Today has been a prefect example of why Sundays exist. It's been an excellent combination of all things relaxing and wonderful. Normally my weekends are filled with work or meetings but somehow, and I'm not quite sure how, today escaped any sort of obligations. Maybe it was the fact that there are also people visiting from the neighboring aimag which enhanced the relaxed vibe of the day.
It started out with one serious brunch. Since we had a rather raucous a party last night, brunch today was quite an affair. Starting at the early hour of 11, my kitchen was filled with chopping, sizzling and the mouth-watering smell of frying eggs. One of the visitors made heavenly American-style omelets to order while I whipped up a double batch of cinnamon rolls and collaborated with Aaron on a wok full of corned beef hash (this weekend was our St. Patty's Day celebration). Coffee flowed in a continuous stream to which knockoff Bailey's was added by the bold as Jack Johnson, Lauryn Hill and Bob Marley serenaded those reading magazines on my futon. After we had all eaten our fill, the whole room sank into a coma-like state. I'm pretty sure my apartment didn't look too unlike an opium den with people so relaxed they were just about to drool on themselves. Slumped and sated we listened to jazz while we digested, saturating in the freedom of a whole day with nothing special to do. Around 3:30, determined not to get sucked into the looming black hole that is the post-brunch nap, three of us decided to take a walk. The weather has been beyond beautiful lately; according to a friend Thursday was the first day above freezing in over 80 days. Even though it snowed on Friday night the warm sun today was so inviting we couldn't possibly stay inside. So we ventured to the local soccer pitch to take in part of a game and pick up a friend. As we walked, it was so refreshing to see the square and park filled with so many people. Benches that had sat alone all winter were now weighted down by families with chubby babies and packs of teenagers blaring hip hop from their phones. The town felt alive again, as if waking up from a long sleep to discover the renewed beauty of the world. After the final goal was scored, the four of us struck out towards the river. We strolled through the ger district and peered into the family compounds, soaking up the exoticism of an existence in rural Mongolia. Then, as the gers ended, we walked past the river, taking time to pelt the melting ice with rocks and cheer on the progressing thaw. We continued past the end of the concrete, heading towards the wishing tree, a structure of dead branches nailed together and covered with traditional Mongolian cloths. We approached the tree and reverently did the traditional ritual around the sacred pile of rocks sitting next to the tree. Throw one, preferably white rock on the pile and walk in a clockwise circle around it three times. We lingered at the tree, absorbing the towering, colorful structure with its cloth flapping gently in the breeze, and made our wishes. As the sun slowly started to sink towards the mountains in the West, we ambled home. Instead of taking the direct way we came, our route took us through a farm with sheep and goats. I'd never seen a wee little goat jump before, evidently they hop quite a bit, and giggled at the kids kicking the air. We threw snow at each other from the dusting that was still on the ground and laughed all the way home. Later I went to Tserenkhlam's house for a dinner of buuz where we drank tea and chatted with other volunteers. It was a great, lazy day and my only regret is that there aren't more days like it. Free Sundays are few and far between so I savored this one and will retreat into its soothing sights and smells during the coming busy week.