Three hours into our eight-hour ride, Bulgaa, the saint of all translators had cajoled the vanload of us to sing horse-inspired karaoke. She managed to entertain and slow down our constant questions about available food choices and flight schedules in one musical stretch of open road. This woman had the patience of a mother of quadruplets. Or maybe more patience, I don’t know, I’ve never met a mother of quadruplets, I’m just guessing here.
Bulgaa Munkhbat spends the school year teaching English and her summers translating for foreigners when they visit Mongolia. She, like so many others in her country, is extremely proud of her Mongolian culture, specifically the conquests of Genghis Khan.
She happily accompanied us deep into the Gobi desert and helped us secure camel rides to Terelj National Park in central Mongolia (my favorite) where we watched baby yaks run around the camp; and to the far western city of Karakorum where I snuck away to secure pizza without her language services. Every moment she had a smile on her face, and usually a microphone in hand (mostly for the beloved Mongolian karaoke), filled with pride for her homeland.
At the end of our trip I had a chance to ask her a few questions about why she feels you should visit Mongolia, and her life there, so read on to find out more about the lovely Bulgaa.
What do you like most about your country?
I’m very proud of my country, because my country has rich culture and history. It’s a wonderful country. We have lots of beautiful places to see. Mongolians are very hospitable, very helpful. So if you come to Mongolia you’ll really like the country.
Tell me about the different places that you’ve lived.
I am from the central part of Mongolia. I am from the Arkhangai Province, which is about 40 kilometers away from Ulaanbaatar, so it’s central Mongolia. Central Mongolia is very beautiful. All parts of Mongolia are very, very beautiful. So I know central Mongolia well because I grew up in the central part of Mongolia.
Throughout your life, what have been some of your most interesting jobs?
Actually, I am an English language professor at University. So I do guiding in summer. But I love my summer work very much because my summer job gives me more opportunities to meet people from different countries and learn more and travel around the beautiful parts of the country, so I love this work very much.
Why do you think that people should visit Mongolia?
You know, Mongolia is a country of blue sky. We are very proud of Genghis Khan, we are very proud of the horse, and so we have very, very beautiful places to see. So Mongolia I think should be the destination for the tourists.
What is one of your favorite traditions?
Festivals. The Naadam Festival takes place on July 11-13th. The Naadam Festival consists of contests including horse race, archery, and wrestling, so I’m proud of traditional festivals.
What challenges do you feel you face?
In 1991, Mongolia became a democratic country. So after seven decades of socialism, at that time we had a transition period. During that transition period it was hard to live in Mongolia, so we all overcame difficulties. People are working very hard in Mongolia. It’s a developing country, and I hope one day Mongolia will be one of the highly developed countries in the world.
Tell me a little bit about your family, what did they do?
So my mom lives in Ulaanbaatar. Actually she is from countryside, but she moved to UB a long time ago now she is retired. But she supports me because when I do guiding in summer she always wishes me success in my summer job. I have two daughters. My daughters are students at universities, so I have good family.
Anything else to add?
Mongolia is a wonderful country. Visit Mongolia, enjoy your time in Mongolia, then you will find out a lot about our country and we want you to [come to] Mongolia.