“A Blonde in Mongolia”

Being a blonde woman in Mongolia definitely draws a lot of attention. Whether I’m walking down the street to school or exploring the market or making my way to a fellow PCV’s house, I feel like the beam of a lighthouse as I walk through an ocean of people with dark hair.

Mongolia isn’t yet considered to be a popular tourist destination. Since opening its doors after the fall of communism, it can still be extremely rare for a Mongolian to see an American especially in a small soum or ger-dwellers in the countryside. What Americans they have seen have been from movies and the internet. In my aimeg, I am the only blonde resident.

Mongolia should be on your travel bucket list:

As a result, there is a lot of staring. In America, it’s considered rude to stare. If you catch someone staring, they quickly look away. But in Mongolia, some Mongolians are like owls. When I flounce on by, their heads will slowly swivel and watch. Or if you catch them staring, they don’t look away. They are curious of my being here.

“Би англи хэлний багш байна,” I say when they ask me what I’m doing in Mongolia. I’m an English teacher.

 At first, this sudden burst of attention unnerved me. I left the city of Chicago where it is easy to go unnoticed. To be one in five-million. To walk down the street and be completely ignored because everyone is walking with a purpose and a destination in mind. Or are sprinting to catch a train or bus.

In Mongolia, I feel like a celebrity. Children ask for selfies and many try to grab my attention by showing off a fine wooly sheep, invite me to play volleyball or football, children yell “Hi,” and some try to invite me over for dinner. Mongolians are interested, curious, fascinated and excited to see a foreigner in their aimeg. For many, it’s an honor to host a foreigner. Indeed, Mongolians are generous with incredible hospitality. The sudden burst of attention – what made me uncomfortable during my first month – is becoming easier to handle.