Before I start rambling, for all you non-facebook people, you can still view a bunch of my photos at this link: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=136121&id=504170728&l=4be2048f07
Somehow, you may have missed the news report, but it's Nadaam time here in Mongolia right now! But before I get into all the Nadaam details, I'd like to share the highlight of Nadaam thus far. Last night there was a concert in the park in our town. My host mom, Mark, and I were waiting for it to start, sitting on the benches... then... the music started. Gob's magic show theme song from Arrested Development!! It was awesome. Following the song were fireworks too! I started cracking up and getting excited, of course my host mom thought this was because of the fireworks. I think Mongolians are secretly as in love with Arrested Development, or at least Gob, as me. There's this TV commercial that also uses a short clip of the song and I get really excited every time I hear it.
So back onto Nadaam. It is a the big national celebration that involves the three manly sports (their term, not mine): wrestling, archery, and horse racing. Yesterday was local Nadaam so we got to see some of that in our town. Tomorrow is national Nadaam meaning it's crazy busy in the capital city, Ulaanbaatar, with all the festivities. It's kind of funny because yesterday we sat through about an hour and a half of "opening ceremonies" involving dancing, singing, and monks chanting at the local stadium, then when wrestling began we got up to go get food. It was kind of anticlimatic. Mark and I went back later to walk around and watch some wrestling though. I'll get some photos up soon - the wrestling outfits are awesome. It's also really fun to see lots of people in the traditional Mongolian clothing. It is called a "del". It's even more interesting to see the mix of super traditional and modern - i.e. young guy in his 20s wearing a traditional del but also sporting huge fake diamond earings, Air Jordan tennishoes, and holding a cell phone.
I'm actually in Ulaanbaatar (UB for short) with my family. I got to come here last Sunday with Mark's family too. It kind of feels like entering a whole different world. It's a big, busy city with Louis Vuitton billboards, a Kenny Rogers restaurant, fancy condos, and nice cars - which if I stay here long I'll most likely get hit by - the driving is crazy. I'm at the apartment of my mom's niece (she's about 25 I think) and it's super nice. It even has a hot shower! I thought we were just coming for the day (it's only a 45 minute drive away) but apparently we might be staying the night. Who knows. This is kind of how Mongolians roll. If plans are even made, they are then usually broken. I don't have any plans for tomorrow, it just would've been nice to bring a toothbrush. Oh well! I'm enjoying the internet here in the apartment she is letting me use. And she speaks English really well, which helps lessen the confusion. Oh and like I said I came here last week with Mark's family too. We spent the equivalent of about a week's worth of spending money on this shower/sauna thing at a hotel here (not really our choice, his family's choice to do this). It was cool, but weird. You basically get this room with a shower and sauna for a while, then when you're done you put on these weird lounging clothes and hang out in a living room like place at the hotel. Other than having a nice hot shower, the best part was lunch - fried chicken, coleslaw, and a few french fries. YUMMMM!
Oh and because of all of the Nadaam festivities Mark's family butchered a sheep in their yard 2 nights ago. (Sorry for stealing your thunder Mark, but you're not updating this blog very frequently, so I'm sharing the excitement.) They brought the sheep alive to the house, waited for the butcher to arrive, then Mark had to tackle the sheep which got out and was running around the yard, trying to escape it's immenient death. I guess his family was really thankful he caught it because if it ran off they'd probably have wasted all their money buying it and it'd be gone forever. Remember, there's no dad in his house, so it was him and the mom, sister (age 15) and brother (age 5). So after tackling it, he watched the entire butchering and cleaning process. Then, to no surprise, he got sheep innards and blood sausage for breakfast the next morning. On the other hand, I had a delicious cream-filled chocolate covered pastry at my house. :)
Oh I guess another highlight of this week was that we did a presentation we did to about 20 World Vision employees. My group, two other CYD volunteers and I, presented for 1 hr, 20 minutes! This includes translation though (we spoke in English, NOT Mongolian). We gave them a session on how to teach youth to resist peer pressure. This was the topic they wanted us to present on, not our choice. But my I'm glad I gleaned as much knowledge as I did from SDRG (former workplace) because it's coming in handy for things like this! I think it went well. It takes a little getting used to the Mongolian audience style though. To make a broad generalization, Mongolians have a different style of showing their attentiveness. THey always, always answer their cell phones, no matter who is talking or where they are at. There is also just a lot of talking over one another. None of this is considered rude here, so we just have to get used to it. Oh and at the end of a play or something they usually clap in unison - i.e. everybody on the same beat. Anyway, after the presentation the employees invited us to play volleyball at the school with them that night. About 5 of us went and it was really fun! You really don't have to speak the same language to play sports together. It was co-ed, which was good, and of course the men were much more competitive. There were times when the ball would be coming right to me and they'd run up and hit it themselves. It was mostly funny though, only mildly annoying. Similar to playing sports with American men. It was a great way to get to know them all though and they invited us back to play with them every week, so that's cool. On a cultural note, volleyball and basketball are really popular here.
So, overall, life is going pretty well here. We're all starting to fall into a rhythm and feel more and more comfortable with our families. I still miss having independence and freedom and regular hot showers, but I'll regain the first two back eventually. As for showers, I'm adapting. I also miss you all! If you really miss me, you can send a care package. :)