Meet Zaya!! She’s a very popular woman in Arvaikheer, thanks to her cafe. Not only that, but she also speaks English really well and bakes delicious pastries… mmm!
*The following responses have not been changed to preserve personality and voice*
- What is your full name? What does it mean?
Batzaya Sangi. “Zaya” means destiny, and “Bat” means strong, so like strong destiny.
- You are the founder of Friends Café. Why did you decide to start the café?
When I back to my hometown, there’s no coffee shop, so then I decided to open the coffee shop. My sister and I had always dreaming of a little coffee place.
- Why did you decide to move back to Arvaikheer?
When I moved back to Ulaanbaatar from US, I was really stressed because I’d never lived in really big, mega-city, so then I decided to come here, Arvaikheer, but here is relaxing and locals are nice, so then I said, ok let’s settle down here.
- How have you seen Arvaikheer change since you were a child growing up here?
Yeah, it’s changed so much. Lots of new buildings and infrastructures, also city is getting better day by day. And the community is also changed, so big. But the negative side is like here is too much pollution, air pollution, and water pollution. We used to have a lot of trees over here. We used to have even a lake here. Now they were destroyed. There was used to be a small lake, which had goose, swan and other birds. But now, Especially spring time, here is constant sand storm and wind, because of what we destroyed the soil and trees. Fall, we used to see a lot of birds, gooses, it was fun time. Winter, kids used to skate over there, ice skating, but there’s nothing now. The lake disappeared 25 years ago I think. There were few cars in the town, but we didn’t really ride horses, just walked. Few family, they had motorbikes, everyone walked. Also, there was no public transportation.
- Besides starting the coffee shop, you also have an NGO, correct? Please tell me a little about your NGO and its goal.
My NGO’s name is Tsargast Khuuvur. It’s land’s name. Our herders have sheeps, goats and few cows and horses, so our NGO goal is that we try to protect range land because the last 20 years, soil eroded so much, and the region is arid and almost every other winter we have zud because we overuse the land and it causes zud. We have two kinds of zuds. One is the winter zud, too much snow and most of the land covered with icy snow and then the livestock can’t eat any grass, then they starving to death. But the other zud usually happens at the spring time and it’s called khar zud, black zud. Not much snow, but livestock still don’t have much grass to eat and whole winter is so harsh, they get lost weight and exhausted to death during spring.
Winter time is hard but March, April, and May are the hardest months. Because of our nomadic style, we always move and, we don’t take care of the land we used. That’s why our NGO protects the land with fencing, takes care of soil, and educates herders. We used to have like 25 million livestock, but now over 60 million. It’s too much. There is no quality; people just care about quantity of livestock. That’s why we try to educate herders about less livestock that are healthy and give more profit.
- Before you began your business, you also lived in the US for a while. Why did you decide to move to the States? What did you do in Chicago? How did your experience in the US affect your life upon returning to Mongolia?
I went to US 2006, and lived there for 10 years. This lunar year is gonna be my second year in Mongolia. I just wanted to study and experience other cultures. And also my brother and sister they studied in United States, so they encouraged me to go to foreign country, especially United States. I learned so much in US, not just education.
I went to Northeastern Illinois University for Environmental Policy Management and Geography. And I worked for small businesses. One place was like this: a small coffee shop.
- What are your goals and dreams for the future?
So I wanna make small bakery factory in few years. I try to make a little bit bigger than current one. For my professional life, right now, we don’t have dairy cattle and beef cattle. Uvurkhangai, we don’t have much cattle breeding development in general. So I try to raise beef cattle and also to protect the rangeland by livestock.
- Is there anything else you would like to share?
It’s my hometown, so I wanna make my hometown is friendly for foreigners and exchange cultures. So they share their knowledge to the world, like you.