Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Brian pouring the airag
Christmas is a hard time of year to be away from family, but somehow we managed to celebrate in style. I made some Christmas cookies which my family calls "snowballs" but apparently are also called, "sandies" and "russian tea cakes". We had tons of food, egg nog (homemade), and loads of libations. The best cultural fusion came when Brian brought out the old oil canister that was full of end of the season airag. End of the season airag is a bit tangier than airag you get at other times of year. Nearly all of us partook in a bowl of the delicious, fermented mare's milk. This airag was given to Brian as a gift from a friend...lucky him! This was definitly not your average Christmas party. We also sang Christmas carols, accompanied by Mike on the Morin khuur. It was a hybrid, cosmopolitan, party for sure with people of several ethnicities and nationalities represented. All in all it was a good time, and a lovely way to spend Christmas. The perfect Mongolian gingerbread house
Sunday, December 23, 2007
A former Fulbright Fellow, Mike, came back to Mongolia for work and a visit...we were all lucky he did! Mike is a musician and ethnomusicologist. When he was here before he studied the Mongolian Moriin Khuur, or horse head fiddle. He called up some of his old teachers, friends, and some students that he knows from Hohot (the capital of Inner Mongolia where he is currently residing) and had a jam session. Some of the students are from Xinjiang, Western China. They are Chahar Mongols, a different tribe from the Khalkha Mongols that live here in Outer Mongolia. Because two of the young men grew up in Xinjiang, they speak Uighur, Kazakh, Mongolian and Chinese. They also play the dombra, a famous Kazakh instrument. One of the guys is great at Khoomi , Mongolian throat singing. All of these young men are students at the Dance and Music University here in Ulaanbataar, and the older men are teachers of Mongolian traditional instruments.
The jam session was such a wonderful fusion of Central Asian culture, with a little bit of twangy American rock and blues thrown in. I took some clips, hopefully they will load up for your listening and viewing pleasure.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
The 14th Dalai Lama (Dalai meaning: Ocean or infinite in Mongolian) is on my matchbox. When I saw these matches in the store, I wondered if they were officially sanctioned by the Dalai Lama, or if he even knew that his picture graces the cover of matchboxes in Mongolia. I heard the Dalai Lama speak last year, and something tells me he would find this really amusing. He seemed to laugh about everything!
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Cow in the gutter and (upper left corner) "Bakery King" sign based on the Burger King logo
"X-Men" Mini-market and store
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
I just got back from Hovd, Western Mongolia, one of my research sites. The one thing that really differentiates Hovd from the rest of Mongolia is that fact that most of the restaurants serve "haluun chinjew" paste. Mongolian food is generally salty and bland, but this stuff can spice up anything! As my father would say, "it makes a rabbit spit in a bulldogs face."
An ass outside the Freedom Disco. Photo credit: S. WedlakeOne of the Secondary Schools in Hovd
Play time in the courtyard
The "Vibrator" Bar
I'll post some more pictures later when the internet speeds up!
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Friday, November 23, 2007
SICKER-Chicken outta the bag
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
I’m pretty excited to go back to the city for a few days so that I can eat something other than salt, mutton, and flour. I'm gonna miss everyone here. I promised to come back in the spring or summer to visit again. Soon I'm off to the western part of the country, Hovd Aimag.
Some Choibalsan pics for you to enjoy!
Monday, November 19, 2007
The picture that was above me
Prayer flags and Buddha
Preparing everything for the ceremony
I had a chance to sit back and watch the Lama’s get everything in working order. The Lama’s varied in age. The youngest was around 10 and the oldest in his 70s. Around 9:30 everything was set and all the Lama’s had arrived, so we went outside to start the procession in.
The Procession into the Monastery
The Lama's chanting
Friday, November 16, 2007
There are a few cultural points to this picture that I'm certain anyone who has ever taught or attended school in Mongolia, Russia, or Central Asia can immediately identify. First is the "pot holder" looking thing hanging on the left side of the chalk board. This is used to erase the board, and/or to put water on the board. Sometimes the chalk has to be wet in order for it to write on the board. The second notable thing is the students uniforms. The girl has on the "french maid" uniform with large bows in her hair and the boy a suit. This is how students dress for school on special occasions, or if the class director tells them to do so.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Freak snowstorm in Choibalsan: A place that's a little bit "country" and a little bit "rock n' roll"Camel carts share the road with cars
Mostly frozen Kherlen River in Choibalsan
Some things have changed in Choibalsan over the last 2 years. For example, there is now reliable, relatively high speed Internet. I can't watch Youtube videos, but it's just as good as my connection in UB.
