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Aimag Province or capital city of province  

Airag Fermented mare’s milk 
Arruul Dried cheese curds 
Arts Incense  


Balanceruu Moving toward balance 
Bi chamd khairtai I love you 
Bi Mongold khairtai I love Mongolia 
Boodog Barbecue where meat is cooked in the animal’s skin 
Buu Shaman one who contacts ongod or spirit ancestors to restore balance to people, livestock, and land  

Buuz Dumpling(s)  


Chi khaloon osand orokh oo? Do you want a hot shower? 
Chinggis Khan Mongolian hero who conquered land from the Pacific to the Mediterranean 

Damaru A small two-headed drum used in Tibetan Buddhist 
Dorj Brass thunderbolt used in Tibetan Buddhism 
Deel Mongolian traditional gown fastened with cloth knot or silver buttons with loops on the right side. It is made of silk, wool, cotton or skin with the fur inside, depending on the season. Silk or wool deels can be any bright color for women and are often navy, black, brown, or maroon for men. Fur can be lamb’s wool, sheepskin, or fur from other animals. A double layer of material in front is perfect for riding a horse because one side can wrap around each leg for warmth and protection. When a cummerbund, usually orange or yellow, is added, the top half forms a large pocket. This is useful for a herder since binoculars, baby goats, cheese, or dried meat can be easily slid in and out of the pocket, even while riding a horse. On a cold day, a parent can even tuck a baby inside.  

Dukha Tuvan. People from the Tuvan republic in southern Siberia, Russia. This is the name a small ethnic group of reindeer herders living in northern Mongolia call themselves  


Eej Khad Mother Rock, a sacred site in central Mongolia 

Gazar Dirt, soil, ground, land, earth, world. Also place, bay, range, section, parts, office, country, soil, site, locality, station, spot, estate, grass, area, township, department, point, office, depot, camp Ger Round, felt tent of nomadic herders. Yurt.  

Guanz Café   


Khadag Prayer scarf 
Khaltar Tsarait “Dirty Face”, a Venezuelan soap opera 
Khashaa A fenced yard in the countryside for housing 
Khengereg Shaman’s drum 
Khot City 
Khoviin Personal 
Khuduu Countryside 
Khuduu aj amdral Countryside living 
(K)huuchin gemtliin emneleg Old trauma hospital 

Mongol uls minii nuhur Mongolia is my husband 
Mongolian medicine A Buddhist system similar to Tibetan medicine, with its roots in Ayurveda, beginning in Mongolia during the sixteenth century and changing to include the use of Mongolian medicinal plants.  

Morin khuur Horsehead fiddle  

Myy Bad wrong 

Naadam Festival of three sports: horse racing, archery, and wrestling  

Nuuts Secret 

Ongod, pl, ongon, s. Ancestor spirit(s) who come to shamans during a ritual or ceremony  


Sain baina uu Hello  

Sanaa-aldakh Sigh 
Setgel Mind, spirit, emotions 
Shagai Sheep ankle bone, used for games 
Shuleg Poem 
Steppe Grasslands or prairie 
Sutra Holy Buddhist texts 
Sum or soum County or county center 
Suu tsai Milk tea 

Taiga High altitude boggy forest 
Tavtai morilno oo! Welcome! 
Thangka God painting 
Tsagaan Sar Lunar New Year 
Tumsnii ulaan (Latin) Red lily 
Tuurug, tuurug Response an individual gives to shamans’ ongod during a ceremony meaning, “tell my future” 

Ugui, bi khuiten osand orno No, I want a cold shower Urts Siberian teepee 


Za Okay, well 
Zakh Market. Used to be black market   




As a person who has had many stories to tell, it has taken over twenty-five years to put these together. A gift to spend a month at Vermont Studio Center in 2018 got me focused on the four-part story, which has become five parts. Later in 2018 and again in 2019, I had to put the writing down to go to Mongolia and direct the documentary Transition. Thanks to Heid E. Erdrich for guidance in January of 2020 at the Vermont Studio Center where I was struggling to pick the thread back up. It was during the years of Covid that I could take the time at home to knit the pieces together.  


Susie Cronin has supported my work as a Nomadicare board member and a donor for the trips and work in Mongolia. She became a producer for Transition and Gobi Children’s Song and most recently a supporter of the publishing of this book. Susie has listened to many of these stories over the years when she, as a dear, dear friend, called me every day during the pandemic—often the only person I spoke to. I am incredibly grateful to her for believing in me and helping me fulfill my leadings and dreams.  


Over the years, John Swift, Ann Barker, along with Bruce Payne and Rachel Weingeist with the Rubin Foundation have been wonderful supporters. Thanks to the Nomadicare board members Eleanor Ott, Jonathan Hodgkin, Robin Lloyd, Carolyn Schmidt, Munkhjin Bayanjargal, and Lucy McKeon, as well as hundreds of Nomadicare donors who made my experiences in Mongolia possible.  


Back in the mid-nineties, I traded with Euan Bear for editing my early stories. One day in 1997, Bette Moffett stopped me on the street in Middlebury and said, “You must have a lot of stories about Mongolia. Why not join Margery Cady’s group at the Ilsley Library?” Joining Marg’s group, I wrote a couple of pages each week and when a decade was up, I found that I had five hundred pages. I asked some of my best mentors and writers to read them. One suggested that I use half of the Mongolian stories for a first book. I published Reindeer Herders in My Heart in 2012. Since then it has been translated into Mongolian and French. I am sharing the rest of the original Mongolian stories here in Marrying Mongolia.  


This memoir has taken many teachers, writing groups, classes, and editors—starting with Don Mitchell’s Middlebury College “Workshop in Nonfiction Writing” in 1985. Abi Sessions’ class taught me what a memoir is. In A. Jay Dubberly’s Bixby Writers’ Group with Trish Dougherty, Steve Holmes, Cliff Adams, Pat Willwerth, Beth Christian, Michelle Mertens, I learned what my writing sounded like when others read it.  


Don Mitchell and John Elder’s “Stories in the Land” in 2014 and its offshoot the S’warms with Alice Leeds, Jill Vickers, Sue Jeffs, Marnie Wood, Erin Ruble, and Matthew Witten opened connections to nature in my writing. And finally, deep weekly work in Di- B-Sas memoir group with B. Amore and Diane Nancekivell showed me the commonalities of women being brought up in the fifties.  


Thanks to Abi Sessions, my first reader, Shebana Coelho who edited the content, and Claudia Cooper who did the final edit and proofreading—and counseling on the last sticky issues in the book. 


Thank you to all the Quakers, family members, and friends who have enriched my life, especially to Julia Carey Petro for research and Linda Waterman for answering questions.  


With gratitude to Fred Thodal who takes very beautiful photos and videos.  


With my star translators I am free to travel deeply into the world of Mongolia. There is a rare intimacy between who is speaking and listening and who is helping translate.  


Khaliuna, Munkhjin, Zula, M. Khongoroo, Chimedee, Anuka, Boloroo, Hagid, Michele, Davaa  


This is my shuleg, my poem, to you.  


You who are translator interpreter and assistant You hold me 
Without you I would not know Mongolia Since my Mongolian is not fluent 
You are my mouth and ears 
You know everything first 
A position of power 
You don’t abuse 
Together twenty-four hours each day 
Six weeks each year 
You are my younger sisters Daughters granddaughters 
We have a rare intimacy 
You anticipate needs 
Allow words to flow both ways 
You are my bridge 
To everything Mongolian 
I honor you 

(Za means okay . . . It is what Mongolians say to each other rather than Thank you.)  

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