Well it’s the holidays, and this is the time year that’s infamously difficult for Peace Corps volunteers. Which I admit it is… I mean I’m sitting here in my drafty apartment mulling over the fact that I should be sad and mopey. But even that is tough. I look back on my last Christmas and I worked for the majority of the day. But it is the little things.
I think of my moms awesome cooking. Watching football. Watching “Love Actually” after that. Then probably watching “The Santa Clause” because that movie is awesome. I can smell the turkey and gravy and chicken parmesan. Opening our presents on Christmas Eve so that we can wake up early and ski the next day. One of the better days to hit the slopes because no one else is out. Its just an honest to good time to be with family, slow down and enjoy ourselves. As much as I miss my family, I know they will have an excellent time nonetheless. They better eat all the food for me. And drink all the beer.
Here though I’m helped the fact I almost forgot that Christmas was coming up to begin with. Christmas music isn’t piped 24/7 into my ears, and I don’t have TV so I don’t get the commercial onslaught (not that I would get it here). But honestly if I didn’t have a calendar or go on Facebook, I would have a hard time pointing out which day is Christmas. But it isn’t as if things aren’t happening here… because Mongolia has шин жил which is basically all the winter holidays you can imagine, rolled up into one winter holiday extravaganza.
For a Buddhist country with no holiday this time of year, шин жил is a time to decorate, go to parties for every occasion and just have a good time. Work has pretty much come to a standstill as classes prepare their plays, dances and shows for December 26th, which is the school wide Shin Jil party ( yeah I got tired switching back and forth between Mongolian and English). December 27th is the Shin Jil Party for all the teachers at my school, where apparently there are all the prom dresses that I didn’t ever think to bring to Mongolia. Admittedly it is strange to get asked “So when are you celebrating New Years ?” … when my automatic response is “December 31st… when it actually happens. ”
More on that later….
Yay Christmas! It even snowed the day of. I headed over to school to download some holiday music (which I can really only listen to on the day). While I was sitting in my schools lobby to get access to Wifi, I was surprised by how many people came over to say “Happy Christmas” or “Happy Special Day”. Even one of my English teachers gave me a notebook as a gift, and my school manager gave me a big piece of chocolate shaped like Santa / Father Christmas. It made me quite honestly very happy to have people go out of there way to make me feel better about being away from home. It makes the prospect of being here for the next year and a half (!!!) that much easier.
After my morning of downloading appropriate music I headed over to my sitemates house to make lasagna with homemade egg noodles. It was quite the culinary experiment and despite the lack of sour cream ( which was going to be substitute for ricotta. Usually we can get sour cream from Russia but of course when you need it was no where the be found.) it turned out really well. Of all the skills that I thought I would bring from Mongolia, cooking was not one of them. When I get back from my service I might even want to make things from scratch for all my friends, but not after indulging in the premade dough that I can just buy in a store. Its going to be so easy …
We also exchanged gifts. The boys got really nice Mongolian snuff bottles. I got an awesome kit of beads and string to start making friendship bracelets and other knick knacks. Overall we had a really pleasant evening.
I spent most of December 26th being the official school photographer for the two Shin Jil assemblies that happened throughout the day. In the morning we had all the “small classes” or elementary school students attended an assembly. There were plays, dances, and the most bizarre hodge-podge of Christmas and Winter Holiday elements. My sitemate put it this way ” My theory is that it’ an emergent, synthetic holiday created from the unsold (mostly abrasively commercial) leftovers of Chinese manufactured American holiday goods. They have the elements of the holiday but no framework on how to use it. I imagine it would be kind of like how we might celebrate an old roman holiday – we need trees, mead, and togas… aide from that I’m lost , lol “.
That pretty much how the assemblies went, there were clowns, multiple Father Winters (or Santa Clauses to you and me) , fairy children and even a hunchback showed up.
The assembly for high school students was all of that with prom added on top of it. All the girls got dressed up in super nice dresses ( like prom status). There aren’t too many events for high school students to participate in fun extra curricular activities. There were dances done by students and some of the teachers lip synced songs in crazy costumes. It was great to see students and teachers have a good time.
So that was my holiday week. I hope you had a good one as well!