Not your average homestay

Otgo had told us the night before that it was going to be a special day; it was an auspicious day for the castration of the family’s herd of goats and sheep. By the time we woke up the filtering of the mature-enough goats and sheep was well under way – in fact we woke up to the incessant bahhing, something very unusual to Singaporean ears. 

In the pen, the entire family – excluding the grandmother – was working hard trying to separate and count the livestock. 

The old man in bright orange sitting on the ground is the grandfather, who had bad legs but sat there throughout the morning and the ceremony to “supervise” and bark at his grandchildren. 

And now, on to the castration ceremony. A large cloth was laid on the ground and two pairs of men knelt down with a bucket of milk beside each pair; other people started carrying the animals to each pair, first the sheep and when those were done, the goats. One man would be in charge of holding the four limbs of the animal while the other would use a scalpel to slit the skin of the scrotum and then proceed to squeeze two testicles out of each animal. The testicles were dropped into the bucket of milk, which became pinkish by the end of the ceremony, after the castration of a total of 180 sheep and goats. 

Otgo had told us the night prior that Gambol was really excited about eating sheep testicles – we just didn’t know he was so excited that he personally castrated 90 animals, never taking a break when all the other men did, rotating shifts. Did you know these Mongolians can literally do anything? Otgo expertly escorted goats out of the pen; Gambol castrated them; by the way, they are our tour guide and driver respectively. Otgo replied that all Mongolians grew up doing these and it was in their DNA. ​

I hope you can see the video because this is the most interesting thing I have seen in my life. Guys, this isn’t even an exhibition or typical farmstay experience. We got to witness the most significant even in these animals’ lives (maybe apart from their deaths). Before you start calling PETA on Mongolia, I just want to say that while the goats and sheep did bah A LOT the pain was very instantaneous and they were walking normally and didn’t seem to mind it at all immediately after. 

Then came the highlight for most of the people present (I.e., excepting the Singaporeans – the cooking of testicle broth. Oh, did I mention that this was a family and neighbours event? The family and neighbours poured into the ger, the men helped to castrate, the women helped to herd and clean the freshly squeezed testicles, and the mother cooked the thick creamy soup. 

It was somewhat awkward and a little sad to pack our bags and leave, while the family and guests were still hanging around. We were moving on to the mountains, but first, a pit stop for a shower, at a public bath in a small city. The interior of the bath house was stark and very communistic, but the water was hot and the cubicles clean. Of course, cleanliness doesn’t last very long in the desert but being our third day without showering, I felt like I had been reborn. 

And oh, the testicle soup you saw above was supposed to be our lunch. Each of the Mongolians present ate upwards of 10 testicles. Us, we couldn’t manage no more than 2 or 3 each, and then had to shamefully pass the remaining uneaten bowl to the father, while the rest of them looked at us like we were crazy not to devour this delicacy. Otgo knew that we wouldn’t have been full from it so we stopped by somewhere to cook and have lunch. These simple but delicious dishes were always seasoned with our favorite condiment, sand, but we never once felt ill. We do belong in natural conditions after all…

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