The Richness of My Nomadic Tradition

On the flight from Beijing to Ulan Bator, I was intrigued by a page in the magazine about a personal narrative of Sainkho Namtchylak, who uses traditional Mongolian throat-singing technique to introduce Shamanistic ideas about peace and harmony to the world. I closed the magazine, and was eager to embrace whatever came from the place that my ancestors call home.

Landing on the Mongolian Plateau, my three days of exploration began. I walked around in a museum learning the narratives of my own ancestors. Those old Yehe Zasag (rules and laws) guiding to build a sustainable ecological cycle inspired me to reflect on the modern exploitation of energy, and how cooperating with nature can be a mutually-beneficial deal for our future. What if the old tactics passed down from Genghis Khan’s military troops could help modern enterprises think about management?  I immersed myself into the scenes: taking random walks in the middle of-nowhere under a shiny mid-summer starry sky, observing people’s faces and listening to their conversations and laughter, looking up at a sculpture of Genghis Khan on Sukhbaatar Square, I was PROUD to be who I am. 

As the Dalai Lama mentions, we are all an indispensable part of the global family. A crisis or inspiration drawn in one place may affect the other places like a ripple. If consulted, indigenous nomads might offer amazing inspiration for modern policy-making, environmental protection and scientific innovation. A reminiscence of my background allows me to appreciate the indigenous wisdom to confront natural disasters—they are the teachers for the local government on forest fire management. The sustainable values in the lifestyle, observation of interactions between animals and plants, all this informal knowledge consists of potential contributions to modern policy-solutions.

Back from the trip, I began to appreciate what my family had been nurturing in me: the music my mother played on the radio, the conversations I listened to during family gatherings, the dish my dad made for my birthday, the summer explorations in nature, and all other experiences, remind me of Josef Pieper’s Only the Lover Sings—what we perceive as leisure and arts in fact, second by second, slowly, reflect our fruitful souls and shape our inner selves. I start to pay attention to my surroundings and the environment I have been immersed in, the scenery opening up a window and building a framework for my understanding of the world.

My meditation on the Mongolian Plateau turns into reflections on circular economy, my daily walk in the “middle of nowhere” allows me the silence to contemplate the depth of human nature…What if nomadic cultures were not considered as being “behind”? Instead, they carry great assets, underestimated, that could serve as a great complement to fast-paced, industrialized urban life. The story, the scene and the spirit, they fill me with perseverance, curiosity, empathy, and a warm-heart.

In the departure area of the Ulan Bator airport, soft winds kissed my face. I appreciated my parents, who opened the first window to my culture and identity, to immerse me with love and care. I pause and decide to look, for the last time, at this place my ancestors call “home.” Recalling the restless nights looking at myself in the mirror questioning what the place of a girl with a nomadic tradition in this world is, the “struggling-caring” girl, for the first time, I was bold enough to play out music in my mother language, yes, without headphones. 


Published: December 23, 2021
Written by: Haila Amin, Advocacy Intern at the World Youth Alliance Headquarters