Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Only Living Girl in the B-U

School Children
The local school kids are keeping warm!
((re: Title: On a Simon and Garfunkel kick, so sue me))

Anyway, what a week. Back in September we all thought about the months ahead of us- October was going to be busy due to the huge amount of birthdays and English classes, November busy because of Thanksgiving, December busy because of Christmas/New Years/IST, and January we thought to be the calm before the storm of Tsagaan Sar in February. Yeah, no. January is busier than ever, and we're already half way through!

Winter Afternoon
Moon at 4 in the afternoon
It's been really nice to be busy. It was a tad bit slow during Christmas and New Years, but since then it's been constant. I've been working on various proposals, and we're all getting together to start to organize the children's camp in June. English club has started up again, but it was cancelled today probably due to prep for Tsagaan Sar (as Travis told me and confirmed by Suvdaa). We're only half way through January, but I've already been warned to stock up on things such as juice and eggs. I'm going to have to really practice self-control with the eggs... I still have control of Alex's oven at the moment and I wanted to make the pumpkin pie with the mix I bought. Mmm...

LESSON TIME! Tsagaan Sar, or "White Month" is the lunar New Year. Not be confused with the Chinese New Year (which is occasionally shares the same date), Tsagaan Sar is tied closely to the Tibetian New Year, and is celebrated two months after the first new moon after the winter solstice (remember the start of the nine nines?). It's to celebrate the new year, and start fresh. I've been told that it's the "beginning of spring" as well, but this year it's during the coldest part- Feb 3rd-6th. It's the biggest Mongolian celebration, with each family spending the weeks prior stocking up on goods and making (literally) thousands of buuz (steamed dumplings). I've also been told that families can go broke during this time because families will save up and spend every tugrik they have on presents and food. 
School #1
Tiled banners at the 1st School
On Tsagaan Sar day, people travel from house to house, greeting each other, eating, drinking, and giving gifts. Kind of like Christmas, since it's getting to be a slightly commercialized holiday now (I've seen TV commercials on the big screen in the square). It was renamed to "Herder's Day" in the Russian communist era, but it's back to the good ol' Tsagaan Sar name now.

With the Children
Alex and the kids... photo walk in -15F weather! Yeah!

In other news, I had a backpacker stay with me this week! His name was Alex (Alex #2!), and he's from Spain. He's doing a around-the-world trip which I'm quite jealous of, really! Maybe after Peace Corps? Who knows. Anyway, he came down to the less-traveled BU to do a mini-project with the children. Alex had a bunch of cameras he brought with him so along with Nate, we organized to have the children come down to the children's center to participate in a photography project. The children learned about photography, did a photo walk, discussed their photos and made frames for them. They were then hung in the children's center. Overall it was a really cool project, and since it was the first time that Alex has done this project, I think he got some good ideas of what to do/not to do next time (he wants to continue to do this around the world, to show the people of Spain how the children of other cultures think of the world... neat huh?).
Mongolian Woman
Mongolian Woman

Switching gears again, we've passed the 7 month marker of being in Mongolia. I mentioned this to my coworker who said, "when you have lived here for one year, you will be Mongolian." Sweet! Also, only a month and a half until Florida, Michigan, and Hong Kong... so much to do! People to see! Grants to write! Mongolian to learn! Again, I'm glad it's so busy, I just hope I don't get too overwhelmed. 

Peace for now... stay warm my Michigan people, I know it's getting chilly over there. Just don't expect any sympathy! :)

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