Bird In A House: Antics With My Mongolian Family

"Ger" (Home)

“‘I’m gonna smash my way out that’s all, cried the bird and smashed from wall to wall, ‘There must be some way out!’, he cried, and his desperation echoed down the hall,  just another bird in a house, dying to get out.”  -Todd Scheaffer

Orkhon, Mongolia

A lazy summer evening. Me and my host family sat in the living room. Me in the large comfy armchair, which was always conceded to me without my asking. My host mother sat on the couch next to Jagaa and Moogi, while my oldest brother Moojig played a computer game from the nineties. The sun, fighting to stay skyward as it did every summer evening struggled to keep the last of its light above the mountains. The TV droned Mongolian into my ears that I couldn’t understand, moths hovered around a single lightbulb. I was roused from my stupor by a familiar flapping. Not one but two tiny chickadee sized birds flew from the room with the pingpong table into the family room.

In other houses, even in Mongolia this may have seemed a peculiar occurrence, but in my house it was commonplace. My mother would often boast of how safe Orkhon was, “Not like the city!” she’d exclaim. As a result our door would idly sit open all hours of the day. Besides the frequent Mongolian visitors, everyday would also welcome in birds who would flap and hop about investigating every part of the tiny house. On more than one occasion I would have to shoo them from my room after their poor sense of direction would get them hopelessly trapped.

So I didn’t give it much of a second glance when the two little birds fluttered above my head and began repetitively darting from one corner to the next looking for the exit. With the sun down the two little birds had no beacon to guide their usual way to the door. So they flapped and bounced off the windows and walls until my oldest brother growled something under his breath and both Moogi and Jagaa got to their feet and began trying to coral the two little birds to the doorway. Jagaa wielding a broom and Moogi waving his shirt only caused the birds to seek different routes in their endless circumnavigation of the room. They clattered behind the TV, flew through flowers and hopped over the family’s altar. Dipping and diving over my two brothers heads as they laughed, side stepping and ducking out of the way.

It was too much for me to not partake. I stood up, discarded my shirt and began working up a sweat trying to shoo two birds from a house. We laughed jostling between each other trying to get in the right strategic position to get the birds towards the door. Moogi, who having climbed on the arm of the couch to improve his stature, hobbled backwards on one leg loosing his equilibrium as a bird wizzed past. Jagaa, one minute swinging the broom formidably would cringe and transform it into a mock helmet when a bird dived too close. All the while my mother rocked back in forth with laughter on the couch at our comical attempts. The irony did not escape me, here I was with people born of some of the best herdsmen in the world, attempting to herd two tiny chickadees. Finally a bird clattered against the door frames and fluttered out into the night. Me and my brothers, exhausted, panting, and sweating, clapped each other on the back in congratulations. The noise carried on as we realized the second bird was still trapped. We all exchanged tired glances. My host mother having gone silent, stood up, quietly walked over to the windowsill where the tiny bird had found a perch and calmly picked it up. The bird did not struggle or chirp, merely resigning itself to be carried to wherever my host mother chose. Me and my brothers watched dumbfounded as she then casually walked to the doorway and released the bird into the darkness. She came back into the room and no longer able to keep a straight face burst out laughing.  Me and my brothers couldn’t help but join in. “Yaaj?”(How?) I asked. Still laughing through teary eyes she replied, “Bi eej baina.”

“I’m Mom.”

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