By ELISE HONNINGDALSNES
Five years ago, Jeanett Melboe decided to leave her home country and go back to the last place where she felt happy. Today she lives with her husband and two kids in Terelj National Park outside of Ulaanbaatar and runs a popular ger-camp.
A few days before Jeanett Melboe was leaving Norway to spend a year on a working holiday in Australia, she went to her local book shop. The first book that got her attention was the “Mongolia” Lonely Planet book. It had been her dream for years and years to visit the beautiful land of Mongolia, with its beautiful nature and people.
The day she was leaving for the land down under, she put the book in the bottom of her bag. Jeanett spent a year in Australia working and traveling, but when it was about time to go home to Norway, she wasn’tquite ready yet. She started traveling up throughout Asia. One day when she was sitting in Thailand. she found the “Mongolia” book in her suitcase. She started looking at a map and said to herself, “Mongolia, isn’t that far away, is it?”
From Thailand, she jumped on a plane and finally landed in the land of her dreams – Mongolia. It was 2011 and Jeanett spent a month traveling around the country.
At a tourist ger-camp where she volunteered, she met a charming Mongolian called Puu-
jee. He didn’t speak much English but every time he saw her he said something like “hi, hello” and smiled.
After some time back home in Norway with her family, Jeanett realized that she needed a change in her life. She decided to sell her apartment and move away. She wanted to go back to the last place where she felt happy.
Jeanett landed a job teaching English in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Her boss came to pick her up at the airport when she landed in October the same year. Also waiting at the air-
port was Puujee, who clearly had a good eye to the beautiful Norwegian girl arriving to stay long-term in Mongolia.
“It was adorable, but it was also kind of awkward since my boss was there,” Jeanett says. Her boss on the other hand just laughed and told her to go with her friend.
Jeanett startedworking at Success Language School in Ulaanbaatar. Already a month after arriving, she and Puujee were in a relationship. In May, Jeanett brought him home to Norway to meet her family. They spent three months in northern Norway, where Jeanett originally comes from.
After some time living and teaching in Ulaanbaatar, Jeanett got quite sick. They had two options; move out in the country side or move out of the country. The choice was easy to make, and today the couple runs a popular ger-camp called Dream Adventure in Terelj National Park.
They bought their first ger, along with five horses, in 2012. They had just enough visitors to make it the first season and the visitors were mainly expats living in Ulaanbaatar. Today they have expanded the camp and they also have a sauna and several horses.
Three years ago at a local hospital, Jeanett gave birth to their first child. Storm is a blond, energetic Mongolian constantly running around at their camp, always playing with something. He already knows how to ride a horse and he speaks three languages; Mongolian, English and Norwegian. Their daughter, Savannah, was born in Norway eight months ago.
The couple have talked a lot about moving to Norway, but Jeanett says that Mongolia is their home.
“We have our job and our home here, in Norway we have nothing that’s ‘ours’,” she says. They are hoping to earn more money so that they can go to Norway and visit more frequently.
Norway has one of the longest coastlines in the world and is among the richer countries in the world. As a result, the Norwegian lifestyle is quite different from that of the Mongolian, but Jeanett has adapted very well.
“I like living in a ger, it’s great when it’s summer and I love having the family in one room instead of spread out throughout a house,” she says. “It’s also very nice during winter when we light the fire and the candles inside, but it does get a little too cold. It’s also impossible to keep Storm inside for long,” she laughs.
Every year during winter, the family goes to Norway. Jeanett works while her husband goes to a Norwegian school four days a week. Puujee speaks quite well Norwegian, and every day, he comes home from school and says that the language is so easy to learn. Jeanett won’t say the same about Mongolian. According to her, she speaks more Caveman-Mongolian than anything.
“The grammar is extremely hard,” she says. She also thinks that Norwegians use too much electricity and water.
Even though they spend winters in Norway, Jeanett says she prefers the Mongolian winter. Jeanett comes from northern Norway where it’s dark all day during winter.
“The Norwegian winter is so dark and depressing. Even though the Mongolian winter is freezing, you can play outside in the sun even though it’s minus 30°C,” she says.
Next year already, Jeanett and Puujee will start tutoring Storm from home next. Jeanett says they can’t afford the international schools and it is too long to drive four hours every day to bring the kids to school. Jeanett also feels that it’s better to keep Storm at home, where he is the only student, instead of being lost in the mass in a classroom.
What Jeanett loves the most about Mongolia is the openness, both in the landscape and the the people.
“I love that you can go over to your neighbor without knowing them, and they’ll invite you in for tea,” she says, “I also love the nature, even though Norway is renowned for its beautiful nature, there’s something captivating about the Mongolian nature, I love how the animals are so free here.”
“I also have a love-hate relationship with the fact that everybody here is so relaxed. People here live by the idea ‘why do today what you can put off until tomorrow’,” she says. In her home country, Norway, everybody lives by the opposite saying; “never put off until tomorrow what you can do today”, so that can sometimes be a challenge.
Every now and then Jeanett arranges clothing deliveries from Norway, which she gives to local people who needs them more. Together with her husband she also has a dream to start a day-care center for children. They already have all the teaching material and furniture they need, but they need sponsors and money to run it.