Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Secret Society of the Traveling Vegetarians

It started with my director asking me if I wanted to go to lunch with her one day. My response? Hell yes! She’s an amazing cook. But when we hopped in the taxi, I soon realized we weren’t headed to her house, or any other restaurants I knew about, and finally ended up parked outside of an apartment complex I’d never been into before. We walked in to a room with a table bursting with food and more on the way. As I found a seat, more women began to trickle in, until we were a group of about 10 sitting down to a colorful, delicious-looking, vegetarian lunch. As we ate, I was introduced to everyone. I wasn’t able to understand a lot of their conversation, but instead chose to think about what a delightful (and delicious) detour my day had taken. After the meal was over, we were each given a gift by the host; a mug, a keychain, and a choco pie (which tastes how it sounds… plus marshmallows.) Before I left with a food baby, (and taught everyone that gem of an English phrase,) I was invited back the following week.

In our weekly meetings, I began to learn about these women in the same way you learn about anything in Mongolia—in layers. I began looking forward to Thursdays (okay it’s basically the social highlight of my week...) and I’ve been eating lunch with them every week for the past 2 months or so, rotating whose house we attend. Their at first seemingly random group, started to make a little more sense to me. They vary pretty drastically in age, ranging from a few who are in their mid-twenties, to a couple who are in their late 50s. And with the exception of my director and I, none of them worked together. But their common interests around vegetarian food keeps them coming each Thursday to learn about how their bodies could POSSIBLY survive one meal without the essential meat component. They ‘ooh’ and ‘ahhh’ over new dishes that have been prepared or vegetarian treats they bring in from the capital to share lovingly at our weekly dates. It’s all very high society…

I asked the ladies if any of them were actually vegetarian; two of them are (my director claims she’s allergic to meat… it makes her sneeze.) But the others answered that they were ‘1-day-a-week-vegetarians.’ Or it may have just been this one meal a week. But whatever the frequency, I still think its cool. I’m glad to be a part of the learning and the discussions. To share in their genuine interest and amazement when one woman found a sour cream treasure in one of the stores here, but didn’t know how to cook with it so just spread it across some bread and called it a day.

... and I’m happy to report I survived my first stint at hosting.

 Some of the veg ladies and I at a Young Families Conference I was 
asked to sit in on as part of a PCV panel. 

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