President Bush is on his way to Asia, where he will visit Japan, South Korea, China and Mongolia. All Things Considered producer Charlie Mayer, who is spending a year in Mongolia, says that when the president gets there he might find that it feels a little familiar. Mongolia, Mayer notes, is the Texas of Asia.
Home on the Range in Mongolia
Charlie Mayer, NPR
Boot merchant Nyamad shows off one of his gigantic Mongolian boots. November is boot buying season in Mongolia. Winter has not yet arrived, but the weather is cold enough to remind people that it is definitely coming.
Charlie Mayer, NPR
Mr. Bush won't be the only Texan in Mongolia. Pamela Slutz, the U.S. Ambassador in the capital Ulaanbaatar, is also a Texan. Below is an essay for NPR.org by Slutz about the similarities between the two places.
My husband, Ronald Deutch, and I are Texans -- and proud of it. Both of us also feel very much at home in Mongolia. We have been coming to Mongolia since the mid-1990s and consider ourselves very fortunate to have the opportunity to serve here on a long-term basis. We have been here since September of 2003.
We are continually struck by how much Mongolia looks and feels like our native Texas -- the "open range" of vast, rolling landscapes and grazing herds of animals watched over my men on horses. In the not-too-distant past, semi-nomadic "cowboys" drove large herds of cattle across the open range in much of Texas and other parts of the American West.
Mongols have been practicing a nomadic, herding tradition for at least 800 years, far longer than the history of Texas and the United States. I think that the 40 percent of Mongolians who still today make their living as nomadic herdsmen would feel very much at home in parts of Texas and the American West -- and vice versa.
In fact, in September this year, a group of cowboy musicians associated with the Western Folklife Center in Elko, Nevada, visited Mongolia. I spent several days with them traveling on horseback across the steppes in Arhangai province. Many of them are working ranchers. In addition to playing music, they exchanged views and ideas with Mongolian counterparts on how to manage rangeland, how to cope with increased urbanization, population pressures, and overgrazing that threaten the health of the range/steppe.
The group was also intrigued by the obvious cultural similarities -- and probable common ancestry -- between Mongolians and Native Americans.
In my residence here in Ulaanbaatar, I have on display 15 works of art by contemporary "American Western" artists. The collection is on loan from the Museum of Western (Cowboy) Art in Kerrville, Texas. Many of the artists are members of the Cowboy Artists of America, a group of working ranchers cum artists who are dedicated to depicting the timeless heritage of the American West.
Texas and Mongolia have not only similar landscapes (West Texas looks a lot like the south Gobi and the Hill Country of Central Texas looks a lot like northern Mongolia), but also similar values of hard-work, hospitality, love of the land, and appreciation for Earth's bounty and our duty to preserve it for future generations.
Last year when I accompanied the Mongolian president to his meeting with President Bush at the White House, I remember inviting the President to visit Mongolia, adding that I thought he would find that "Mongolia looks a lot like Texas." As the Mongolian saying goes, "seeing is believing" and I believe that during their visit later this month President and Mrs. Bush will see the similarities -- and feel very much at home in Mongolia.