Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Monthly Montage: Tsagaan Saar

A few weeks ago Tsagaan Saar was upon us. It is the Mongolian holiday recognizing the lunar new year, a holiday celebrated throughout the Asian world. Apparently this year we were marking the coming year of the male iron rabbit, whatever that means. Regardless, I had such a great time celebrating with friends and "family" here in Hovd. The basics of the holiday, if you missed it before, is the idea that everything you do within the three plus days of Tsagaan Saar sets a president for what will happen in your next year. So that means you must eat, drink and visit friends until you can't possibly shovel another buuz into your mouth or drink another bowl of milk tea. It gets pretty exhausting but the festive nature of the time is exhilarating and the home visits are as rewarding as they are fascinating. So here are some sights from this year and last years Tsagaan Saar. Сар шинэдээ сайхан шинэлээрэй!
Before Tsagaan Saar I was taken to a ger near
my library tosee how they cook the meat.
These are the back halves of sheep that cook
slowly rigged up in a big metal trash can.
Ingenious, no?
My counterpart worked really hard to organize a
Tsagaan Saar competition for the foreigners. The buuz
in the foreground were made by the librarians.
Our foreigner-made buuz were so ugly!
Part of the competition was a game of
horse race шагай or ankle bones.
Suzanne needed a bit of help with her deel from one
of the librarians. We all did though! Those things
are impossible to put on by yourself.
The teams. We won! :-)
On the first day you should get up super early to go to the oldest, most respected people you know to wish them a happy Tsagaan Saar first.
The very decked out family of Suzanne's
counterpart, Nymhoo. Her daughter is also
my student.
Sweet Tsagaan Saar baby!
Nymhoo's эмээ (grandmother) and
євєє (grandfather) in their traditional
ethnic getup.
Talking on the cell phone.
Love the anachronism!
At our friend Boogi's house. 
Our lovely lady friend Roza steps, fetches
and pours сүүтай цай (milk tea).

Boogi cookin' up a storm- boiled mutton
over a wood and coal burning stove.
Suzanne and our collective PCV
'Mongol Mama' Tserenkhlam.
Aaron contemplating his sweet
mustache and obligatory shot of
vodka in an awesome cowboy boot
glass at Tserenkhlams apartment.
Ned set out to beat the local Peace Corps Volunteer
record of 137 buuz in one day. Also, you can see the
vast spread at my counterpart's house.
євєє and the apple of his eye at my
counterparts apartment.

A bit of fun on the ice between house visits.
Making a new batch of сүүтай цай.  Even if you're
already half way out the door it's considered very rude not
to drink a bowl from the fresh batch. I really like it though!
Making buuz in a ger. It's so cold outside and
hot inside that every time the door opens
a fog sweeps in.
Taking a buuz break and
watching the kiddies play.
Wee Mongolians!
Playing with a tea set at our student's house.
These girls are adorable!
Sweet girls! The two twins were adopted by their cousins
family when their parents passed. They are three girls
the same age; all brilliant and inseparable.
Ned taking a buuz break.
I think he was on number 90 at this point.
Making the rounds.
Our гадаадын хїн (foreign person) crew.
Ned sticking it to buuz number 138!
 Here are a few pics from last years Tsagaan Saar. A little old but still kinda neat...

At the Tsagaan Saar competition last year.
Making buuz is no joke.
The шагай competition as the librarians look on. 
Sadly my ankle bone horse was fat and lazy!
The boys having fun.
The spread at our friend Javkhlan's house. Can you spy:
1 plate of buuz, 4 salads, 3 сүүтай цай and large parts 
of sheep? Also the stack of cookies on the left is on every 
Tsagaan Saar table.The levels always symbolize 'happy' then 
'sad' then 'happy' again. There is always an odd number 
of levels- unless someone in the family has died in the last year.
Miss Deggi making buuz in her families ger.
Davadorj, the head of the foreign language
department at Hovd University. He is for sure
жинхэнэ монгол (real Mongolian).
Little Anka, the granddaughter of the librarians
'gardener' (pouring at right), serving vodka
to the librarians.
Yanja, one of my favorite people in all of Mongolia,
and her adorable family. Gotta love a gun totin' baby!
Jake experiencing the Tsagaan Saar
syndrome, a little like the Thanksgiving

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