Thursday, December 30, 2010

Shin-Jil or Happy New Christmas!

So Christmas has come and gone. Christmas itself was kind of sucky without the family, but the volunteers know how to do it right- beer pong, movies, food, and karaoke. It was nice to skype with the whole family for a couple hours, then Luke for a few, and then Ellen. :) I took Christmas Eve off of work, and instead of cleaning like I wanted to, I did the aforementioned activity and sat on my butt. I’ve been doing that a lot lately, perhaps the weather is to blame… the weather has constantly been in the negatives (for the highs as well) and like we were told previously, we’d probably not want to go anywhere in the winter months. Yep. OH but my wonderful mother and sister BOTH sent me packages! And they were AWESOME. I have enough Santa Pez dispensers to last me the next decade.
Outside the dance hall
Let's get the party started!
Speaking of which... New Year. 2011. Entering a new decade.... huh. After talking with Nate, I decided to not do any new year's resolutions. I'm just going to try my best and see how that goes.

Let's talk about Mongolian New Years, shall we?

Little known fact to Americans, and known to all Mongolians- Shin-Jil is a BIG FREAKING DEAL here. Shin-Jil, or literally translated- "New Year" (what does that mean again?), is the Mongolian celebration where you put out Christmas trees, Christmas decorations, and have a Mongolian Santa at extravagant company parties where you drink champagne, vodka, wine, and beer and dress up in prom dresses while dancing to waltzes, circle dancing, listen to speeches, and (if you’re lucky) receive awards.

Basically, it’s a Christmas party. I was told by a Mongolian friend recently that Mongolians think they’re the same thing. That’s ok!

Poses 4
Prom? Or New Years? I think the latter.
Edit: So I was just reading something interesting about how in the eastern Soviet states, the New Year is a huge deal and they even have “Grandfather Frost” who basically looks like Santa. Since Mongolia used to be under Russian rule, that makes total sense. Carry on!

So what do they do for real New Years, you may ask? I’ve been told a couple things, ranging from spending it with the family, to drinking with friends, to doing nothing. I saw a sign in the square, though, that said something about a party in the square (? It’s freaking cold) on Friday at 7pm, so perhaps fireworks are in order! (Edit: it's not a party in a square I found out, but it is a party. Anyway) Speaking of which, various nights since Christmas Eve, there have been professional-grade fireworks going off right next to my apartment. Oi.

Christmas Dancers
Sort of like the Mongolian Rockettes!
Anyway, back to the Shin-Jil party. My first inclination that this stuff was gonna be serious was when my wonderful mommy sent me my “old” prom dress because I had seen pictures in PST of people at New Years parties dressed up like they were waiting for the next limo to take them to the after party in some swanky hotel room. The second was that the party cost each person 20,000 tugs (about 15 bucks). For my small PC allowance, that’s quite a bit. So I had come back from UB that Tuesday, and so work on Wednesday (the morning before the party) was… uh interesting. We learned in IST that they were probably going to have programs of some sort, and this was no exception. And then I saw it. My name, on the program… TWICE. Eek. An English song and a Mongolian song. In front of nearly 200 people. 

Double eek.
Toast 2
Shots shots shots shots shots shots
Basically that ended with me taking vodka shots with the kitchen workers (who are awesome, and since my office is right next to the kitchen, I get to see them every day), singing Jingle Bell Rock (TWICE) and not one, but TWO Mongolian songs. My coworkers know, however, to not ask me to sing more than two Mongolian songs, because those are the only two I know. Need to work on that. But now the whole hospital thinks I have a voice of a rock star. Whoo! That’s right world, watch out, Kate’s a-comin’. I had a really fun time dancing, singing, drinking, etc. All the hospital workers are amazing, vibrant people who know how to have a good time. I look forward to introducing them to my family and friends this summer! :)

I also got an award… neat, yeah? I got a cakes (the word for cake in Mongolian is English cake but plural) and a bottle of sparkling wine! I was half paying attention, when all I heard was “Peace Corps” (in Mongolian) and my name, and my table started shouting at me and pointing towards the stage. Hah. 
My Award!

Actually, a lot my introductions go like this (Mongolian in italics):

My Co-Worker: This… is [person], he/she is [does this job]   ((Her English is getting really good!))
Me: Ahh, how are you?
Mongolian (turns to my co-worker): Does she know Mongolian?
Me (to him): Yeah, a little.
Mongolian: Really? AHHH VERY GOOD!
Me (thinking): Please don’t ask me anything complicated.
Mongolian: blah blah blah where blah*
Me: Oh poops. I don’t know. :(

*in super fast speedy Mongolian!

Suvdaa and I going sledding at IST!
Usually, when they talk that fast, I can just understand that they’re talking about me. I’m usually also good at guessing what about, if something has happened that I did that they found funny, or otherwise.

Lately I’ve been getting called “Russian” more lately. I joked that I’m going to get "Би орос хүн биш" or, “I’m not Russian” tattooed somewhere in Mongolian script. Perhaps not a joke, though.

<---This hat must be at fault for some of the increase.

So, happy New Years, my friends. May the new year refresh your spirit, and may you avoid falling in open manholes.

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