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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hearing Birds Fly
"Hearing Birds Fly" is the extraordinary travelogue of Louisa Waugh, an English Language teacher who whilst living in Mongolia decides to spend a year at one of the furthest outreaches of the country living the lifestyle of the nomadic herders who inhabit the remote and isolated area.
The book is a rare and insightful look at the lives of the proud peoples of the...
Published on 19 July 2005 by Rich Milligan

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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars time for reflection
Louisa's book is a very interesting account of life in a Mongolian village - a lifestyle that is being threatened by politics and modernity. However I found her writing particularly flat and pedestrian in style. To her credit though, she is brutally honest about being a foreigner in a society little touched by westerners. An example is when she admits to her...
Published on 9 Feb 2003 by Lucy Buykx


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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hearing Birds Fly, 19 July 2005
By 
Rich Milligan (Thatcham, Berkshire) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hearing Birds Fly: A Year in a Mongolian Village (Paperback)
"Hearing Birds Fly" is the extraordinary travelogue of Louisa Waugh, an English Language teacher who whilst living in Mongolia decides to spend a year at one of the furthest outreaches of the country living the lifestyle of the nomadic herders who inhabit the remote and isolated area.
The book is a rare and insightful look at the lives of the proud peoples of the Tsengel village and also an interesting look at how in some areas of the world the turn of the seasons is still the guiding hand to all activities that go on.
Louisa's style is warm and friendly and she never comes across as an arrogant foreigner scoffing at the primitive ways of the people. Likewise the people themselves come across to the reader as a noble and dignified folk, who do not generally begrudge their hard existence and yet can enjoy lighter moments as well. It was also refreshing to read that although Louisa's point of view was obviously from a female perspective and her closer friends were all women, she doesn't allow her writing to become a feminist crusade. The frankness of her writing is also a great credit to her.
The names of the villages are difficult to follow and more than once I had to refer to the handy guide of characters at the front of the book, and likewise, even though Louisa doesn't bombard the reader with Mongolian phrases there is a simply glossary of common phrases at the start. The one criticism I have is that there simply aren't enough photos of both the area and the people. I'm guessing this was done purposely for the privacy of the inhabitants, but it would have been nice for some more for the nosey reader!
The book was warm, sentimental, (but still factual) and extremely satisfying. I would actively seek out other books by Ms Waugh.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars time for reflection, 9 Feb 2003
By 
Lucy Buykx (Hong Kong, Hong Kong) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hearing Birds Fly: A Year in a Mongolian Village (Paperback)
Louisa's book is a very interesting account of life in a Mongolian village - a lifestyle that is being threatened by politics and modernity. However I found her writing particularly flat and pedestrian in style. To her credit though, she is brutally honest about being a foreigner in a society little touched by westerners. An example is when she admits to her possessiveness of the village when another foreigner is coming to visit for a day. Through her friendships with local women she and the reader are able to see the gulf of cultural divide, particularly for women.
Although I found the writing style a little dull, I would recommend the book on two counts. First is for the information about nomadic lifestyles. Secondly is for the opportunity to reflect on westerners living and attempting to become a part of remote cultures, particularly when the experience is to be commoditised into a book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A refreshing change for travel writing, 21 Sep 2011
This review is from: Hearing Birds Fly: A Year in a Mongolian Village (Paperback)
It makes a nice change to read a book where the traveller/journalist is so non-egotistical. Louisa Waugh did her best to experience life in Mongolia as it was, and not to try and change it. That included insisting on taking part on ordinary village tasks, and tearing herself out of her comfort zone, even during her stay, to make sure she understood different ethnic points of view within one community. The local characters shine through as real people with strong personalities, and she does what a journalist should - holds up a glass so we can see a place we probably won't ever go to, without imposing her own judgements on it. My only quibble is the jacket description of this as a year with 'nomadic people' as she did very firmly stay put in a village (with short excursions out) and didn't join nomadic herdspeople.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating reading, 18 Jan 2003
By 
Lyn Parnell (Merseyside, UK) - See all my reviews
What a picture Louisa paints. You can feel the intense cold, and the summer warmth when she was able to bathe in the river. How wonderful that must have been after the long cold winter when she was unable to even wash properly. For someone of western origin the sanitation facilities were so primitive, I know I could not have endured them.
The personalities of the people shine through, and you feel as though you know them. They lead such harsh lives and have so little yet what they have they will willingly share. Maybe we could learn from them, such as the way they treated Alibi when he killed his friend.
Long may they enjoy their Būjigs and The Arikh.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 26 Sep 2012
This review is from: Hearing Birds Fly: A Year in a Mongolian Village (Paperback)
Although the sub-title to this book is 'A nomadic year in Mongolia', the author spends most of her time in a small, drab settlement in the predominantly Kazakh region of the country. Despite working as an English language teacher in a school, children hardly feature and we learn nothing of how they view their lives, the wider world as they see it, and their futures.

