Goats, dislike and sand dunes

We started the day with a goat slaughter and a fried breakfast. How else?No, we did not eat the goat. But it was really interesting watching the guys kill it (something that they did, it seems, to entertain the 14 visitors they had welcomed to their ger camp the night before.

Aside from the expected butcher, very sharp knives, and basins for blood and for body parts, the process seemed to involve copious quantities of vodka (recall it is around 10 in the morning). I am not clear whether this is required or just part of the recipe of our own friendly host.

The end result is a goat carcass (minus head, feet, skin and insides) lying on top of the ger in the sun. The inedible bits are fed to the dogs (who seem very happy about it). The edible bits we don’t hang around for. Our memories of last night’s ardous journeys have made us keen to set off as early as possible.

The other reason we want to set off early is an (irrational?) dislike for travelling with the group of Koreans. Part of this is just that we want to be alone. But part of it is also that we just don’t like this group of people. Separately, I don’t like indeterminate man (their driver), because I don’t trust anything that he says.

So this leads me to think about the foundation of this dislike for the Korean group.

There is no doubt in my mind that they do things that we (a bunch of wordly Europeans – or possibly Vikings, if a Danish friend of mine is to be believed) do not do. And things that we find absurd. Like posing for photographs in the most unlikely of places and situations. And laughing and giggling and shouting more than the average person I know.

But this might be a basis for not wanting to hang out with them, or for laughing at what they do. But it hardly seems sufficient reason to dislike them. And we end up paying a lot of attention to their comings and goings, when a more consistent approach would have been to just let them be. The fact that, as a group, we are always interested in putting them down makes me think we care about them more than we say.

It is a strange thing indeed, dislike I mean. Once I dislike someone, everything they say sounds stupid, and everything they do can be criticised. This is so even for things that, were they said or done by a friend, would be funny or curious or unexpected. Another psychology textbook perhaps.

Another goat died because of us today. We reached another ger camp, this one by the sand dunes, again with the Korean group, and so they killed another goat in our honour. Not so much of a spectacle this time (we were not invited to watch) and far less vodka, it seems.

So they butcher this goat, and what do they do with it? Goat curry, goat bbq, honey goat with soy sauce, goat with potatoes in butter, sweet and sour goat, goat on the bone with mint sauce? No, no, no, no, no, no. Try boiled goat. Just like that. No spices, no seasoning, served just by itself. Boiled. On the bone. Piled in a plate. Stringy. Tough. Fatty too.

Oh, I almost forgot, there was also salty tea. Thank the merciful Lord that it is dark (even with the candle) so that we can not see it so well, and that we brought a bottle of chili ketchup. Even so only two of the four of us can stomach any of it.

Second course is cold noodles with little bits of goat mixed in.

The standard (i.e., outside the cities) Mongolian diet is fairly basic. Tea (salty), rice or noodles, some dairy products made from whatever animals you have (goats and horses basically). And meat. Mostly mutton. Boiled. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sometimes there is deep friend bread. And you can add salt to your meal for variety if you like. Oh, and chili ketchup of course.

All the adults had a big party tonight. The goat was both the rationale and the chief entertainment. Just outside our ger. Not sure if we were invited or not. We should have gone, I figure. I would have had I been travelling by myself. Weird how that stuff works. We ended up playing chess by candlelight inside our ger (the Koreans had the next one along, everyone else shared the third). I need to pay more attention to the game.

This place is a lot poorer than last night or the night before. Scrubby ground, a few goats (one less than before after our visit), ocassional tourists. As ever there are many cute children, and whom they belong to is not entirely clear. They also have two dogs. Neither of which barks. I need to revise my description of the standard ger.

One of the guys here has a nasty burn on his leg. From a motorcycle exhaust pipe. To get burned that badly he must have been drunk (otherwise he would have pulled away faster). Not sure on the prognosis. I hope it does not get infected. He is a long long way from a doctor (and I have read people saying they would rather be left in a ditch on the side of the road than report to a Mongolian hospital). We give him some bandages and antiseptic cream.

The sand dunes (the second great wonder in the Gobi, so said our tour) were wondrous. The patterns made by the wind are hypnotic. Running along them is like snowboarding in poor visibility; it becomes impossible to tell which way is up and which way is down. And then you fall over. Fun.

Parenthetically, indeterminate man got drunk at the party and came to apologise for his behaviour yesterday and to confirm that he did not know where we were. Doesn’t make me like him any more.