Friendship Force exchange. (More on Friendship Force coming, otherwise check out that link.) We were taken out onto the vast plains near Har Horin (Kharhkhorin) and our group drove up to nomadic herders ger tents, and our hosts would then introduce us and leave us to stay overnight with the various families. No previous arrangements had been made, it just got sorted there and then, rather late in the day. It was after dark by the time the last of our 25 strong group were being foisted upon an unsuspecting family in an adjacent valley.
I'll blog about the wonderful experience later, but the host family's hospitality, genuine warmth and welcoming, and willingness to put themselves out to accommodate presumptuous, unannounced , wealthy Western guests was etched in our minds forever. This family touched us deeply. We had taken a few modest gifts for the children- school supplies, as we were aware of the obligation you placed upon a Mongolian if you present them with a gift. You have created an obligation for them to respond. For a nomadic herder, who has scant possessions, apart from those for their family's daily survival, you create a huge impost, unwittingly.
What can they give in return?
Hure', the male head of our family had nothing. But just as we were leaving, he presented us with an envelope. The above photo was enclosed. When we opened it, we recognised this as a photo taken on his wedding day, perhaps his only photo of that time. He had given us perhaps one of his most prized possessions. Not wanting to offend we accepted, but we made sure we got their post office box address in their local main town. Nomads will have one where any mail can be uplifted occasionally, as they relocate 3 times a year.
Upon our return we sent the family a photo album of all the digital photos we had taken of the family, and the extended family who crowded into the ger that night. We included several copies of Hure' and his horse with blown up pics. Hure's gift to us is precious as it is an original. Hopefully Hure' now has several copies in return.
How could we deprive Hure' of something he prized so much?