The World In Faces by Alexander Khimushin

Let me introduce Tseveen Magsaryin. This happy 76-year-old grandpa living in one the the hardest to reach places I have been in Mongolia. Tseveen and his wife Bayatgaya belong to Altai Uryankhai People – an ethnic minority of Western Khovd Aimag. The couple lives in a simple clay-made old house – the only one in that rocky area for miles around. Mönkhkhairkhan town, that is almost impossible to reach by itself, located about 20 km from the Tseveen’s place. All their life Tseveen and his wife were cattle herders, in the Soviet time working on a collective farm, now the are doing the same on their own, looking after a herd of cows, sheeps and a few horses. Tseven told me that he was one of the rebels in the area in the early 1990’s. When communist regime collapsed in Russia, Mongolia was on a crossroad, so people like Tseveen tought there were no time to procrastinate and fighted for the end of the same regime in Mongolia. It’s actually interesting, because most of the people of his age were actually rather against these changes. So, by the look of it, he definately is not a faint heart character! Tseveen and Bayatgaya live alone; they raised 9 children, who now live in different places across Mongolia. He says that he seldom goes to town to buy anything, they’re self sufficient, and every day is full on – he has to do a lot of thing and there is not much time to be sad or lonely. Tseveen likes hunting and still goes to hike the mountains every now and then. He loves their place by a small ice-cold river. So peaceful and tranquil. The landscape is almost a Mars-like, with the only 2 colours present – the sky is always blue here and the mountains are always all shades of red ochre; very different from those green rolling hills you might imagine of Mongolia, but still so beatiful and has almost unreal extra terrestrial feeling.

When we arrived with a local friend of mine the family put on the table all they had: some Aaruul – dry traditional curd cheese, some deep fried Mongolian bread called boortsog and some home-made Arkhi – a local vodka. Since I was driving, I had to skip on the last one, but my friend said it was one of the testiest he tried. I am pretty sure it was. We stayed quite a bit having a conversation (of they had it would probably be better to say), but I would never know what message he wanted to pass to the world, as my translating friend, after another shot of Arkhi, passed out at some point, so we have to go back as it was getting late. Never mind! At least it’s a good reason to visit Tseveen again!) Although I probably never forget how I was crossing semi-frozen rivers several time and how we got lost at night time roaming off-road around steep rocky hills during a several-hour-long way to Mönkhkhairkhan. That’s what I call an unforgettable experience! 😉

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