Mongolia This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     I have lived overseas for 13 years in Ulaan Baatar, Mongolia. I have friends and a life here, and I want to share it with you.

The countryside of Mongolia is one of the most romantic, mysterious, and altogether frightening places in the world. It’s green part of the year, it’s big, and it is so empty. But here is something you may not know: Ulaan Baatar, the main city, is crowded, ugly, and filled with poverty.

In my neighborhood, everyone has a high fence around their house (or shack) topped with barbed wire and a dog waiting inside to tear you to pieces. The pollution is terrible since everyone in the valley burns coal, and smoke hangs over us. Children go out at six in the morning to get water from the river or well for their family. Then, if they can afford it, they go to school. A lot of teenagers here go to school and wear fashionable clothing, but so many more suffer in ways you can’t imagine.

An example of the horror is a family of seven I know who live in one small room with just rags to cover their bodies. They burn their precious pieces of coal all too quickly and the oldest child must go out and work, most likely as a prostitute.

Yet the culture of Mongolians is the most beautiful and refreshing part of my life here. These are a quiet people, but they laugh a lot. They are very hospitable and it is considered impolite not to give guests a gift. They have horse riding and archery competitions, along with wrestling and group games. Mongolian holidays are the most festive times of the year. Everyone, regardless of their situation, scrapes together enough money for food and invites family and friends to join them. For three days, they forget their troubles.

Freezing is the most common way of dying here in Mongolia, and for this alone the people have our prayers. The weather, though bitingly cold, is crisp and gives you energy. In the winter, the temperature goes down to -40*F at night. All in all, though, Mongolia is a beautiful place.

When you go to your room at night and sit on that comfortable bed, look at all your clothes and possessions and remember the family in Mongolia with nothing. Then think of them on their holidays. Though we all have different lives, at certain times each year we all laugh and smile and dream.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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