Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tsagaan Sar - The Gist

Tsagaan Sar or TS since yes, I'm THAT lazy....

In my previous post, I talked a bit about this holiday and if you need more brushing up, JFGI (you can google THAT too if you're not up to snuff on your common chat acronyms.) Anyway, it was a lot of fun to be a part of this traditional holiday and overall Anthony and I visited 10 homes of our Mongolian friends and counterparts. Wait... hold it. Literally juuust got another invitation as I'm typing this, better bring that total up to 11; guess this holiday has yet to officially declare itself as over! I think people just continue to host until the buuz run out and the vodka runs dry. Let me briefly break some of the traditional celebrations down into phases for you. 

Phase 1: The greeting - TS has its own greeting which I really enjoyed. You greet your elders first and go in for a face kiss/sniff of each cheek as you place your arms under their arms to show respect, while saying ' ta amar sain uu?' Then snuff bottles are exchanged, typically by the males, and you reach for it with your right hand, left hand under right elbow, give it a quick sniff, and hand it back. Of course everyone is dressed to impress in their deels and looking fab.

Phase 2: The appetizers - Milk tea is served, mayo salad is consumed, then out comes the sausage and pickle plate. I'm always surprised at how creative they get with their salads, and equally surprised of the person that dreamed up pairing fruit with mayo - but it's actually not too bad!

Phase 3: The vodka - You are offered vodka and candy at several points throughout the meal. At Anthony's director's house, we were offered a honey pepper vodka in lieu of standard vodka. Not only did the pepper add more heat to my throat that was already on fire from several shots, but the honey did nothing to soften the blow, and they didn't stop at 3 shots, but instead decided to drink until the bottle was empty. Hmmm vodka for breakfast.

Phase 4: The buuz -During this phase, the famous buuz make their appearance. They urge you to 'id, id!' which conveniently, sounds like 'eat, eat' and has the same meaning, so one point Mongolia for clarity on that one! Since I'm a vegetarian (sort of,) I basically am force fed plates and plates of mayo salad (back to phase 2.) Many of our friends had competitions of who could consume the most buuz. Since I am a non-mutton eating individual, I decided to keep my own tally and guestimate at how many cups of mayonnaise I've consumed. I wanna say maybe 3?!? Gross.

Phase 5: The gifts - Small gifts are given out to you at every house visited, and since we didn't host at our house, Anthony and I decided to give all of our hosts a crisp $1 bill and a bag of caramel popcorn - gotta represent Amuurica! This is also when it would be a safe bet that you can be dismissed to leave and move onto the next house to do it all over again! 

Some of our Tsagaan Sar SWAG... I can practically feel the cavities.

The Oyuna Situation

Soooo THIS is a funny story of what I hope has happened to someone other than me. But I got a text this past weekend and just for fun, I'll give you the play-by-play of exactly what it said and is not at all atypical of texts I get from my Mongolian friends. "Hello. I am inviting yuo and Antony at 7.10pm at my home. Oyunchimeg." My friend Alyssa was also invited, but didn't know where she lived, so we decided to go together since I knew the way. So we make the 20 minute trek across town (leaving AT 7 because it's Mongolia,) and arrive at her ger. We walk in and start giving out the traditional TS greetings, when I notice Alyssa freak out as the realization hits her that this is NOT the Oyuna who texted us and I had confused her with another Oyuna (whose full name happens to be Oyunstesteg,) but we know from the same circle. We quickly and embarrassingly explained the situation and trotted off back to where we came and finally arrived at the correct Oyuna'shouse, which conveniently was only a quick 5 minute walk from my apartment... go figure! We ended up being 45 minutes late and her daughter met us outside and lectured us for being late, talk about irony!

My site mates and I at our friend Tonga's home with the typical spread.

Glad our first TS has come and gone and looking forward to getting back into the swing of things. Anthony and I will head to the UB on March 8th to participate in a Project Design and Management seminar with a Mongolian counterpart. Anth will be working on a resource room for children with disabilities in our town and I will be working on building a greenhouse that can operate year round. Stay tuned folks, there's always more to come!

Fun Fact: When going around town to the local delguur (store,) you will quickly realize that none of the stores have cash registers. Cash and change is usually kept in a small box that they dig through and just keep out. Often they don't have the correct amount of change to give you, so they offer you a piece of candy, gum, or instant coffee packet in exchange depending on how much they owe you. Bartering - 60% of the time, it works EVERY time...

No comments:

Post a Comment