Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Naadam 2011

- Wrestling Match in the stadium. The winner does the eagle dance, described in the blog below.

- The wrestling action

- Archery competition

- Horse-racing

- Group of morin-khuur performers, for the opening ceremonies

What a variety of experiences I had during Mongolia’s summer holiday. Locals dressed up in colorful summer deels or dresses. Meanwhile, cars boasted the Mongolian flag and I was reminded of Easter and Memorial Day at the same time. I enjoyed a traditional concert featuring varied instruments, dances and singing, with throat singing as well. The costumes were quite resplendent in color and variety. This year I had a chance to watch all sporting events: horse racing, wrestling and archery. After each wrestler wins his match he rhythmically saunters to the circular stand holding the 9 helmets of the Kings. He goes around the helmets in the clockwise direction, waving his arms as an eagle does in flight.

I watched the events with Mongolian friends and coworkers, Korean volunteers and an American photojournalist traveling around the country. Another fellow PCV was stranded in my town for 6 days, as the buses that travel to the countryside towns are stopped for over a week during the festivities. The government and most organizations closed for an entire week, mine included.

I was pleased to see trash containers amid the carnival-type set up surrounding the outdoor stadium for the event. They had typical games, food vendors, and screens for special photographs set up. The stadium seating is exceptionally hard to access, 3 feet from the ground within the stadium and no steps to ascend by. The covered seats are divided into 3 sections by metal bars welded from the top to bottom of the seating area. Thus, you must crawl under, over or through to access middle seats or pass by any section. The external access requires entrance into the grandstand area, 2 flights of steps and crossing of a short plank. In America we value convenience, while in Mongolia convenience is harded to come by in so many ways. Yet, life goes on and people celebrate nonetheless.

Since Naadam we are resuming a more normal summer schedule. By summer schedule, I mean a relaxed schedule. In Mongolia people take all of their rest days at one time, usually in the summer. The concept of spreading out time off throughout the year is not considered. Thus, people are gone for a month or more at a time, depending on years worked. Despite this, a coworker and I have put in 4 consecutive days of cooperative work on a project proposal. This diligent preparation, though it only started 6 days ago, is an improvement. We wrapped up the project in time for today’s deadline. I will enjoy getting away from a desk job and back into clinical work in America. At times the current situation is difficult and Justin and I miss each other very much. The diversions of the past weeks have definitely helped me during this difficult time. I’m finding that joy and difficulty can pass together, neither must be tempered by the other, though both are acutely present.

- Written by Ashley (posted by Justin)

Justin's Update:

I have been hanging out in Pittsburgh and Ohio for the past few weeks, trying to spend time with friends and figure out the next steps in my life. I've applied for a few positions and grad school and waiting to hear a response, if any. Right now, I'm visiting my sister in Chicago with my mom. I'm planning to visit friends in TN the next few days, then back to Ohio.

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