We called Erbold “our Mongolian,” not in a patronizing way, but because we had never met anyone quite like him or from so exotic a place when he came to spend a year with us and our youngest son, Daniel. Assured that he spoke English, we quickly realized that a smiling “yes” really meant “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” But he was gritty and determined. We bought him the first ice skates he had ever seen, and after the last game of the JV’s season, he raced home to announce he had scored a hat trick. He came to us through Clyde Goulden, a scientist married to Erbold’s aunt, who spent half his year studying Lake Baikal, the world’s deepest freshwater lake, and the other half in his office at the Academy of Natural Sciences. Erbold’s favorite stories were about summers spent with his grandfather, a nomadic herder on the Mongolian steppes. He loved that life and was devastated when his grandfather died.
Yesterday NPR reported that Clyde Goulden has received Mongolia’s highest award, the Order of the Polar Star, for his work on climate change. He and his wife, Tuya, traveled the country, where the 4-degree temperature rise since the 1950s is four times the global average. They interviewed Mongolia's herders, who told them “everything is changing” – particularly the rains, which have shifted from long-lasting silky rains to short, inundating showers.
Mongolians have many words for rain, Tuya told NPR, but the words for good rain are disappearing. “That rain is gone,” she said.