Ok, I just completely changed this post after re-reading it a few days after the fact. My first few weeks of being in Mongolia have been *amazing,* mostly because I did not expect to encounter so many wonderful, inspiring people so quickly and be welcomed with open arms. It has been quite humbling. But I must admit, also, that in the first days of a long-anticipated new trip or adventure, you walk around as if in a wide-eyed, rose-colored stupor. I had been eager to head to Mongolia for so long, that when I got here and so many things just fell into place, I was ecstatic and a little naive (but thats ok!!). I suppose I might have initially overlooked some of the more negative aspects.
My original post was then the result of my first wake-up call of living here again. This country has undergone a lot of rapid economic development and changes in the last years, and there have been some definite turns for the worse as a result. My first ‘culture shock’ started when I encountered a woman at the showing of the Vagina Monologues (first ever in Mongolia and was AMAZING) on the weekend. She was not Mongolian and told me that in her 7-months of living in UB, she had been punched in the face twice by men on the street. Just randomly, because she was there. Walked up to her and socked her. I asked around and heard similar stories from multiple women, all talking about random acts of being kicked or punched.
Rapid development has left a lot of people in the dust in Mongolia, especially men. With women being on average more highly educated than men and with the lack of opportunities, many men have been turning to Russia’s greatest contribution to Mongolia, vodka, to soothe their problems. So, at anytime of the day or night, you can see men taking shots, drunkenly walking, swaying, and singing down the street. And these men very frequently act out their frustrations on women.
So, I guess my first ‘culture shock’ came when I found myself at an expat bar surrounded by professional-looking people in business suits who worked for offshoot organizations of places like the IMF and WHO, trying to explain to people the importance of feminist discourse and why coal-mining is not exactly ‘great’ for nomads, and I realized that I was veryveryveryvery far away from Berlin. And after all these warnings and stories, I was at a loss for what I should do to get home that night. I tried getting taxis, but all the people that stopped were groups of men in cars who wanted to take a lady, and I got incredibly frustrated. I half-ran home. And collapsed on my couch with homesickness for Berlin where I have many friends who share my ideals and where I feel most comfortable. I guess I just generally felt at loss as to how to navigate being a white Western-educated feminist woman in a place where my being ‘white’ throws me into a social milieu I do not necessarily want, where being ‘educated’ makes people assume I have money and treat me as such (including try to rip me off), and where being an independent woman can have it’s reprecutions.
I am alright now -although the safety at night issue has not gone away- and suppose being surrounded by new people who might not necessarily share my general viewpoint of the world and politics might be a good exercise. I have to learn to convince people of the importance of feminist discourse and women’s issues in a world where that has been ‘done.’ That ship has sailed, so to speak. But, of course, it hasn’t and that is what I need to learn to argue well to all types of people.