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Meet the woman who lives in a truck on Mongolia’s Coal highway

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The Gobi . Desert is the house of Of Mongolia the largest coal storage tanks, crucial to the country’s industrialization. Unbelievably long and desolate stretches of coal mines in Gobi arrive Chinaand thousands Truck driver travel along Mongolia high coaly ferry loads precious carbon. One of these truck drivers is a woman named Maikhuu Sengee, also known as “The Lady of Gobi.”

Watch this documentary on Aeon about her life on the road to being one of the only ones women – if not the only one – who spent years away from family driving a truck across the desert. Spend about 25 minutes watching Maikhuu through the lens of film maker Khooldorj Choijoovanchig. I swear it’s worth it:

Lady of the Gobi: Transporting coal across the desert to China

Documentary film, titled The Lady of the Gobi after Maikhuu herself, details how Mongolia experienced major migrations as it transitioned from an agrarian society to an industrialized one. The country’s resources, including coal, were exported to its southern neighbor China for many decades.

This flow of goods and wealth drew the Mongols to urban centers as well as to the desert. Maikhuu’s family stayed in the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar, while she headed south to the Gobi desert, then continued on to the Chinese border. But the global pandemic has made life almost impossible for many truckers, who have abandoned their large rigs in the desert and kept going.

But Maikhuu remained; the truck driver lived off her taxi for days and weeks at a time, between periods of living in quarantine camps as she made her way to and from the border of Mongolia and China. She used to be a hairdresser before becoming a the driver and the documentary follow Maikhuu even as she helps Colleagues drive out with a haircut now and then.

Truck Drivers eat, sleep, bathe and wash clothes at makeshift truck stops like nomads herding machines through the desert. Maikhuu’s journey has seen her waver between the joys of driving through Mongolia’s coal highway – a road that has given life to many, and her own for the past seven years – and sadness away from home on the road that never ends.

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