A wrought iron stove : the center of a ger
The center of a ger
By Cooper Baltis
Life in a Mongolian ger revolves around a wrought iron stove. It’s the original central heating that doubles as a device in which everything is cooked, boiled, steamed, fried, simmered and cleaned. It is invariably rusty, stained from daily usage and inlayed with endless knot regalia. It is crucial and strikingly useful. It is the center of the ger and the single most used item in the countryside.
Mongolian women spend most of their day around the stove. They begin their mornings by boiling water. Once the water is boiled, milk and tea is added to the boiling pot. A large ladle hanging from a chord near the stove is used to mix the milk and water together. A pinch of salt is mixed into the pot and an old saucepan is used to strain the milk tea into a pot. The nozzle of the tea pot is used to transfer the milk tea into a large thermos. The thermos is generally a bright color, the front of which is decorated by a floral pattern.
The thermos of milk tea is brought to a small table close to the back of the ger. It is set on the table next to a plastic bowl filled with bootsog, a fried pastry cut into small squares. The man of the ger enters and sits down on a stool next to the table. He greets his wife and daughters with a nod. His hands are muddy and slightly bloody from pulling a large thorn out of the hooves of one of his sheep. He reaches for the milk tea and pours it into a bowl. He finishes the tea quickly. Ochre finger prints remain on the white bowl. He takes one bootsog, puts it in the front pocket of his shirt, and leaves the ger.
The oldest daughter takes the pot used to boil the milk tea outside the ger. She uses an old rag to clean the milky residue off the side of the pot. She finishes and scoops water out of a plastic container into the pot. The pot is brought back into the ger and set on the stove. The middle daughter adds small chunks of wood into the stove. She blows air inside the stove using a hollow rod and listens for the crackling sound of the embers. While all this happens, the mother sits on her bed, combing the hair of the youngest daughter.
The water begins to boil on the stove. The oldest daughter pours most of the hot water into a metal wash bin. With the help of her sister, she carries the wash bin outside. The middle sister returns to the ger and grabs a sack of clothing out of a plastic bucket.
The mother sets her youngest daughter on the bed and picks up two small orange stools. She turns one of the stools upside down near the stove. She takes the pot full of water off the stove and balances it between the legs of the overturned stool. The mother sits on the other stool and starts using the hot water to wash dishes. The youngest daughter wanders outside to find her sisters.
She finds her sisters sitting around the wash bin on their heels. Soap suds splash out of the bin. The oldest sister scrubs a pair of jeans with her bare knuckles. The middle sister reaches for the youngest and tickles her. The youngest protests and runs back into the ger.
to be continued