If you lived in the country, you would probably be a part of a family of herders caring for goats, sheep, cows, yaks, horses, or camels. You probably wouldn’t live very close to any other family, although with cars, horses, and motorcycles to use for travel, your family would not be alone!
You would probably live in a ger. A ger is a house, a home to many people in Mongolia. At the same time, it isn’t what most people outside of Mongolia think of as a house. It is easily put up and taken down in less than two hours. It can be permanently in one spot, but often it is moved from place to place depending on the weather and season. A family may have more than one ger, either because they must house many people or to store food or tools.
Every ger is different, just as your home is unique and filled with things that your family needs and treasures for all kinds of reasons.
Watch this video of some people taking down a ger and loading it (and everything in it) on a truck. It will show you the structure of this type of home!
Every ger has a stove in the middle with a chimney that goes up through the center of the roof. People burn coal, wood, or animal dung in the stove to heat the ger and for cooking. What they use depends on what is available where they live. Mongolia is a country where in most areas the temperatures are far below freezing all winter. You have to have heat!
Four or five beds are placed around the walls of the ger and are used as benches during the day.
The crown of the ger, a circular wooden inset supported by two wooden poles, has an opening for the chimney and covered areas that can be opened for air circulation. People do not lean on or walk between the two supporting poles, which are symbolic of the couple whose family lives in the ger.
The wooden slats that are placed from the crown to the lattice walls and the walls themselves don’t just hold up the roof! They are useful for storing small things that people need to be able to reach easily like harnesses for the horses, pots, or lunchboxes.
In fact, people don’t just store useful objects. You might think that living in such a small space would mean that people don’t keep anything that they don’t use every day. You would be wrong! Just as you probably have things that you treasure or that have religious or family meaning, people who live in gers keep the things that remind them of their families and activities they love.
This family has medals from horse races, a bundle of hairs from the tails of horses they’ve sold (to keep a memory of each animal with them), photographs, a brand for their livestock, a saddle, and bags for precious objects hanging from the wall or the ceiling supports over the television.