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Kazakh Eagle Hunters

Our top diplomat in Mongolia is also a shutterbug

I photographed these hunters—members of Mongolia’s minority Kazakh population—as they gathered in a valley near Ulaanbaatar in February 2011. The Kazakhs live mostly in the Altai mountains in the far western part of the country. In recent years, the association representing Kazakh eagle hunters has organized an annual festival to bring the centuries-old traditions of eagle hunting to those living in the capital city. The eagles are used to hunt small game, including rabbit and fox.

Sights like this make Mongolia a very special place to live and work. The first time my family and I entered Mongolia, about ten years ago, we took the train from Beijing. You arrive at the border in the middle of the night, and the railway gauge changes from Chinese to Russian, so they lift the carriage and put on a new set of wheels. When you wake up, you’re traveling across the seemingly endless grasslands of central Mongolia. During the time of Genghis Khan, ancient Mongolians worshipped what they called the “eternal blue sky.” Even today, Mongolia can be regarded as blue sky country, and the blue skies of Mongolia often seem as if they might well stretch forever.

Jonathan Addleton, F82, F91, was appointed U.S. Ambassador to Mongolia in 2009. A career member of the Foreign Service, he has held many posts, including counselor for international development at the U.S. Mission to the European Union, USAID mission director in Pakistan, Cambodia, and Mongolia, and USAID program officer in Jordan, Kazakhstan, South Africa, and Yemen. He speaks Urdu and Hindi and has studied Mongolian, Russian, French, and Arabic. He was born and raised in Pakistan, where his parents served as missionaries.

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