Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Winter has arrived! the nine nines...

Winter has finally arrived along with the solstice.  Though it has seemed to me that the days are very short in terms of sunlight already, today is the shortest day of the year.  It doesn't get light until well after 8 a.m. now and is dark around 5:20 p.m.  I've already begun wearing long underwear (albeit light weight ones) for several weeks, as well as my wool sweaters.  This is a change from last year, when I thought my apartment was too warm, the wool sweaters too hot, and long johns uncalled for most of the time.  Is it true our bodies acclimate to the climate we live in?  If this is any indication, I'm going to be needing all that heavy long underwear I've kept!

In Mongolia the winter is one of the harshest.  This landlocked country, bounded on the south by the Himalayas and west the Siberian High, affects the winter weather and contributes to Mongolia having the highest atmospheric pressure during the winter.

Siberian High, also known as Russo-Siberian High/Anticyclone is a massive collection of cold and/or very cold dry air that accumulates and reaches it's greatest size and strength during winter.  The center of this high pressure cell or anticyclone is often lower than -40C (which is also equal to -40F).  This Siberian High is responsible for the severe winter cold, as well as the dryness (very little snow) in Mongolia.

The temperatures are pretty extreme, with winter weather below freezing for most of the country, from as early as mid October to as late as mid May.  Usually the months of October and April are hovering around the freezing mark.

Stats list that more than half of this country is covered by permafrost; soil temperature which is at or below the freezing point of water (0C 32F) for two or more years!  This permafrost can make building roads, construction and other infrastructure projects extremely difficult.  Wow...

Mongolians talk about the nine 9's of winter.  This measure of winter was originated hundreds of years ago when herders did not have modern methods of telling dates and is based on the lunar calendar.  It is said winter starts at the solstice (shortest day of sunlight annually) and is measured as 81 days total, 9 groups of 9 days, aka the 9 9's.  Back in the day herders could monitor the days by the following, very practical,  forms of measurement:

1st 9:    milk vodka congeals and freezes
2nd 9:   vodka congeals and freezes
3rd 9:    tail of a 3 year old ox freezes
4th 9:    horns of a 4 year old ox freezes
5th 9:    boiled rice no longer congeals
6th 9:    roads become visible
7th 9:    hilltops appear
8th 9:    ground becomes damp
9th 9:    warmer days set in

The 3rd and 4th 9's are said to be the coldest, so this is just the beginning.  I do recall being told last year that after Tsgan Tsar (the Lunar or White Moon celebration) the weather breaks and it's not as cold.  I found that to be true.  I have heard that Tsgan Tsar this year will start on the 24th of February.  The celebration runs for 3 days, ending on February 26th, which happens to be the last day of the 9 9's.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

the kids hard at work on their tree...

the tree was in 3 parts that they colored..

hard at work cutting out paper decorations

placing of the ornaments was a painstaking process

look at our tree!!!

wow, that's some gorgeous tree!

 During this, my second "holiday season" in Mongolia, I realized the dorm students did not have a tree to enjoy last year.  Since I've come to know that this season of merriment is a special time of year, even in a predominately Buddhist country, I decided the dorm kids must have a tree of their own!

With limited resources to purchase a tree, it dawned on me that our arts and crafts club, (sponsored by World Vision) would make a lovely tree out of paper!  Thursday at our weekly session, the kids did just that!  They had lots of fun and now have a tree to admire and wish upon, as children everywhere do.

Many holiday traditions are similar here in addition to having a tree.  Greeting cards are common as are small gifts for children.  I have already made over 100 simple "Happy New Year" cards to give to my students this year; I can't wait!  There is  general feeling of goodwill and friendliness that always warms my heart.  Shopping for decorations, gifts, cards and fancy clothes for parties is in full swing now, as I just witnessed in the local market place this afternoon.   

School children usually have as well as a performance, a party at school, where they dance and get dressed up.  Last year I attended the dorm party, which was lots of fun, as well as the teachers party, which was a wild and crazy event!
I'm looking forward to sharing in those celebrations again, and even here across the world, I enjoy the festive atmosphere.  Wishing all of you warm greetings of the season, and the best in the new year......

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Where does the time go?

How can it be December already?  And only one post last month.... where does the time go?  Much has happened during this stretch, including a broken camera, which is now repaired, thank goodness.  However, now I am in the city again for dental without my computer so no photo postings till I return back home.

Some highlights of the month include a dorm room competition which my friends were kind enough to judge.  The notice had been posted 3 weeks and of course the entrants were very last minute.  The kids had fun and the top 3 places won gifts from me.  A fun hand made award certificate, suitable for hanging in their dorm room. The biggest reserved for 1st place, smaller ones for second and third.  

First place also won an Uno deck of cards, a small dictionary and some cookies and jello packs.  (the jello come in a bag and have little individual jello shots in plastic containers...kids love em!)

Second place got their certificate, as well as food items and a deck of birds of america playing cards.  Third place winners got the food and certificate.  Most of the kids sang, some danced, recited poetry, a couple of gymnastics feats and a magic trick!  It was a good time!

Cooking club this month was making salads.  We used carrots and cabbage and made variations of slaws, including a carrot raisin salad with mayo which was a big hit.  Kudoos for vegetables!  Gotta start somewhere!

I enjoyed a huge Thanksgiving celebration with my PC family here in Ulaanbaatar.  PC made many turkeys and volunteers brought sides....yummy leftovers were enjoyed as well as the fun and fellowship of the day!

Here in the city for my ongoing dental saga, which is going surprisingly well.  Thank goodness for the staff at Perfect Dental, who are trained in Europe and very kind and very good at their trade!

It's difficult to explain to my director why I am in the city so long, why they are working so hard on my teeth.  Cultural differences.  

World Aids Day was celebrated here in UB with PCV's doing a great job putting together a program involving university students.  Most of the volunteers in the city teach at local university's and the kids were interested and involved.  Yea, since I was not at site to do something on a local level.  I may still attempt to do an AIDS lesson upon my return and maybe a poster contest.