Last weekend, July 2 and 3, found Khutul celebrating its Naadam. Naadam is one of the BIG national holidays in Mongolia. It is a celebration of the three manly sports: horse racing, archery and wrestling. On Saturday morning, a family friend stopped by to show me one of his horses. I got on and asked if I could ride around the ger district. He said yes and got on another one of his horses and the two of us rode around the ger district for about 30 minutes. It was great.....except the horses here are shorter than their American counterparts and the saddle stirrups weren't long enough for my legs. I was a little stiff getting off but it was so worth it. After that we ran down to the finish line of the horse race and watched about 20-or-so children race their horses. They were SO talented and quick....and very young!
That evening, there was a concert held in the cultural center. For about one hour we were treated to traditional Mongolian dance and music. It was a great time and fascinating to see their traditional songs be set to a pop music context. They mix their styles well! Starting next week, I will be going to the cultural center to receive Hammer Dulcimer lessons. I am hoping to perform for the swearing-in ceremony on August 19. Should be fun! This is a picture of one of the groups performing. The lady in the middle is playing the hammer dulcimer and she rocked!
The next day, July 3 was a big day for Naadam. The morning activity was archery. I wasn't able to watch it because we had to go to another training site to receive more vaccinations. I wish I could have watched it! We were back in time to experience wrestling which is great! My host family took me to the wrestling stadium and we watched it for an hour. The traditions that are wrapped in to Naadam are fantastic. The winner of each match does the eagle dance to show his dominance and then gets a cool Mongolian hat to wear. Here is a picture of the wrestling:
My Mongolian language lessons continue to go well. My pronunciation gets better every day and I am becoming more confident in my language skills. I have also latched on to many children in the ger district who help me with my Mongolian if I help them with their English. Children are great cultural and language guides! They are so eager to learn and to teach. I am grateful for their help and encouragement.
So after being here for one month I can look back and see how much I have changed. I am beginning to speak a new language, I don't have running water, I use an out house (!). I also hand-wash my clothes in a tumpin and bathe in a tumpin. This also means I might only bathe three times a week! In many ways I am different but still the same. My love of music is still strong and my devotion to family and friends is as strong as ever. I look forward to being sworn-in on August 19 and beginning yet another new chapter in my life titled Peace Corps Volunteer! I am thankful for all the cards and mail I have received. Each letter is so special to me and gives me the encouragement I need.
I am also learning to appreciate the smaller (sometimes not so small!) things in life. I haven't seen a cable tv show in one month and I don't miss it. Also, I can take time to enjoy my 20 minute walk to school and take in the gorgeous views that are found all throughout Mongolia. My favorite thing is to just watch the weather. Mongolia is SO open that you can literally watch a storm develop and blow through. And Mongolia has GORGEOUS sunsets! I always thought Nebraska had fantastic sunsets but I must say that Mongolia beats it. What do you think?
I hope you all are well and warm! I will keep you updated with my Mongolian life and will soon post pictures to Picasa and will put a link on this blog.