Mongolia can really get your goat

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Mongolia can really get your goat

Hold the cucumbers and potatoes! These two vegetables had been the main staples of my diet during my stay in Mongolia. And now, on my tenth and final day, I was having my last meal in a place that seemed so nowhere to me, a city girl.
This evening’s meal, I was told, was going to be different from the others. All the physical and mental hardships of my trip were going to be compensated for, because tonight, our hosts were going to serve a feast of goat.
But first, how did I get in this situation?
During “May 2002 Discovery Week” at my high school, a group of 20 students and two teachers headed to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. U-laan-baa-tar... A very strange name that I could not even pronounce at first. As soon as I got off the plane, I instantly understood that this trip was not going to include room service. That was only the beginning. The conditions were, well, rugged. We endured a six-hour teeth-chattering bus ride and then 16 agonizing hours on unruly Mongolian horses before arriving at our hotel -- a ger (Mongolian tent) camp. Every night as I lay down on my freezing cot in wool socks and thermal underwear, I closed my eyes to think about what I had done that day. What came to mind instead was what I knew I had to look forward to: another wake-up call at seven in the morning, another cold shower with yellow water from the lake, another breakfast of potatoes and cucumbers.
On our last morning in the camp, I sprung from my sleeping bag and shouted, “goat meat!” After 29 meals of the above-mentioned veggies (I counted them), this last meal was something to look forward to. When dinnertime finally came, all 22 of us followed our hosts to the dinner camp. Three Mongolian men came in, pulling an understandably reluctant black goat. One of the men tied the goat to the center pole and took out a knife. One quick slash to its neck and a stream of bright red blood spurted out. The man jerked the creature’s neck, and it was dead. Cameras clicked, and we crowded around the dying creature. A stream of tears flowed down my cheeks. I turned around and found myself walking towards my tent; my stomach had turned after seeing the slaughter.
A few hours later, as dinner was being served, I returned to the meal tent ― but not to eat goat. I wanted some hot water: There was a cup of Korean ramyeon waiting for me.


by Sylvia Kim

Ms. Kim is an intern at the JoongAng Daily.

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