Just when you think you can check out, prep for summer and all that wonderful season brings, things start picking up at site. Between a benefit concert, nights spent with friends and graduation season, my normally sparse schedule … has been more busy then usual. Even writing this reminded me how jam packed the last couple weeks have been…
To begin a couple months ago , a series of wildfires struck several aimags [provinces] in Mongolia. There was a huge loss of livestock, and several soums [small villages] were incredibly hard hit, a fellow PCVs soums included. To help out, my sitemate Christie , in conjunction with the local BookBridge library organized a benefit concert for the relief fund of that particular soum. With several incidences of ‘oh Mongolia is happening’ such as rehearsals where no one attended, confused music teachers, and tech problems, the concert was a resounding success. Many of us were just glad the concert broke even and had a profit , but it was nice to see the many talented kids of this town perform everything from traditional Mongolian dance to singing Justin Bieber. Hopefully this type of benefit concert can happen for years to come.
I have also been fortunate enough that my sitemate from last year has been visiting to work on her own projects. She has been doing dental assessments on kids here, hoping to petition the government in UB to allow an NGO to come into do a dental clinic. In the meantime we’ve been able to cook some amazing food and just catch up. After living alone for so long, its nice to have a room mate again. Also, she kinda has been like a fairy god-mother, purging my inherited piles of un-necessary stuff. Moving out in July / August just got so much easier.
Her visiting also means that we have been incredibly social, to catch up with Mongolian friends . It also means that we were obliged to go to the one mode of entertainment at my site… karaoke.
Not going to lie, it something I have come to enjoy since being in Mongolia . You rent a room with a group of friends and the range of songs go from English to Korean, Russian to Mongolian. Depending on who you’re with , it can range from pretty mellow Mongolian songs about how great your parents are (a legitimate song topic in Mongolia) , or carousing, raucous sing a longs. Guess which one I enjoy more 😛 . Luckily , when it’s a group of Americans it does tend to go towards the latter. The latest edition of Zavkhan karaoke did feature a creative version of Totos “Africa”, Greendays “Basketcase” and Cyndi Laupers “Time After Time” . I thought we did a good job, but the disdainful looks of the waitress looking in on us… maybe told us different 😛 . Though to be fair, while Mongolia is a very musical culture, singing is an incredibly singular and if I might say, pristine art. I have been shushed before while quietly singing a long to myself as my friend soloed to a song. Karaoke is no joke to some, and the slightly intoxicated, cathartic rousing renditions of awesome pop songs aren’t all too impressive. We might have been able to convince some of our friends that while we aren’t very good at it… it sure is fun. Though admittedly, we need to rehearse Bohemian Rhapsody before we try that in public again …
The next day, my site got a visit from a Mongolian circus trope, called “Puje and Guys”. I don’t know what we were expecting but it probably wasn’t that it was going to be as good as it turned out to be. The troop included acrobats, contortionists, jugglers , a fire eater and a single clown. Karen even got pulled up to do an act, despite even cocooning herself around children. The looks of pure terror on her face was priceless, and I do have video for people that are interested. It was a great evening, and awesome to see families out and enjoying themselves. There aren’t many opportunities for family entertainment in my town, and the circus offers that. I was even surprised by how entertaining it was. I’m not too educated about the circus as an entertaining art form (I’ve only read one book about it), but seeing a bare bones performance reminded me of the appeal. If you’re surprised to hear of a Mongolian circus troupe, there is actually quite a history. Apparently the Soviets funded some of the best traveling circuses in the 21st century, and the trend expanded to Mongolia. Actually, even today some of the best contortionists are Mongolian. So if a Mongolian troupe comes to town… Go!
Its also the season of numerous graduation ceremonies and “Bell Ceremonies”. This past Monday, other PCVs and I attended our good friends graduation from the local university. It was quite a site, as everyone was in their best deels and their tallest heels. One reason I never go shoe shopping here, it’s a rarity to find good shoes for women that have a heel under 5 inches. Now imagine attending a ceremony where you have to wear those shoes and stand the entire time! I’m not a big fan of ceremony, but suddenly our western style ceremonies with the robes and the sitting look like great ideas. But it was great to see this beautiful person graduate. She has been a great friend to all the PCVs at my site, and as she is such a beautiful person, I can’t wait to see what she goes on to do.
Finally I would be a mistake to not mention all the effort put into my birthday this year. It easily lasted weeks, as PC staff made me a cake that was delivered to my hostel when I was in Ulaan Baatar. I subsequently shared it with them as there was no way I was going to finish it my self! This starts off the general theme of me eating so many good things… A good friend stuck with me in UB where we went to a great breakfast place, then had some amazing soup and salads. The night concluded with a margarita, which reminded me that its been years since I have had tequila. 😛 . I then went back to site where I received the best gift I have easily gotten from friends that are literally around the world. Finally my sitemates got together where cheese cake was consumed and Cards Against Humanity was played. I thought my 2-5 was going to be difficult ( it is the same amount of time that Nelson Mandela was in prison on Robbins Island, just FYI) , but its hard to be morose when I easily felt all the love. This year is going to be awesome. I can feel it in my bones 🙂 .
Till Next Time – V.