Her real name is Munkhtamir, last name “G”. That’s a little tough for Americans who have never encountered anyone from Mongolia and may not be at all sure just where to find her country on the world map. So the charming, outgoing 17-year-old who spent two weeks in July with her friend Andrea Dean in Fort Collins answers to Tamira in the U.S.
As part of a program sponsored by the Mongolian 4-H Youth Organization, Tamira hosted Dean last summer when she traveled to Mongolia, when Dean was one of two Colorado high school juniors among a group of 28 students chosen to participate in the Enhancing Global Perspective Youth Leadership Program.
Last summer’s excursion was sponsored by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, administered through the University of Wyoming 4-H Youth Development Program.
Dean’s experience in Mongolia included a visit with the president of the country, a camping trip with nights spent in a “ger,” a traditional Mongolian home, much like a a yurt, and a home stay with Tamira and her family. She never dreamed that Tamira would be able to visit her in the U.S.
Like Dean, Tamira is a recent high school graduate. She will attend college in the fall in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, to study technical translation.
The flight to the U.S. was her first. During her time in the U.S., she visited South Dakota, Wyoming and Utah, and spent time in Steamboat Springs. She had a taste of the “big city” on a visit to Chicago.
Tamira’s hometown of Kharkhorin has a population of 14,000. “Fort Collins feels like a big city to me,” she said.
She’s so service-oriented that she asked for ways to volunteer while here and spent time helping with river clean-up in Steamboat Springs and serving lunch to the homeless in Fort Collins.
Tamira had many first-time experiences in the U.S., including going to a church, zoo, on a gondola and go-kart, to a Cirque du Soleil performance and a rodeo. Tamira also learned how to make pizza from scratch, a skill she will take home with her, and was surprised to learn that Americans keep dogs as household pets. There is no electricity or running water in her home, making those necessities to Americans new experiences for her as well.
Tamira taught her host family to play games with a set of sheep ankle bones and shared the history and customs of her country. She is the third child and only girl in her family of four children. Tamira’s mother is a nurse and her father a driver for a government agency. The family has nomadic relatives whom they see frequently.
The friendliness of the people she met in the U.S. came as a surprise to Tamira as it did to Dean during her time in Mongolia. When asked about an overall impression of the country, Tamira retreated into Americanisms: “Awesome,” she said. “Amazing.”