The Nomad In The City

Avatar UN Youth Advisory Panel in Mongolia
Khishigjargal Enkhbayar
Member since March 4, 2017
  • 11 Posts
  • Age 23

Photo credits to UNICEF Mongolia

Photo credits to UNICEF Mongolia

‘You didn’t even graduate high school’, ‘You don’t have the necessary qualifications for this job’, ‘Do you have anything else to wear than a deel (traditional Mongolian clothing)?’, ‘We don’t employ people from the countryside’, ‘You don’t belong here, go back to where you came from’.

It was not 18 year-old Dashka’s fault that he didn’t graduate high school, did not have the necessary skills to be employed in an urban environment, or that he was wearing his only piece of nice clothing. His family had moved to the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia after losing all their livestock to a severe drought and overgrazing of pastures. Now he, along with his parents and three younger siblings, are staying in a cramped room in a distant relatives’ apartment. As the eldest son, he feels responsible to take care of his family. He has been searching for any kind of job, but he was turned away each time.

Dashka was born and raised in Aldarkhaan soum, Zavkhan province, approximately 1000 km from the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. All his life, he spent herding his family's sheep and goat, as well as milking his cows. He spent his days taking care of his animals in the vast pastures, the rocky mountains, and wide rivers. He didn’t need to handle much money because all his family ever needed came from nature. He wore clothes made by his mother that could withstand the harsh weather. He didn’t need to study chemistry or advanced physics, because he was going to continue his family tradition and become a herder like his father and his father before him. He was especially needed during the spring when the animals are at their weakest and need good care. This coincided with his test dates every year, that’s why he made a decision not to enter high school.

Some would say he lived a carefree life. He spent summers swimming in rivers, picking berries, and riding horses with his cousins. He would drink his fill of airag (fermented mare’s milk) in late August and eat plenty of yogurt every night before sleep. Others, especially his parents, would argue that he was the most hardworking boy in the area. He got up before the sunrise and went to bed under the twinkling stars. He helped his father make felt under scorching hot suns, fetched water from faraway streams, and cared for their livestock.

Now, everything was different. Looking at the cramped one bedroom apartment, Dashka missed his vast plains and tall mountains. All the world was his. He missed the fresh air, the rivers, his sheep and horses. He wished he could take his sisters for a horse ride to play by the river.

Most of all, he missed being needed and being appreciated for his work. The way he dressed, the way he walked, the way he spoke elicited disgust from the ‘pristine’ city folk. They can’t see past his outer appearance, to see the kindhearted, hardworking boy that he is. In fact, several of the other kids his age are skipping school and wasting their time away at PC game stations, doing drugs, or going to nightclubs (yes even when they’re not legally allowed).

But every time he comes home, devastated at not finding a job, his little sister gives him the biggest smile and all his troubles melt away. It is for her, for his family that he must endure these harsh times and keep moving forward. They were together and that’s all that matters. If only people opened up their hearts a little each day to see past a person’s outer appearance. If only the government put better policies and regulations for herders, so that they had better resilience against the changes in climate and economy. If only...

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