By ISAAC GREEN
The following interview is with Mandy Grayson, a distinguished educator at the young age of 23. Mandy’s expertise lies in teaching travel and tourism at a prominent high school in Ulaanbaatar. Her passion for shaping the minds of future generations and instilling in them the values of exploration and cultural understanding is truly admirable.
Where are you originally from, and how long have you been living in Mongolia?
It’s a rather complicated question for me as I’ve been traveling since I was just two weeks old. I don’t have a specific place I can call my hometown, but whenever people ask, I usually say I am from the UK. I have been living in Mongolia for 12 years, although not consistently. In between, I would explore different places, and I also lived in Switzerland for a while.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
I needed a reason to come back to Mongolia, and this high school offered me a decent opportunity. They were looking for someone to teach tourism, and since I wanted to move back to Mongolia, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for me. I enjoy teaching because it gives me a sense of pride.
Instilling good values in the future generations to come brings me immense satisfaction.
If you could say your most favorite thing about the country, what would you say?
There are several things I truly cherish about Mongolia. First and foremost, the people here are incredibly friendly, especially when you venture outside the city. Moreover, the breathtaking scenery and untouched nature are truly awe-inspiring. These are things you can’t just experience anywhere else. However, if I were to choose just one favorite thing, it would be the genuine friendliness of the people.
Is there anything you do not like about the country?
There are only two things that I dislike about Mongolia. The traffic and pollution in the city center can be quite overwhelming at times. Aside from these minor inconveniences, I am genuinely fond of this country.
What is your best memory as a teacher?
One of my most cherished memories as a teacher was a field trip to a monastery in Aglag Buteeliin Hiid. It was a unique experience where we became tourists in our own country. We traveled around the mountains, visited the monastery, and had the opportunity to meet monks. It was a profoundly special and enlightening experience for all of us.
Can you recall any negative experiences you have had while traveling in Mongolia?
One of my most challenging experiences while traveling in Mongolia was taking a bus ride from Ulaanbaatar to Khuvsgul. The journey took a full day as we had to make frequent stops for people to get food or use the restroom. It was a rough 22-hour bus ride, and I sincerely wished that trains would reach more destinations in the country to provide a more comfortable and efficient mode of transportation.
What is your favorite cuisine?
My favorite Mongolian cuisine is a peculiar blend of tea and tsuivan. It’s a separate dish that, when mixed with hot water and milk the next morning, becomes an absolutely delicious treat. Some people might find it unusual, but I believe one should not judge until they have tried it.
You have a free afternoon. What would you do first?
If I have some free time, my first choice would be to explore the city on foot and discover new places I haven’t been to before. Recently, I stumbled upon a coffee shop right below where I live that I hadn’t noticed previously. So, I often go on coffee shop hunts, seeking out new places that offer a quiet and relaxing ambiance. Recently, I even visited a maid cafe where the male servers wear maid attire, which I found quite amusing.
A tourist approaches you and asks where they should visit first. Where would you direct them?
If a tourist is looking for great photo opportunities, I would guide them towards the main square. However, if they ask about local food options, I wouldn’t recommend a typical restaurant but instead direct them to a nearby black market. These markets are located about every 20-30 minutes of walking distance from each other, and they offer cheaper, locally sourced, and healthier options. In particular, I would recommend Saroza, a black market that stands out for its unique offerings.