Freezing Cold in Mongolia

BY BILGUUN MUNKHJARGAL
Jan 25, 2010

To beat the record cold temperatures, Mongolians are grilling horse meat and car parts.

 

freezing in mongolia

 

It's freezing. Two days ago, I parked my car outside for three hours without starting or heating it, and it turned into an ice box. It wouldn't start. I called the trusty 1950 and asked the operator to send someone over. A taxi drove up to the car after five minutes, and the driver spent the next 30 minutes doing his best to rescue my ice cube on wheels. Unfortunately, nothing worked. Even the good ole Mongolian method of grilling the engine bits and the spark plugs with a makeshift blowtorch failed to bring it back to life. The engine oil must have frozen. After 20 minutes standing outside, I could no longer feel my fingers and toes. It was and still is that cold: -36 degrees Celsius cold.

Horse meat is consumed instead of the usual beef and mutton during the colder months of the year, as the meat has more calories and Mongolians believe that horse meat has immunity-enhancing qualities. The Kazakhs of western Mongolia are well-known for their mostly horse meat diet, especially during the winter months. The protein composition of horse meat, according to my scientist mother, allows for better digestion and absorption by the human digestive system as compared to mutton and beef.

We are on the second of the nine nines, as Mongolians call it. These are the coldest 81 days of winter, that start around the winter equinox. And until the first four or five nines are behind us, the weather doesn't look promising for cars, toes and fingers. The temperatures will, probably, get better after Tsagaan Sar (the Lunar New Year and the beginning of Spring), which is on the 14th of February this year, so far, though I'm fairly certain there will be disputes over the exact Tsagaan Sar date come February.

People with some extra cash and flexible career commitments try to escape the winter to a warmer place like Southeast Asia. This winter has been especially cold with night temperatures dropping to minus 39 or so. It's my first time experiencing the bitter cold in more than a decade, not that I missed it.

 

Bilguun Munkhjargal also blogs at Asian Gypsy.