Around 12:30am on the Monday after Naadam, while lying in bed but not quite asleep yet, I received a call from the PCT who lives right down the street from me. I was obviously a bit confused, but I answered my phone to have her tell me that there’s a really big fire near my hashaa! I had been wearing a face mask, so I didn’t notice anything, but as soon as I looked out my window I could see an orange glow and huge plumes of smoke coming from the direction of the front of my hashaa. I stayed on the phone with my friend while she told me about how she saw the fire from her house and noticed it was near my hashaa and suggested I wake up my host parents if they weren’t already. I ran out of my room to find only my host sisters in the house, both seemingly asleep. Then I ran out to the ger and found no one in there. Finally I ran towards the front of the hashaa to find my host dad standing on top of the cow pen watching the fire, while my host mom, brother, grandma, and some other people who were staying at our hashaa were standing by the gate. I then saw that the house in the hashaa across the street was what was on fire. My friend (who I was still on the phone with at this point) told me that she had seen people throwing buckets of water on it earlier, but with no plumbing system, there wasn’t anything else they could do. By the time I had gotten outside, a fire truck had arrived, and it looked like they were using some kind of hose, but again, there are no fire hydrants, so the only water they had was what was in the tank of the truck. I tried to get my host mom to tell me what happened, if anyone was still in the house, etc., but she didn’t seem to know much either. As the fire finally started to go out, some of the relatives and I went to get a closer look. We could see that the entire house had been burnt to the ground. A man and woman (I assumed the people who lived in the house) were standing around the cinders, the woman occasionally falling to the ground in despair. I felt really uncomfortable, and since there wasn’t anything I could do, I went with my family back into our hashaa and went back to my room. I sat in bed for another 30 minutes, just thinking about how those people had literally just lost everything. There’s not exactly such a thing as fire insurance here, so I had no idea how they would start over.
The next morning on the way to school, I looked over at their hashaa, and saw the remains more clearly. The whole house had truly been burnt to the ground. There was police tape around the perimeter, and I saw the same couple from before crouching by the ashes. At school, my friend and I told our LCFs about what had happened. Let’s just say their reactions were unbelievable. One of them actually let out a quick laugh, and they both seemed to think it was no big deal. I don’t know if people’s houses burn down here all the time or what, but I saw absolutely nothing funny about it. We tried to ask them what a family does when this happens to them and how we could help them, but they either didn’t understand our questions or just didn’t care. Later that day I tried to ask my host mom about it. I asked her if she knew those people, to which she replied no (how can you not know your neighbors?) and if everyone got out of the house ok, to which she replied that she didn’t know.
A few days later, though, they had already put up a new ger in the hashaa, so even though they still lost everything that was inside their home, at least they quickly got a new place to sleep.