26 June 2007

250 Word Review: 'Hearing Birds Fly' by Louisa Waugh

This book was a present from my brother I was was put off for ages by the subtitle ‘A Nomadic Year in Mongolia.’ I’m not the travelling type and previously couldn’t have pointed to Mongolia on a map. But surprisingly, I really got into Waugh’s account of her year as a teacher in Tsengel, a remote Western Mongolian village. It took a while, but her admission that she wasn’t the ‘roughing it’ type (like me!) made me warm to her.

The book balances Waugh’s personal story with the history of Mongolia and the people of the region well, and some of the facts I learned were very fascinating (although people I’ve told them to weren’t so interested – did you know Mongols drink tea with salt? Do you care? Didn’t think so!) It was humbling to hear how the people of Tsengel cope with barely any electricity, little money, terrible weather conditions and only bread and meat to eat. In a culture where we complain if there’s nothing on TV or the trains run late, reading the stories of real people who have next to nothing does make you value what you have. And these are real people, who go to discos, gossip in school canteens and fall in love. It’s so easy to forget these people exist, let alone have feelings.

I won’t be keeping this book to read again but I am glad I read it and would recommend to anyone, especially those interested in travel or Eastern Europe.

No comments: