Sunday, February 03, 2008

Countryside Hospitality

Mongolians are renowned for their hospitality. It’s built into Mongolian culture so deeply; it is second nature, especially in the countryside.

On a recent trip through the snowy mountains of our province, Jeremy and a group of believers visited several countryside families. Most are busy watching over their flocks, butchering some to provide meat for the upcoming New Year’s holiday, and just generally trying to keep warm inside their cozy round tents.

Farm houses are impractical here because country folk here must follow their animals to good pasture with the change of each season.

Nevertheless down home farm culture here is recognizable to anyone whose spent time in the agrarian parts of his own country. There is an expectation you will sit, talk, drink and eat and eat and eat, until your heart’s content, and beyond.

One of the first treats offered to a visitor is a hardened milk product called aaroal. You could imagine it almost like a sour cheese milk product, only harder than a dog biscuit.

One family offered us aaroal, which turned out to be unusually hard to chew. Finally upon examination it looked like a rock might have been molded into the piece that I took. That would have been unusual enough a thing to write home about.

I removed the foreign object from my mouth and dropped it discreetly on the floor. A quick survey of my teeth with my tongue revealed something was wrong. A big corner of my largest molar was broke and missing. Alarmed, I quietly reached back down to the floor to examine what I thought had been a little pebble in my mouth. It was my tooth.

I guess there are some hazards to the job of visiting Mongolians, even as hospitable as they are. You see the visitor’s worth is measured by his ability to accept hospitality.

Thanks God the tooth fracture didn’t cause pain and I was able to go on eating meat dumplings and drinking tea as we traveled from one family to the next. I was sure to steer clear of hard candy and this harder and now I know hazardous piece of Mongolian hospitality, aaroal. I made up for it by having other goodies like gravy tea.

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