Bulgaria is a paradise land with amazing nature. I wholeheartedly wish the Bulgarians happiness and love for the New 2020 year. Be healthy and well, may peace and harmony reign, may your dreams come true!

This elegant and exquisite Mongolian lady, born in Ulaanbaatar, linked her fate to Bulgaria, who came to do an internship at the Mongolian embassy and in 1989 they got married in Mongolia. Her smile shows that she is a happy woman who follows her husband around the world, but who also follows her dreams.

Tuya graduated from the Ulaanbaatar Institute for Economics and Finance. She takes care of their three children and works. And Bulgaria is still present in her life. Here, while her husband has been a diplomat at the embassy, ​​their younger son was born. Here, their daughter studies at the French Language School Alfonso de Lamartine. Here, later, both of their sons complete their secondary education at the Russian School. And here they are again now, she, already as the wife of the Mongolian ambassador H. E. Mr. Dashjamts Batsaikhan. From her story about their lives, about Mongolia and about our country, we understand why Mrs. Tuya is sincere when she says, "Bulgaria is like a second home to me".

- Mrs. Tuya, on the 26th of November, Mongolia celebrated the Day of National Proclamation. What does it mean for the Mongolian people and how do you celebrate it?

- On the 26th of November 1924, Mongolia ratified its first Constitution and proclaimed the Republic. This is a historic event for the country, which laid the foundation for universal literacy, equality between men and women, the right to freedom of expression and so on. Various events are organized during this holiday. For example, there are scientific conferences, festivals, competitions in Old Mongolian calligraphy among students and national wrestling, as is so loved by the Mongols.

- The 27thof November marked the anniversary from the birth of the legendary Genghis Khan - the unifier of the Mongol tribes and the founder of the Mongol Empire, the largest country in the history of the world...

- Yes exactly. I don't think there is anyone who has never heard of the great Genghis Khan. It is recorded in history that he was born on the first day of the first month of winter, in 1162 according to the lunar calendar. For this year, it is estimated the date to be the 27th of November, and we have celebrated his birthday on that date. We call this day Mongolian Pride Day. On this occasion, every year a citizen is honored for great merit for the country with the “Genghis Khan” award, the highest award of the state.

Genghis Khan is the son of the leader of one of the major Mongolic tribes, Khamag Mongol. His name was Temujin, and Genghis Khan is the title of Grand Khan. His childhood was difficult. When his father died and the tribe refused to be led by the 9-year-old Temujin, his family was abandoned. He was then captured by an enemy tribe, but escaped. It can be said that since then he began to rise.

He united all tribes of the Mongolian plateau, in 1206 the Mongol Empire was founded and he was proclaimed a Genghis Khan. He created a dynasty with a unified military-political system, allowed religious freedom, facilitated East-West contacts. During the time of Genghis Khan, intercontinental trade flourished and the Silk Road became more reliable than ever. The process of creating the Great Empire was the result of fierce fighting and great competition recorded in historical chronicles, such as the "Secret History of the Mongols". Genghis Khan worshiped Tangra but was tolerant of other religions. Although he was a Great Khan, he wore the same clothes and ate the same food as grooms and shepherds.

- With such an ancient and rich history, it is natural to have unique  customs and traditions. Tell us more about some of them. To what extent are they marked by Buddhism, a religion of over 90% of the people in Mongolia?

- Our customs and traditions are unique. Most of them are respected by the people who lead the nomadic lifestyle, but nevertheless all Mongols know them and pass them on from generation to generation.

The main animals raised by the Mongols are sheep, goats, cattle, horses and camels, and we call them the "five treasures". The cattlemen move constantly, looking for pastures for their livestock. The Mongols have a tradition of cleaning their garbage and leaving the place clean when they leave and move.

When they go to feed the cattle, the cattlemen do not lock the doors of their yurts, they leave food and drink inside for passengers and chance passers-by that can safely enter, feed, rest and then leave. It's a nice tradition.

There’s more. Let me remember... If one sees a caravan moving nearby it brings people food and drink.

The yurt is entered and exited with the right foot forward without touching the threshold. If the guest stumbles on the doorstep when entering, this is considered a good omen. However, when it comes to the exit, it is thought that there will be costs for the host. Therefore, the guest must go back and add wood to the fire.

From ancient times, the Mongols believed that every water, mountain, forest, in general everything in nature, has its own host. And if people pollute the river, the springs and lakes, the nymph will be angry, so they considered the water sacred.

