbikes and they drop me off on Monday and pick me up on Friday. There are no roads so we have to ride slow through the grass.

I can walk to school by myself but I ususally go with friends. It is very safe around my school and my town is so small that everyone knows everyone.


Waiting for school to start in Mongolia.jpeg

Waiting for school to start in Mongolia.

Where do you eat lunch? What is your favorite food?

At school I eat in the cafeteria. The food is usually really good and made fresh every day. My favorite meal are the meat dumplings served in milky soup.

What language do you speak at school? How do you say “Hello” in your language?

Sain bain yy! I speak Mongolian in school and start learning English next year.

What are some common kids’ names at your school?

Bat, Bold, Temugen, Enkjing, Baatar, Ulzi and Moogi.

What subjects do you study in school, and which one is your favorite?

I study math, Mongolian, science and history. Science is my favorite.

What is your homework like?

I have alot of homework. I have to practice spelling and math every day. I am learning multiplication now.

What do you like to do after school? Do you have a favorite sport or game?

Basketball and wresteling with my friends.

What kinds of music do you listen to?

I like Justin Beiber and Adel but usually listen to whatever my uncle has on his motorcycle.


Shaman take break and jump for the camera.jpeg

Shaman take a break and jump for the camera with their drums.

What would you like to be when you grow up?

I don’t know yet. Maybe a herder like my Dad.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I want to go to America and ride a bicycle.

What do you know or think about the United States?

It is much bigger than Mongolia and very far away. Americans have lots of money.

What questions do you have for kids in the United States?

What do you think of Mongolia? Can you ride horses?


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