Long before reading anything about the iron will of a Mongol woman, though, I learned about it the hard way.
Right upon arrival, I had found myself in a crowded Ulan Bator stadium for the grand opening of the National Naadam Festival – the biggest cultural event of the year, complete with horse riding, archery, wrestling competition and a big parade featuring Genghis Khan impersonator.
The sun was shining bright, and the crowd was filling the space up to the brim. I took my place in the lower section next to a young woman with a baby. Pretty soon, there were 40 of us in the 20-seat bench, fitted tightly into our positions by the elbows, knees and sides of our new closest friends all around.
I became one with my neighbors, the parade was about to start, so I took the lens cap off my camera and got ready. The young woman next to me took out her breast and started feeding the baby. Suddenly, there was a commotion behind us – an old Grandma, decorated with medals, showed up with her 20-year-old granddaughter. Respect for elders is one of the cornerstones of the Mongolians society, so the people behind me shuffled, against all laws of physics, and freed two seats for the newcomers right behind me.
The parade commenced abruptly, like a thunderstorm. A huge formation of horseback riders in period costumers with national flags swept across the field. The packed bleachers went crazy, shouting, whistling and cheering the riders. Wisely, the young mother next to me opened a sun umbrella as the nursing baby was becoming a tad overdone under the scorching sun. Unfortunately, that completely blocked Grandma’s view right behind us.
Suddenly, I found myself in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with no escape route. The grandmother sternly slapped the umbrella out of the view, letting out a bad-sounding sentence. The young woman counteracted pointing to a cooking baby. The grandmother couldn’t care less, as Genghis Khan himself was about to make an appearance on the field.
The situation escalated to the level of “unsafe” in no time flat. There was little I could do other than tuck my fragile camera between my knees and try to save my eyes from the umbrella pins jerking dangerously all around my face. There must have been a sitting fight – when I opened my eyes again, the umbrella was still open and over our heads, but only a few pitiful patches of material remained on the frame. The faces of both women remained emotionless as they continued watching the show, but the whole range of feelings reflected on the face of a young cop, wisely observing the brawl from the distance and not making a smallest attempt to get involved.
So if you are a man in search of a wife who can throw a punch back at life and look good doing it, the one who could rule an army or a country while raising your 12 offsprings, the one who never backs down and doesn’t take “no” for answer even when she’s 80 years old, now you know where to look for her.
Just think carefully if you can handle a force of nature that is a true Mongolian Woman.