Louisa Waugh lived in a village in the far west of Mongolia in the late 1990s and wrote a remarkable book about her experience.
It’s a world of drought-stricken spring, lush summer pasture and brutal winters when fetching water meant hacking holes through river ice.
In this harsh and stunningly beautiful landscape, villagers lived on mutton, dairy products and vodka, and met incredible hardships with smiles and laughter.
There are marriages and deaths, weeks of hunger and gut-busting feasts, bubonic plague and birthday parties.
And more than anything, the profound sense of a community that has carved out a life in one of our world’s most remote corners.
This is a podcast I’ve been looking forward to since the beginning.
I spent a month in Mongolia in 2002, and it remains the most unforgettable place I’ve ever been. The freedom of the open steppe and the friendships I made there stayed with me in a way other places never did. I’ve never stopped dreaming of going back.
Louisa is the author of Hearing Birds Fly: A Nomadic Year in Mongolia, Selling Olga, and Meet Me in Gaza. Her work has appeared in The Independent, The Guardian, The New Statesman and on the BBC World Service.
In addition to being a gifted writer she’s also an international conflict management and peace-building consultant with more than a decade of experience in Central and West Africa and the Middle East.
We spoke about life at the edge of Mongolia, the nomadic cycle, and how aloneness teaches us about ourselves.