Even when she spends time in the mountains during the summer, the 'stark and beautiful landscape' mentioned on the book's marketing blurb largely passes unnoticed, as do the horsemen, eagles, yaks and camels that feature in the book's front and back cover photographs. To quote the author 'The only conclusion I did come to was that the nomads work harder in the summer than any other time of the year'.

The author clearly has the physical and emotional toughness to live in a very different and difficult environment, but unfortunately this does not translate into particularly good travel writing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Draws you deep inside an unreachable world, 22 Jun 2014
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This review is from: Hearing Birds Fly: A Year in a Mongolian Village (Paperback)
I took a trip to Mongolia a few years ago, and thought I'd read this book to get a flavour of what to expect. That was extremely naive of me. As if my 2-week trip a few miles away from Ulaanbaatar could in any way compare to Louisa's. She lived for a year in the most remote, forbidding and bleak region of western Mongolia, thousands of miles from the convenience of urbanity, to experience authentic nomadic Mongol life.

Like most people who love to travel, Louisa wanted an insight into the real life and culture of the country, and to do that, she had to travel beyond the beaten track, to a place where you wouldn't have been able to communicate to a single soul unless you at least spoke Mongolian. Of course, most of us can't, and in any case wouldn't have the strength of mind to live in a village where you can freeze to death in the winter if you don't make your fire properly (there's no electricity or central heating), and where the people don't only not speak your language, but are culturally different, and consistently eye you with suspicion and distrust. Louisa's isolated in this alien world, where phoning home isn't even an option, and you can't help but admire her strength of will and determination to simply survive the day-to-day. Just waking up and making a cup of tea is a struggle.

It's in this way that Louisa takes the romanticism out of travel, and brings your head-in-the-clouds back down to earth with a welcome smack of reality, making you realise that if you truly want to experience what a different culture is, it will take at least a year, and you will spend most of that time lonely, wretched and surviving. You won't be taking reams of photos to put on Facebook, you'll be hungrily scraping together your next meal, and besides, there's no electricity to charge your camera.

Yet, there is beauty within the bleak. In fact, because of the extreme effort Louisa puts in month after month, to slowly get to know these people and her uninviting environment, it rewards her tenfold. There's a poignant moment when in the depths of one of the harshest winters known to humanity, she treks with a group from the village to see a family who live in a cave in the mountains, of which one is sick and needs medical treatment. She steals a moment for herself amidst the strained hope and intimate reminiscences, and goes out of the cave just as dawn is breaking. The way Louisa describes this precious moment in one of the world's most isolated places, is as if she's the explorer of a new planet, privileged to see something hardly any other human has, and you get the feeling all the hardships have been worth it just for that.

So if you truly want to go to Mongolia, then first take your 2-week trip there, then read this book, as it'll enrich your experience and take you deep into one of the world's most fascinating countries. Alternatively, just read this book on a beach somewhere, and let Louisa be the true traveller.
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5.0 out of 5 stars an excellent read, 4 April 2014
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An excellent read which was recommended to me by a friend who goes to a book group - I am so glad she did.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Mongolia, 28 Sep 2013
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This review is from: Hearing Birds Fly: A Year in a Mongolian Village (Paperback)
An excellent insight into life in a Mongolian village. Useful for anyone planning to visit Mongolia or after a visit. Highly recommended.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 24 Aug 2014
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Another good book by Louisa Waugh
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hearing Birds Fly: A Year in a Mongolian Village, 18 Dec 2011
This review is from: Hearing Birds Fly: A Year in a Mongolian Village (Paperback)
Very good, wish I had read it before my trip to Mongolia. A seemingly true insight into the the life of the Mongolian Nomads
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Hearing Birds Fly: A Year in a Mongolian Village
Hearing Birds Fly: A Year in a Mongolian Village by Louisa Waugh (Paperback - 23 Jan 2003)
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