Ok, before I begin- Happy 50th Birthday, Peace Corps!! :D
So by now, you now that Tsagaan Sar has came and went. It was honestly the craziest, most indulgent holiday I’ve participated in, and that’s counting Thanksgiving. It’s kinda like Thanksgiving + Christmas + Halloween, really. And Mongolians treat it as such.
|Next to the Ovoo! All bundled up, ready for the New Year!|
I then chilled at home until Suvdaa called me to come to her apartment. As tradition goes, you visit your parents on Bituun, more relatives on the first day of Tsagaan Sar (TS), then friends on the second day. That totally didn’t apply to me since I did most of my visiting on the first day, but I digress.
|First Sunlight of the New Year|
|Suvdaa's Father! Little hard of hearing :)|
We went to the tallest peak in our town, which isn’t really saying much, but it gave a wonderful view of the horizon to the east. It was bitterly cold, with a slight wind, so I opted to wear a ton of layers until my deel which I was kind of paying for later since the gers I went to were blazing hot. But it was nice outside, anyway. After seeing the first peak of sunrise, the Mongolians raise their arms and shout, “hooray!” Monty Python style (literally, that’s what it sounds like… “and then they rejoiced”. I think it’s a Buddhist chant), and move their arms in a clock-wise motion, while other people threw rice and milk to the sky. I felt pretty out of place, but it was really cool that Suvdaa took me.
All together, I visited 21 homes. I’ve never been so tired, so full, and so overwhelmed with all the hospitality. Visits usually go as follows:
-Greetings to everyone
|Too cute- Nema, Alex, and their apparent|
adoptive children, ha.
-Start eating salat (mayo-covered egg or potato salad), pickles, etc
-Get a big thing of buuz and start eating that
-In between all of that there’s at least three vodka shots that are offered to you (seriously, it’s tradition)
-Also talk about stuff in between there with the limited Mongolian you have
-If you’re super lucky like me, you’ll get asked to sing any Mongolian songs you know
-Near the end of the visit the host gives gifts to the guests. Apparently it’s not a sign to leave, but it basically means you can leave whenever. Usually I didn’t stay at a house more than half an hour.
Gifts I got included: tons of candy/chocolate, unit cards for my phone, money (including *American* dollars!), a neat glass elephant statue, gloves, a scarf, a mini iron (found that one funny because that house gave the men cigarettes and the women irons. I can see what’s happening), leather key holder, and tons of shampoo and body wash- really useful!
-Say thank you and goodbye!
So the first couple homes I went to were with Suvdaa and her family, then we went to her parents house, and Tuya’s home after that. Umm, who told me Tuya can play the guitar?? Anyway, right after that I met up with Alex and Nema and went with them to visit the Mercy Corps people’s homes, which I knew them due to always coming to their office to take pictures of them. :)
|Ger Tsagaan Sar!|
The next morning a sad Mika, sad by the fact that I didn’t spend any time with him, awaked me from my sleep. Boo. After getting myself together in the morning, I started round two of Tsagaan Sar. I went to my friend Bojo’s home, who her mother is a nurse at the hospital. Bojo lives and goes to school in UB, and was there for Tsagaan Sar. Her family was so incredibly nice, and they said they were honored that I came to their home since I was the first foreigner to visit during Tsagaan Sar. :) D’aww! And the father even gave me a book of Buddhist prayers in Mongolian script, in which he wrote a message of good luck and thanks in the cover… in script! :D It was such a nice visit. I left just as more family members came, and I didn’t have to go far to reach my next destination- my supervisor’s! The assistant mayor was there when I arrived, so it was nice to chat with them for a little while.
The afternoon was spent at Todd’s, Tunga’s, and Nema’s homes. I remember because I took pictures at every place I went to, making sure that I didn’t forget anything that happened. Good thing, too, I can’t quite remember since it’s been a few weeks. :/ So that brought my house visiting that day up to 5.
After that, I didn’t plan anything so I gladly got out of my deel (the buus was killing my ribs, ha) and started catching up on emails. That was so short lived because Nema came over to use the internet and tell me that the dentist, Tsolo, who was also working at the health department, asked all of us gadat-huns (foreign people, literally “outside people”) over for TS. So away we went. I decided to wear my new “stylish deel” because it was more comfortable and I felt like wearing it at least once.
|Hospital greeting! One of these things is not like the other...|
That afternoon was… umm. Let’s just say there were a couple bad decisions, mostly fueled by the two large bottles of vodka that the five of us consumed. I still don’t know how we did it. Afterwards we stumbled back to Todd’s to make more bad decisions, and it finally ended with Mogi and Nema walking me back before they went off to visit friends. Let’s just say I couldn’t get outta bed Sunday, and didn’t make it to work Monday. Bleh. Never again. A big part of that, though, was my back hurt from the weird positions I was doing while taking all the photographs during TS. …I realize that last sentence could have been really bad if I didn’t specify the photo thing.
|Bottoms up, boys!|
Some other pictures:
|Mogi's family and friends- his dad is the on of the right.|
The scarves he has on is all the Nadaam prizes he's won with his prize horses!
|Nema and his mom!|
|I reaaally liked her deel.|
|Snuff bottle passing! And Mongolians smiling! What else could you want?!|
|Suvdaa's mom and her sister. So cute. :)|