Monday, May 30, 2011

In Which We Get a Sheep...Naturally

It's a difficult thing trying to say goodbye to an entire community, especially one that holds so many different members who have touched you in so many different ways. The three of us who are leaving this summer put our heads together and tried to think of a good way to say goodbye to everyone we love here in Hovd. And then it dawned on us. What better way to mark the end of our two years in this beautiful country than to kill an animal? Well, a sheep to be specific. We decided to host a traditional Mongolian хорхог or horhog for all our friends and their families. This is an alfresco feast that features each and every part of a sheep that is killed on site by incising the chest and reaching in to manually sever the carotid artery. Going along with it are chips, cookies, candy, apples and of course large amounts of vodka. It is very traditional and old-school but still the definite default for celebratory occasions today. It was especially nice to have this certain genera of picnic since one of my fondest memories of my early days in Hovd is attending my sitemate's school's anniversary хорхог. Also, it was rather perfect since my sitemate's school has an official хорхог-cookin' guy who was available to help us out, a very insistent and charismatic man named Baska (proudly sporting a sweater-vest below). Compounded with the beautiful weather and lack of bugs right now which made the river a perfect venue, we couldn't do this parting any other way. However, though this was surely the best choice of an event, I did feel pretty bad for Bo Peep's little ward; it kind of felt like a sacrificial slaughter at the alter of me which is pretty wack for someone from a family in which half the members are vegetarian. But despite my misgivings and guilt about ending this sheepy life, we went ahead and all chipped in for the 100 тɵгрɵг bleating picnic. And sad though it was to know that a furry friend was going down, the day was an absolute smash hit. We had over 50 people come by though we were randomly and inexplicably very far upriver from town. Our suspicions of success were confirmed when our friends tucked into the meal like Chinggis Khan might have. I know it might sound gross, but something about this style of eating is rather exciting because it is so visceral and intense; it's a tactile adventure in which you can relish how dirty you get. At the end of the party, everyone was a little browner, exhausted and very sated after hours by the river, a soccer game, 3 1/2 liters of vodka, a sheep and lots of laughing and chatting with friends. Everyone seemed to know each other and talk easily while their children slashed through the river. We all thought this was by far the best and most culturally appropriate way to celebrate our time here and turns out we were right. A beautiful day very well spent and a good choice to give back to the folks that have helped us along the way. Below is a little peek at how we all fared...and how the sheep did, too.
First Course: Intestine Soup.
Blood Sausage?
Offering vodka to the four corners.
Loading up the can with rocks and sheep parts.
Friends digging in.
Cameron taking his stomach down.
Feeding the huge birds of prey hungry for scraps.
Some of our merry band.

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