Dallas, Texas - Dellia Love is a vegan, a "raw vegan" to be precise. The word "vegan", which is taken from from the first and last syllables of the word "vegetarian" is a form of vegetarianism but differs in that vegans eat no animal by-products whatsoever. So as a vegan, Love not only refrains from eating any form of meat, but also from eating anything that comes from any living creature including milk and eggs. Furthermore as a "raw vegan" Love also does not eat any food that has been cooked above a temperature of 40 degrees Celsius. So with such a strict diet, Love decided that the perfect way to spend her summer was on a missions trip to "the middle of nowhere."
After examining a number of different summer trips with different organizations, Love chose Mongolia for its "exotic flair."
"I was looking around on the internet at 3 in the morning and got really interested in Mongolia" said Love. "I thought, 'yeah Mongolia, it's so weird.' I just knew that's where I was like being called and stuff, yeah Mongolia, it's so exotic."
So Love proceeded to contact the mission agency offering the trip, filled out the required paperwork and raised her support to go. All seemed to be going well until, though, she arrived in Mongolia.
The team flew into the capital city of Ulaanbaatar and from there drove three hours to the remote village of Baala where the group stayed at the house of a small family of Christian believers.
"We were all starving when we arrived" said Love. "We hadn't eaten since the plane ride. The lady and the man whose names I can't remember, immediately started fixing us some food for dinner."
As it turns out the simple village family dutifully started preparing a small feast for their guests. The husband, whose name is Baat, began by slaughtering a goat and roasting it over a fire. He then proceeded to walk down to a small stream and catch five fish which he cleaned and cut into small raw pieces. In the meantime Oyon, his wife, went out to their chicken coop, killed three chickens, plucked them and began cooking them as she gathered several eggs to bake bread. Amazingly, within just about 1 hour the group sat down to a feast of goat, raw fish, chicken, bread, goat tongue, congealed and seasoned pig fat, boiled horse intestine and caviar. To wash it all down Oyon produced a Mongolian treat called Kymus, fermented mare's milk. While the other team members graciously began to eat what had been set before them, Love found herself in a bit of a dilemma.
"There wasn't a thing on the table that I could eat" said a frustrated Love. "They kept putting food in front of me, but I kept trying to tell them that I was a vegan. I pointed to the food and said it really loudly and slowly 'vegan, veee-gaaan' but they didn't seem to understand. They just kept encouraging me to eat."
Love's lack of Mongolian language skills coupled with the families lack of English language skills provided the perfect environment for a cultural misunderstanding to take place. And before long the Mongolian family had come to understand that "vegan" meant "sick" and quickly began to set out to find a remedy for their guest's illness.
Oyon left the table for a moment and returned with what appeared to be two recently severed chicken's feet. She then dipped the feet into some of the congealed pig's fat and took Love to a back room where she proceeded to try to spread the substance on her ears in an effort to remedy her sickness.
"I didn't know what this lady was doing" said Love. "She just kept trying to rub pig fat all over me with chicken feet."
Love resisted and "remedy" after "remedy" was presented to her. The family tried to get her to soak her feet in some of the kymus, all the while saying "vee-gaan, vee-gaan." They then attempted to get her to wrap up her throat with a rag soaked in a mixture of milk, egg and horse intestine oil.
As the evening wore on the situation became more and more frustrating for Love and her hosts. In the end, Love prevailed in resisting the "treatments" and dinner also. Still hungry, she managed to find a head of cabbage and finished it off before going to bed. Love spent the next two months in Mongolia living off of cabbage and raw potatoes.
"It was a miserable experience" said Love. "I'll never do it again. These people are barbaric. They don't eat any tofu or soy or anything. It's all just meat and dairy stuff."
Despite the bad experience, Love still has plans to keep trying at different mission fields.
"I'm not going back to Mongolia, I can tell you that for sure, but I'm seriously looking at some remote parts of Africa for next summer."