Troon woman’s odyssey back to Outer Mongolia gets BBC audience
Yet it may as well be a million miles away, such is the cultural gulf. Author Uuganaa Ramsay, 37, left the high plains and deserts for London 14 years ago before settling in Troon.
On Monday her amazing story was broadcast by BBC Radio 4, who whisked her back to her homeland to get the full on Mongolian experience.
She spent two weeks in Mongolia, staying in the old family yurt and becoming a minor celebrity with free access to government ministers and no less than six interviews with television stations.
What drives Uuganna is the death in 2009 of her son Billy, who was born with Down’s Syndrome and was buried just three months later at Troon Cemetery.
She said: “Mongolians refer to themselves as Mongols and are very proud. Billy was a Mongol not because he had Down’s but because I am a Mongol.”
As a key part of the 30 minute programme she challenges the use of the word Mongol and its link to Down’s.
It has two dictionary definitions – 1 a member of a pastoral people now living chiefly in Mongolia. 2. (offensive) a person affected with Down’s Syndrome.
She was accompanied by a lone radio producer and took 22 hours to reach her dramatic destination, via London, Moscow and the Mongolian capital Ulan Bator.
They then caught a 90 minute internal flight 700 miles to the west to Uliastai, capital of the wild Zavhan province, flanked by the Gobi desert and glacial mountain ranges.
It is a land of traditional grassland steppe on which Uuganaa looked after and milked sheep and goats, made cheese and reared horses in the summer.
Zavhan is the same size as Scotland, yet has a population of 65,000.
In the winter when the temperature can plunge to -50C, her mum Tsetsgee and dad Purevdorj moved the yurt into town where Uuganna and her sister were schooled.
The mum-of- four now lives in Troon in the centrally-heated comfort of a villa with Glasgow-born husband Howard and their kids.
She said: “I am delighted how the trip went and thrilled at the documentary, which is available on iPlayer and will be broadcast again by the BBC World Service in January.
“I interviewed the Culture Minister and the Minister of the Environment because she has a son with Downs and set up the Mongolian Downs Syyndrome Association.
“I felt proud the BBC was interested in the Mongolian lifestyle and was trying to understand where I come from. It gave me the chance to show them that life is not just about how big your house or car is, or how much money you have in your wallet.”
Uuganaa, who works in careers in Kilmarnock, doesn’t quite accept her old country is caught in a timewarp, saying: “My parents now have a satellite dish on their yurt, powered by a solar panel and a generator and even a satellite phone.
“Yet at the same time you can be in any age when you see the stars from the window in the roof and the fire creates a cosy glow.
“There is not a sound and the stars are like glitter spread on black silk.”
The documentary takes Uuganna further along the road of recovery from the loss of her son, but she admits: “My pain will never leave me and this is not the end of the journey for me.”
She hopes her book ‘Mongol’ will ultimately be turned into a movie on the silver screen.
Listen to The Meaning of Mongol at www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04ps15y