In the 16th century, Buddhism became widespread in Mongolia. Its compassionate and enlightening teachings were in line with our traditions and morals as regards to love and protection of nature. It was formed as a unique "Mongolian" Buddhism, suitable for our climate, customs and living conditions.

- In addition to the Mongolian throat singing, which is on the UNESCO World Heritage List, what else are you proud of with regards to the intangible and tangible cultural heritage?

- Mongolian throat singing is called Khoomei. It was registered on the UNESCO's List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of 2010 and is truly unique.

Morin khuur /a horse head fiddle/ is a traditional Mongolian stringed instrument. It is one of the most important musical instruments of the Mongols and is considered a symbol of the Mongolian nation. Morin khuur is one of the masterpieces of humanity's intangible heritage identified by UNESCO.

If you've heard about the Mongolian rock band The Hu, which created a new wave of rock called Hunnu, it has successfully introduced throat singing and Morin khuur around the world.

We, the Mongolians, are proud of our folk song called the Hurtin Duo or "long song". In it, each syllable is extended for a long time, for example, a four-minute song can consist of only ten words. It's interesting, isn't it? The Morin khuur instrument always accompanies the "long song". Their harmony blends together, the melody is perfectly heard and you just tremble when you listen to it. It's unique. Some Bulgarian folk songs sometimes sound like ours. I love Bulgarian folklore. I like to listen to Stefka Sabotinova's songs. For example, "Prituri se planinata" I adore. What a voice, what a melody! I also love horo, but as a friend of mine says, my heart is playing, but my feet are not moving. I slightly deviated from the question.

I will also mention Naadam - a traditional festival in Mongolia also called the "Three Games of Men". They are - Mongolian national wrestling, horse racing and archery, and are held throughout the country. Initially it was a way of training soldiers for battle, but it was also related to the nomadic lifestyle.

From the material cultural heritage, I will mention Karakorum, the capital of the Mongol Empire in the 13th century, the Tuvkhun monastery, built in the 17th century by the first Supreme Lama - Zanabazar, and so on.

- For us Bulgarians, the most famous are the Mongolian tales and legends...

- Our tales, myths, epics have come to us from old times, passed on from word of mouth. They contain many moral teachings, customs, culture and lessons. Some are fun. The main characters are usually gods, angels, extremely powerful beings, ordinary people, animals, etc. The Mongolian epic is included in the category of rare and invaluable cultural heritage and is also registered with UNESCO. It is one of the earliest forms of Mongolian folklore and is a huge work of hundreds of thousands of verses.

In our fairy tales there is one hero, similar to the Bulgarian Hitar Petar. Both are equally cunning, wise and extremely witty.

- Your nature is famous for its beauty. What do you think a tourist should definitely see?

- Tourists come to see our unique beautiful, pristine nature, animals, nomadic lifestyles and clear blue skies. Mongolia's territory is 1.5 million square kilometers and is divided into 21 Aimags /districts/. Each aimag has amazing beautiful natural landmarks. In the southern part of the country you can see the world-famous Gobi Desert, the Burning Rocks, known for the dinosaur fossils and eggs, Khongoryn Els /sand dunes/, the famous Yolyn Am /Vulture Valley/ and Tsagaan Suvarga /White Stupa/, which used to be a seafloor created over millions of years.

Tourists also enjoy walking to Khovsgol Lake. It is the largest freshwater lake in Mongolia with crystal clear water surrounded by several mountain ranges. It is located near the northern border with Russia, a wonderful place. This is where the Tsaatan people live, one of the last groups of nomad reindeer herders in the world.

- Tell us about your origins, your roots...

- My father is from Gobi, my mother is from Khangai (a place rich in mountains, forests, lakes, rivers, springs and greenery). They met in Ulaanbaatar as students. My father worked for many years on the Mongolian National Radio, and my mother worked in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as a diplomat, and had mandates in France, Kazakhstan and other countries. My paternal ancestors were nobles, in Mongolian - "Taiji". I have a sister and a brother, I'm the oldest.

- When and how did fate bring you together with your husband?

- In 1987 I came to Bulgaria for the first time to study at the Medical Academy in Sofia. In 1988, my husband arrived for an internship at our embassy here, then he studied at the Moscow State Institute for International Relations. We met and got married in 1989. And we have been together for exactly 30 years. During that time, we had two mandates at our embassy here, and now we are again in Bulgaria. For over 10 years, my family has been associated with your beautiful country. Bulgaria is like a second country to me. We have also worked in our diplomatic missions in Turkey and Kuwait.

- What is the place of the woman in the Mongolian society today?

