This past Friday, our good friend Mandy (short for Mandakhnar) invited all of the Peace Corps Volunteers in Zavkhan to her house for her sons hair cutting ceremony. Her son Togoldor, hadn’t had his hair cut since he was born so he was sporting some luscious locks since I had met the 3 year old last year. Since October 10th was considered a lucky day, full of weddings and hair cutting ceremonies, we all put on our deels ( ok , me and one other volunteer put on some traditional dress) and headed over to participate in a very unique Mongolian tradition.
Haircutting ceremonies are a nomadic tradition that have survived the era of socialism in Mongolia , and is now a common coming of age event throughout the country. Symbolizing the transition from infancy to childhood, it is an important marker of surviving a very perilous time in an era when most babies didn’t make it out of infancy. Hair tends to be an external marker of your health and vigor, so to shave or cut it off symbolizes a new start. It isn’t uncommon for twenty something’s to shave off all their hair after a long sickness or a run of bad luck, as cutting off the bad energy will allow for some new energy to enter your life. Anyways it isn’t uncommon for there to be a bunch of 3 year old boys sporting pig tails. You have to pay particular attention to what they are wearing to figure out gender, or else you tend to put your foot in your mouth 😛
We arrived and found Togoldor, a very gregarious child to begin with, without a care in the world with half his hair cut off. He had had a very exciting day, with people constantly visiting throughout the day, each paying special attention to him, and cutting off a small piece of hair each time. We all sat around a marvelous spread, which included a cooked sheep, juice, tsu tei tse, ubiquitous vodka, and range of food. Most of the time was spent chatting with the people that were coming and going, each participating in the ‘ceremony’. Basically when enough people had gathered, Togoldor would be passed around to each person, carrying a blue scarf with scissors tied at the end. The person would take the scissors, cut a chunk of hair, and tuck the strand in a knot on the scarf. At that point gifts were given, ranging from money , to toys ( I personally gave some American crayons) . Needless to say, with tens of people cutting off some hair, the child doesn’t have a good hair cut. After the guests departed, a hairdresser was sent for, and she gave Togoldor a proper shave, leaving a chunk of hair in the back for his grandparents ( who were in the capital) to cut when they would visit later this month.
Overall it was a nice ceremony and interesting to participate in. Opportunities like that re always nice to reconnect with people whom you haven’t seen in a while and its always nice to get an excuse to bring out your deel.
In other news we have started a variety of projects in town ; and I will probably make a separate category of posts about that – including our community children’s English classes, beginning adult classes, an alcohol awareness event I did at my school, planning a speech competition for next week and a seminar for teachers over the November break (and possibly a camp). Things have really started to roll in terms of projects and things to do, and as I hope to write more, I want to give you all an idea of different projects that I do on a weekly basis. Again, any ideas are greatly appreciated. Some of the things that I find normal in my second year are probably the things I should write about so suggest away!
Again, ’till something exciting happens – V.