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Mongolian Truth and a Puff of Smoke

The Mongolian truth, when uttered, is a matter of cultural relativity that is subject to change; many times the truth simply disappears, like a puff of cigarette smoke, at the speaker's whim. In the words of George W. Bush,

"Problem? Where do you see a problem? I don't see a problem."

This can be especially dangerous in a country where the teacher has absolutely no protection, legally or morally. The U.S. Embassy can be powerless in Mongolia and there is very little Western type of morals in Ulaanbaatar.

Again, morality is relative to culture when looking at the numerous Mongolian street kids aged preschool to teenager. Take children like Dolgion, 14, who in 2005 lived in a sewage pit on the fringes of Mongolia's capital, Ulaanbaatar.

"People call us transheiny [sewage] kids and shun us. I've been living like this for the last four years" (2001-2005/age 10-14). "Before we lived in Yarmag District [an Ulaanbaatar suburb] in a gher [see photo right]. My mother worked as a nurse at hospital. Father had no job. As far as I can remember, he was always unemployed."

"Our gher burnt down when I was seven. Me and my classmate were playing after classes when fire started from an electric socket. The two of us tried to suppress it by throwing dirt on it. I had heard that water is no good for electricity. Firefighters arrived only after an hour when our home had already turned to smoking ashes."

"After Mother left us, Father returned home drunk almost every day. At the end, the family we stayed with told us to go away. We did not know where to go and just wandered the streets. Father befriended some bad men and drank with them. Often he would become too drunk to walk and collapse right on the street. I would hang around guarding him. Even if I wanted to carry him away I couldn't because I was too small then. I followed my father like this for more than a month. One day he collapsed again, and I told myself 'I cannot take it anymore' and ran away, leaving him behind alone."

Children like Dolgion have no future in a country that cares little for them.

"As winter approached, I moved to Narantuul Market [a large flea and food market]. In the beginning I picked leftovers from a canteen there. Narantuul market is a dangerous place. If you don't have friends there, children can easily beat you. They usually hang out in gangs. Children who work as market porters are usually older. The younger ones steal, rob other children."

"I had a friend there named Cola. Once Cola sold a pair of shoes and it turned out they belonged to his older brother. The brother got mad and beat the two of us harshly. Blood was coming out of my ears. I ran away from there and now stay here, in a bunker sitting on the city heating pipes. Already I've been here for two years" (2003-2005).

This Asian culture, whose stated values are in family and ancestors, makes absolutely no concessions for even little children who have lost their parents and family. It is likely that Dolgion, in 2010, is now deceased since these children's lifespan are short. If you do not believe this, just go to Ulaanbaatar on any day and watch. If you are not Mongolian in stature, you will attract the sewage kids with your apparent wealth since, they are currently living in the sewers where it is the only warm and safe sanctuary they have. A pocket full of pennies is like gold; it will buy a day's food for several hungry mouths. Think strongly about your value to the Mongolian culture and society; you work for a Mongolian to produce an income for that Mongolian. Past the point of your production, you have less value than the transheiny kids for whom Mongolians simply look the other way as if to say, "What kids? I don't see any kids. Do you see any kids?"

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