Sunday, February 19, 2012

It's that time of year.

Imagine, if you can, Best Buy on Black Friday. Scary crowded room, full of people pushing to get the last $100 laptop? Right. Well, Mongolia has it's own mini-version, but instead of electronics, it's carts full of food stuffs.

What is the holiday?

It's TSAGAAN SAR time! :D

This was how I imagined most of the people I encountered today were thinking. People pushing past each other to get the last Super Kontiks off the shelf. It reminds me of a couple conversations I've had in the past year about the commercialization of Tsagaan Sar. I could see it getting to Christmas-sized proportions, easy. The ads on TV, the sales, all of it hints towards commercialism. Where it becomes less about celebrating the beginning of the end of winter and the new lunar year, and more about fancy things? Some Mongolians I've talked to agree.

I'm interested to see the differences between this year and last year. One of the traditions of Tsagaan Sar is giving a gift to every person who comes to your home. The more money the family has, the fancier the gift tends to be (candy, money, and phone units are common... things like clothing, decorations and American dollars are less common). Families can quite literally go broke preparing for this holiday. The trade-off is though, is that the families will probably be able to live off of whatever gifts they received during TS. Is it starting to get out of hand, though?

So, I had a fun time at the shops today. I went store to store, but everyone was out of (good) veggies. The last store I stopped in had a good pile of green peppers, so I went to town. I really love onions (for those who don't know me) but the pile was really quite sad. I asked the nice store lady if she had any more, and she went in the back to get some.

A couple of people came by to look at the onions, but were dismayed at the wilted-ness of them. Oh, but I waited there patiently. And waited. UNTIL. The lady came out with a crate with only like 30 onions in it. And they were all mine! I had my bag ready, and grabbed up a couple kilos right before the swarm of people in the back of me, who realized that there were new onions out, pushed me to the side.

But it was too late for them. I had the most glorious onions of the pile. 

And I realized at the moment, I'm more integrated into this culture than I thought.

Some of my beautiful, tasty, eye-watering onions.

(No worries, she brought out more after I went to pay. But after all the shopping, the pushing and shoving... it was my moment!) 

Until after Tsagaan Sar (which is Feb 22nd-24th)... peace!

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