I've been pretty busy with interviews and research. I've really been employing some "high level" thinking skills out here. In addition to all of my academic endeavors, I was asked to judge the English competition at the Dornod Aimag Courthouse. consequently, I am staying with one of the judges. He organized the competition and as a favor to him I agreed to be the "foreign expert". There were 4 teams: North star, Five Fingers of a Hand, BINGO, and Venus. They chose the team names. They had to do an introduction, sing a song, Q and A, and name that word. Overall, it was pretty entertaining for me. I had adults trying to impress me with their English skills. Honestly, judging this competition of adults wasn't that far from the students competitions I used to judge when I was a teacher here. Competitions are very much a part of life here and that doesn't stop at grade 11. Additionally none of the competitors actually spoke English. They all studied Russian. That added another element of humor as I tried to decipher English words pronounced Russian style with Mongolian accents.
Annie and team "Bingo" the winners of the Courthouse English Competition
Friday, November 9, 2007
So this is my first time back to Choibalsan, the city I lived in for 2 years from 2003-2005. I must say, not a lot has changed. There are a few new buildings and stores, but the heart and soul of Choibalsan is the same. I think I forgot how "countryside" this place actually is. I think living in UB...Oh, i have to finish that thought later because a Mormon Elder interrupted to ask if I had "seen the light of Jesus Christ, our savior...." I told him that I can barely see any light through the smog in UB, but perhaps "the light" shines in Choibalsan. We then got into a discussion about "secret underwear", cultural reciprocity and paternalism. He invited me to spend 4 hours in church on Sunday, but I think I'll be worshipping at the church of mutton and vodka out by the river with my friends...."where one or 2 are gathered in my name, I am present."
Monday, November 5, 2007
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
I was lucky enough to still have my camera on me to catch the next 2 shots. Look closely...what is that ball of fur curled up under the balcony? Look! Just to the right of the "hot pot" sign.... It's a wolf carcass. That's right, a wolf. It's not the first dead wolf I've seen in Mongolia, it's just the first on I've seen in UB (on the building next to 2 ministry offices). In Choibalsan I used to see wolf carcasses for sale at the market, and once or twice a carcass from a recent hunt tied to a car hood or roof. Mongolians have an interesting relationship with the wolf. They see the wolf as this cunning, trickster character that they respect, but as a herding society, they also view the wolf as an enemy. Additionally, parts of the wolf's body are used in traditional medicine. I've heard of wolf's tongue being wrapped around the throat of a person with chronic sore throats, and wolf's lung being eaten to treat TB. I wonder what this one was used for? Maybe the hot pot.
In other news, it was really cold here today. I think the temperature only got to about 12F, but with the wind it felt colder. I was out in the ger districts today doing research and the variety of living conditions that I can be observed in such a small space here never ceases to amaze me. I took the bus for the first time since I've been back. The bus prices recently went up 100 to 200 tugrics. That's a huge amount for some people. I guess there will be a lot more people walking around this winter.
Friday, October 26, 2007
This is a picture of the plaque outside the Cuban Embassy. I walk past this building everyday. I think I saw a Cuban guy once. I'm assuming this is the least desirable country for an ambassador from Cuba to be sent to. I'm sure that guy keeps a low profile. I felt really guilty taking this picture, like I was committing a crime. I mean, you can't get this close the US embassy! I literally could have gone and knocked on the door. Instead, I left our Cuban friends alone.
I must confess, I decided to take these pictures today after seeing my friend J's pictures of his research site in Kyrgyzstan. My pictures aren't nearly as beautiful, but they are probably just as interesting to people who have never been to this part of the world. In a few weeks I'll be off to the Mongolian coutryside for my own research and I'll be sure to take some breathtaking photos (In addition to the very serious, very important data collection)!