Monday, July 18, 2011


On July 6th and 7th, my soum celebrated Naadam, the national holiday recognizing Mongolia’s indepence from China that was gained in 1921. The holiday revolves around a sports festival honoring the three manly sports: wrestling, horse racing, and archery. We celebrated by going out to our town’s “stadium” (a ring of cinderblocks, more or less, in the open countryside). During the Naadam opening ceremony, there was a lot of singing and dancing. In fact, my host brother sang the “Orkhon song” and danced with some of his friends.

Then the wrestling commenced. Soon after, herds of children jockeys on horses came stampeding towards the area, and we all had to run to watch and cheer their arrival. This festival is supposed to take place during the hottest time of the year. However, our Naadam was unusually cold. Cold as in, I was wearing leggings, pants, two pairs of socks, a shirt, and two jackets one day—inside. I do not know where the cold came from, but it came fast. A friend’s mom told me that a cold summer meant a less harsh winter, so let’s hope that’s true. Despite the weather, the festivities were fun. I would liken the holiday to a rodeo—lot’s of people wandering around a campground of sorts, animals abounding, plenty of drinking, and even more fried food. The unofficially official Naadam food is hoshuur, a mixture of some variety of meat and onions fried in a portable dough pouch. It’s like a meat hot-pocket. But fried. And best with ketchup (which in Mongolia is spicy, thank God) or soy sauce. There is no clean way to eat hoshuur, and asking to eat only one or explaining that you are full is pointless because I think it is some (again unofficial) tradition that whenever hoshuur are made, they are made in large, large quantities. All in all, Naadam was fun. We even had a dance at the Culture Center one night, and who doesn’t love a dance? The other wonderful thing about Naadam is that since it is a national holiday, we got three days off from school. Even better: our three days were capital’s Naadam days, so we had our celebration Wednesday and Thursday, and then were off from school Monday-Wednesday the following week. I’ve enjoyed my holiday and have spent it reading a lot (I’m reading Life of Pi, the second Harry Potter, and Just Kids), and I’ve also been watching a lot of movies and Arrested Development thanks to my fellow sitemates allowing me to rip them from their external harddrives.

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