I spoke with Melanie Kocke, an American citizen who has been living in Mongolia for 17 years. She has a Mongolian husband and is now the mother of four children.
– When did you first come to Mongolia? How did you meet your husband?
– I came to Mongolia with my parents when I was 16 years old. He lived in Darkhan with his family. My brothers and sisters stayed in America when we came here. At that time, I did not want to come to Mongolia because I was coming alone with my sister. I came with the idea of going to Asia at my father’s expense. A year after coming to Mongolia, I met my husband for the first time at a Christian meeting.
– Did you ever think that you would live in Mongolia after meeting your husband?
– I have no idea that I will stay. I thought I would go back to America. Just before we turned 18, my husband and I knew we were good for each other. But in the future, it was not clear whether he would live in Mongolia or America. Soon we got married. Having a child, the problem is where to raise it. All my relatives are in America. I have been observing for a while thinking about whether to raise it there or to raise it in Mongolia, which is better. That’s why I liked the Mongolian family. The warm relationship with his family made him think, “Let’s raise our children here.” There are several families who come to Mongolia from America and raise their children.
– Do you speak Mongolian very well?
– When I say that I am 32 years old, it means that I have lived in Mongolia for quite some time. The most successful way to learn a language is to speak it among the people of that country. This is how I learned Mongolian.
– Did your husband speak English? How did you get along?
– My husband and I spoke Russian at that time. He just came to Mongolia and started learning Russian. Then I thought that Russian would be more useful for living and working in America. My husband was the only one among my friends who spoke English at that time. After it became clear that I would return to Mongolia, I gave up my Russian language.
– When you first came to Mongolia at the age of 16, how did you finish high school?
– Learned at home. Homeschooling is very popular in America. My parents first started homeschooling their children. I was the youngest at that time. I started homeschooling shortly after first grade. When he was 18 years old, he went to America to pass the 10-year state exam and returned to Mongolia. At the time of the exam, my husband and I had only been away for three or four months. This period helped me decide whether to live with this person or not. On the one hand, it has become a great test of love.
– What are you doing in Ulaanbaatar now?
– I am currently preparing a program for young mothers and hosting it in Mongolian. This is not my professional work. I am an English teacher. When I was raising my children, I used to blog in English. Young mothers who read it will write a lot of happy comments. When he was offered to host this program, I willingly agreed to help Mongolian mothers. The show will start airing in April. It is called “Two Mothers and Ten Children”. My co-host also has six children. We are preparing this program with the experience of both of us. Our program will be broadcast on “Eagle” TV. Balchir is making this program to support each other because he understands the pain of mothers raising young children.
– You have four children. How old are your children?
– Our eldest son is 12 years old. My eldest son was born in the first hospital of Ulaanbaatar. The other three were born at home. My husband gave birth at home. My next daughter is ten years old. The younger brother is a boy. Seven years old. My youngest daughter is four years old.
– It seems strange that your husband conceived himself. What is your profession?
– My husband is a businessman. Currently, he is the executive director of “Among” TV. Ours was very close to Darkhan Hospital. Attended antenatal classes. When to call an ambulance is very well researched. In our family, home birth is considered appropriate. We have never advised people to stay at home. It’s because he had planned where he would be born from the beginning. A home birth is not dangerous if both husband and wife agree.
– What names did you give your children? Who gave it?
– I sat down and chose with my husband. The English name of the eldest son is Nathaniel. It means a gift from the owner. The Mongolian name is Yalgun. My daughter is Abigail. It means father’s joy. The Mongolian name is Nandin. My youngest son is Kenneth, which means handsome. The Mongolian name is Ornoon. The youngest daughter, Evelyn, is a beautiful bird. Mongolian name is Ayalgu. Our children are registered in both America and Mongolia.
– How did your family accept your husband?
– My mother immediately accepted and accepted her like a son. My husband did not have many opportunities in life at that time. My father had seen that. They asked me how to support my daughter and what to do if I have a child. My father did not accept it immediately, but he was tolerant. A year later, my husband asked to see my father. “I don’t have much. But I will devote what I have to your daughter.” My father also understood his feelings. They accepted that we were unstoppable. Then we had a big wedding in Darkhan.
– How did your husband’s parents receive you?
– It was very well received. If you ask them, they might say something else. My husband’s family and grandmother never said, “You must be Mongolian.” “Mongolians do this” was never taught. When I left everything and came to Mongolia, it’s really difficult if you want something else from me again.
– Tell me about your husband?
– My husband’s name is Mungankhet. We call it Hetee. He said his grandfather gave him the name. My husband is a hard worker. A special quality is that he can devote himself completely to the work he is doing. A very good father who took care of his children. We are also our children’s teachers. He is a good man who does everything for his family.
– When did you come to Ulaanbaatar?
– The family moved a year ago. I decided to stay in Ulaanbaatar for work reasons. Before that, we had the opportunity to come to Ulaanbaatar, but we did not come because we like to stay in Darkhan. Really healthy and safe place. Two grandmothers and two grandfathers live there. It took courage to enter the city. We now go to Darkhan once a month or once every two months.
– What country are you from?
– I am an American citizen. I have been living with my visa extended every year. We came to America as a family a year ago. Visas for six people are expensive, so I don’t go often.
– What language do your children speak?
– My children’s lessons are taught in English, so they are learning English better. In general, it is characteristic of children. In my experience, girls learn languages without difficulty. Boys are slower. My two daughters learned to speak two languages at the same time. My two sons learned Mongolian after English. I learned to speak two languages, English and Spanish.
– Where do your children study?
– The children are studying at home, according to my standards. Study at home. Or in our office. Either they attend classes together with other homeschooled children. There is one place where the parents themselves take turns teaching. Some subjects I cannot teach are taught outside. My two sons take swimming lessons at the pool. My two daughters are taking ballet classes. The unique aspect of homeschooling is that you can quickly complete the core lessons at home, so you can spend the rest of the time studying outside and spending time together. At the age of graduation, you can take the exam independently in America. It doesn’t matter where you learn or what books you use. If you have reached the level of complete and secondary education, you can take the exam. Our children do not go and take the test every year because they are somewhere other than America. But there are exams in the middle of the course. They can collect it themselves and hand it over before getting the certificate.
– Are there any downsides to homeschooling?
– When my parents started home schooling, people didn’t understand. “Your children will not learn anything. You should not be a teacher.” My older sister and brother also graduated from home school. My brother is now a boat driver. My sister is a nurse. America’s top-ranked professionals. Ten years of education is important. But it’s not like you have to go to school, as some people think.
– If you are not among your peers, isn’t there something to be angry about?
– Even though I have never been to school, I have been socialized. It is not necessary to socialize with children of your own age. Do you want to learn from your children of the same age? One of the characteristics of homeschooled children is that they learn to communicate directly with adults because they are often with their grandparents, parents, and grandparents. If you go among them, you can immediately notice that they don’t worry about talking to adults. Children who go to school are divided into classes. When you think it’s a party, people of all ages come there. Children who go to school go directly to children of their own age. But homeschooled children go to any interesting place and talk. One feature is more open.