Wednesday, August 31, 2011

September 1st = start of new school year!

If it's September 1st in Mongolia, it must be the start of a new school year!  Here again, already!  Summer is still hanging on a little...., but the familiar nip of autumn is in the air is the same as back home in the US. 
Of course, school starting means the flags and banners come out and are flying, children are dressed in their finery (except the cooler, older students who love their jeans almost as much as I do! ) and the teachers look happy and relaxed!
happy students and teachers!
green popsicles-breakfast of champions
It also means performances by students, (which I thoroughly enjoy) and speeches by important adults which I don't understand.  After the performances and speeches are over, the mad rush for the building begins!  The school bell is rung by two adorable little kids, then by the school director, announcing the start of the day and year.  Chaos commences, as class assignments were just posted and parents and children alike make their way to the lists and the building.  Let the learning, the fun and the angst of a new school year begin!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Summers Fly!!!

Just like when I was a kid, summer always flies by entirely too fast!!! The long daylight hours still fool me into thinking the warm weather and sunshine will last forever! The slow relaxed pace of this season makes it my favorite. I relish the warmth and serenity of gardening, being outside more and just taking it easy. Not only is it refreshing, renewing and restorative, it's a magical time of year.
Anyone who has ever had the opportunity to garden or grow anything from seed has witnessed one of the greatest miracles. To see this on a large scale during the summertime is amazing! It never gets too familiar or old for me.

As usual, I tried to cram as much fun into the season, while still relaxing, enjoying and relishing the summer time. During this slow season when the school kids were gone, I gardened a bit. Though my garden is only surviving here in this desert, I am already planning for next year- think greenhouse! I have been away for almost 3 weeks and need to go see my garden plot tomorrow.... I should have some tomatoes, peas and beans to pick......maybe even more lettuce and spinach!

In addition to having my sister visit for almost 2 weeks in July, enjoying the big Nadaam celebation in my town, I also traveled a bit this summer. I went to a neighboring town (5 hour bus ride) for Sharayah's birthday. After we celebrated her birthday with many Mongolian friends, I hung out for 2 days, then we ventured to the city together. The bus ride to UB is 13 hours and we were unfortunate to have the very back seats, that when we hit the huge bumps, we flew up........ Never a dull moment! Once in UB we stayed with another PCV for 2 days and saw many fellow PCV's. The good food available in restaurants in UB is always a big draw for me and I enjoyed burgers and fries! (every bite and more than once:)

Five of us then traveled north to Darkhan to witness the new PCV's at their site announcements. I recall this as being such an exciting and scary time and was reassured by having other PCV's there to meet and greet me, so I wanted to extend the same to our new site mates! I welcomed 3 new PCV's in my city and 3 more in outlying areas! Darkhan is the second largest city in this country and from what I saw of it, is much cleaner and nicer than UB. Being so far north, there is also a lot more green stuff there, including trees! Man, do I ever miss trees!

Just another hour by meeker is my fellow CYD Pedro in Selenge aimag, where 4 of us went to spend a day and night. The scenery there is so different from most of the country, that it looks like Russia, or eastern Europe in comparison..... The lush green landscape, covered with many trees, actual crop fields and lots and lots of water! Kate, Sharayah and I all ended up with congestion and allergy symptoms after one night there! We are definitely used to the desert air!

Then back to UB for a few days R & R prior to our mid service training.... Vacation, as well as summer in general, was a whirlwind! Horseback riding (half of it in the pouring rain) was a big highlight of the training, spent at Terelj National park where we stayed in gers.

As I rode home from the city on the bus yesterday, I sadly noticed it was getting dark around 8 pm... when did that happen? Wasn't it just last week that it was still light at 9? School starts in a few days and there is a nip in the air........Goodbye summertime....I shall miss you dearly.....

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Nadaam in Arvikheer, Uuvrkhangai 80th anniversary celebration!

This year's Nadaam celebration here in Arvikheer was exceptionally big, festive and special! The reason for this huge celebration was the 80 year anniversary of both the city of Arvikheer and the aimag of Uuvrkhangai.

Unlike the national holiday set aside for Nadaam (in mid July) ,this year our city celebrated Nadaam on the 28, 29 and 30th of July. The late dates allowed those from smaller soums and outlying areas to attend the big celebration.

The town underwent many improvement projects in the weeks leading up to Nadaam, i.e., re paving streets, new street lights, repainting of fences, buildings, etc.... In addition, the huge town square block was completed and two grand new statues were erected in the square, along with four huge lights which glow like stadium lighting (and shine right into my apartment at night!) There were concerts and gatherings on the square each night during the festival, though after a full day of activity, I was too tired to attend! I was awakened one night at 2 am to an amazing fireworks display, which I enjoyed through my living room window.

Wrestling is the most popular event of the three manly sports of Nadaam, which also include archery and horse racing. Oddly enough (since they are known as manly sports), wrestling is the only of the three where men only are allowed to compete.

The story goes that wrestlers used to wear deels in competition and one year a woman (brother of a well known wrestler who had gotten ill just before Nadaam) participated and won! This was at least 100 years ago, thus the reason for the cute skimpy outfits the wrestlers wear is to ensure they are male!

Horse racing jockeys can be girls and the children are usually age 6 to 12 and the category of race is based on the age of the horses. These races are very well attended and quite exciting! It takes special care to raise a race horse, feeding them limited food at various times of day to maintain the optimum racing weight.

I watched some Archery in two different Nadaam's this year and saw many women participants.

My entire summer plans were changed so I could attend this amazing 80th anniversary celebration and i was not disappointed!