- Since ancient times, Mongolian women have played a large role in society. We have many wise and courageous queens in history like the "wise" Mandukhai. They advised the khans, some of them even successfully run the country. In ancient times, while men were at war, women managed the farm and raised their children. It can be said that they had more authority in the family and in finances.

Nowadays, women are more educated than men. They work in various fields. They have the same civil, political, economic, social rights as men. They actively participate in the socio-political life of the country.

- The woman is really the guardian of the family, the one to raise the children... What did you try to bring up in your children? What are they doing at the moment now?

- We have a daughter and two sons. How fast time flies! They have already grown and flew out of the nest, as people say. We also have a grandson of 5 years. Next year, he will be a first grade pupil.

As for the upbringing of our children, we nurtured them to be human, good-natured, conscientious and responsible. I treat them like friends, we have no secrets, we discuss all issues freely. Their father is an example to them. He is neat, responsible and always completes what he has started. He understands and supports their interests.

All three children have a college degree, they perfectly speak three, four foreign languages. The boys love the music, they play the guitar and they draw perfectly. The daughter and the eldest son work in Mongolia. The little one, who was born in Bulgaria in 1993, now works in Japan, in the IT sector. We are proud of our children.

- Does the fact that we use a common alphabet - Cyrillic, give more Mongolian young people the choice to get their higher education in Bulgaria?

- I think it is not for this fact that a young person chooses to study in Bulgaria. Prior to 1990, many of our students received university degrees in socialist countries. Now they go to study wherever they want. In 1957, the first Mongolian students came to study in Bulgaria, and so far more than 500 people have completed higher education here, then they successfully continue to work in their country. They all love and remember with nostalgia the sunny, hospitable Bulgaria.

- You said that you spent two years in our country as a student, and then you were with your husband during two of his terms as a diplomat in Sofia. How has Bulgaria changed in your eyes over the years?

- Sofia is developing like its motto "It grows but does not age". The student city has changed a lot. Many buildings were built, dormitories, I could not recognize it compared to previous years. But I noticed that the bus numbers are the same. The trams are almost gone; I saw that there were only a few lines left. The subway, nice big buildings, malls were built.

It's good that you still keep your pretty gardens like Borisova, South Park... they are the way they used to be. It is a pity that in the countryside I noticed abandoned and deserted houses, factories.

- Do you have a favorite place in our country?

- We love nature. We travel a lot around the country. Bulgaria is a paradise land with amazing nature. We just admire the majestic Rhodopes, Stara Planina, Pirin, Vitosha. The climate is mild and pleasant, the land is so fertile. Sometimes I joke that if I throw a toothpick on the ground, a nice tree can grow from there.

My favorite places in Bulgaria are Chepelare, the Rila Monastery, the Black Sea. Chepelare made a huge impression on us, in the Rhodope Mountains, with fresh air, dense forests, and with spiritual people.

- The Christmas and New Year holidays are approaching here. How do you celebrate New Year in Mongolia? On the astronomical or lunar calendar? Do you have a Santa Claus or Father Frost?

- I have loved New Year since I was a baby - everything is shining, everyone is happy, people are expecting something new and nice! This is the most exciting holiday in my opinion. The Mongols also welcome the New Year on the astronomical calendar. On the 31st of December, the whole family gathers, cooks a variety of delicious meals, wishes each other their best wishes.

We don't celebrate Christmas, we don't have Santa. But we have Father Frost and Snow White who come for the New Year. Our children write letters to Father Frost.

We also celebrate the Lunar New Year - in January or February, according to calculations. It's called "white moon". On this day, the Mongols get up very early and pay homage to Mother Nature first. They put on their national clothes, put on nice jewelry and go to greet the oldest in the family. The eldest receives greetings from every family member except their husband/wife. After the ceremony they drink milk tea, eat rice with cottage cheese, dairy products, buuz /manti/, mutton, various salads, desserts. Before eating meat dishes,they try the rice or the dairy products that are white in color. Then they exchange gifts.

Finally, I would like to congratulate the Bulgarians on the approaching New Year holidays. I wholeheartedly wish you happiness and love in the New 2020 year. Be healthy and well, may peace and harmony reign, may your dreams come true!

Happy Holidays!

Photos: Mrs. Tuya Shonkhor's personal archive

Above: Mrs. Tuya Shonkhor, wife of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia to the Republic of Bulgaria

Below: Mrs. Tuya and H. E. Mr. Dashjamts Batsaikhan, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Mongolia, with his children; with Ms. Desislava Radeva; with H. E. Mr. Daszhamz Batsayhan in Bansko; in the town of Svoge on Todorovden