Thursday, February 22, 2007

Survived Tsaagan Sar - the Big New Year

We just got done celebrating the Lunar New Year. Wow, what a lot of national food! That, coupled with the word of the holiday "eat!", made for a very filling festive three days. The exact same food at every house we visited: Tea, Mutton, Meat Dumplings. Mix in some candy, vodka, horse milk, home made pastries, and you get a feel for how these three day just kind of blurred together. In all we vistited 8 homes across 200 kilometers.

It was like Mongolian culture on steriods, or for the kids...on sugar cubes. Those little square granulated delights decorated every table without fail. After all, it's a holday that celebrates all things white, and table sugar does a nice job of making the kids feel festive, and adds a frenetic dimension to the parents' frame of reality to be sure.

We made it through with no serious sicknesses, which seems like a miracle, and perhaps it was. We thank God for our continued health, and that we have a whole year before the next New Year festivities!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Here we are in costume for the Mongolian Lunar New Year Festivies of 2007.
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Johanna Speaks and Eats

When Johanna says something memorable, I usually suggest Renee should write it down.

This time I thought about taking my own advice. So, remembering that this journal is as much for us as for you, I want to record what may be Johanna's her first complete sentence.

We're at dinner, and she asks me for more of the tasty noodle dish called Tsoivang that we're eating. She hands in her empty bowl, we pass it back full, and go on to filling the next bowl:

"I need spoon", she clearly enunciates. I of course don't hear it, and ironically enough, I turn out to be the one who's holding it.

Renee turns and says to her: Did you just say"I need spoon"? Johanna happily answers, "Yes".

Kids on TV

So a television crew showed up to our schools Lunar New Year party. They interviewed a few of us, and a couple of our kids sang songs in Mongolian. Today we ran into several people who saw the broadcast on TV. I guess seeing foreigners speak/sing Mongolian is entertaining if not news worthy. At the very least it's something to write home about.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Have a Bowl of Cookie Dough

So I'm visiting a family yesterday. Mongolian hospitality never asks if you're hungry. They just start rousing around the kitchen to scare up something, usually of a dairy derivation, to offer you to eat. A cup of tea is handed to me and a huge bowl of what looked like yellow sugar cookie dough with raisins in it was placed in my hands. There was a big table spoon stuck in it.

Then came the directions to do in my predicament: "Eat oil", is what the man of the house repeatedly said. Just like cookie dough, this substance's main ingredient is some kind of grease.

The daughter in law of the house was sitting in the living room (well it's a one room cabin really) with a bowl on her lap, creating an other holiday food for the upcoming white moon new year.

Well fortunately Mongolians are not as big on cleaning your plate as Americans. So I didn't have to polish off the heaping cereal-sized bowl of this pasty yellow substance before I left.

But as I think about it now, you've got to love a culture that not only allows eating uncooked dough, they encourage it. It has become one of Mongolian's National festive foods. Perhaps not surpriszingly with it being referred to as "fat" or "oil" is really pretty good.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Hospitality Wars

The national new year celebration is gearing up. White Moon is celebrated on the same date as Chinese New Year, starting this February 19, through the 22nd. Mongolians will prepare thousands of mutton dumplings, and give gifts to hundreds of guests visit their home.

The cost of this unfortunately is secondary to the need to show hospitality. Mongolians are so strongly programmed to show hospitality, it's amazing and perhaps the gem of the splendor of their culture. But unfortunately the observation of this holiday seems to play this good character trait against them.

People are so generous and concerned to show others a good time, that this also happens to be the season of people taking loans to buy all the stuff they need to celebrate the holiday. Sound familiar anyone? If you wonder what Americans did for Christmas before the age of credit cards, just cast a glance at today's Mongolia.

I hope our friends' desire to show good hospitality is not the same as Americans making sure we give our kids as good or better gifts than their friends get. I hope their not keeping up with the Jones'. It's just sad to see people taking loans to spend what they can't really afford to buy what they don't need. Competitiveness aside, human nature appears to be alive and well in Mongolia.