Thursday, July 25, 2013

Rain on My Parade

Generally, each year at Naadam there is a festival of traditional dress, or deel, in Sukhbaatar Square.  Except apparently we're not calling it that anymore.  Apparently we've changed it to Chinggis Square.  Heaven only knows why we can't just keep it Sukhbaatar Square...I mean, I get that he was a communist hero and in the last year there's been a push to get away from their communist past, but come on.  The Big C was not on the only noteworthy Mongolian to ever walk the steppes.  And at this point, I realize I'm just shooting my mouth off about things I haven't really researched, so, you know, back to the Deel Festival.
One of the things that often drives me bat-shit crazy about Mongolia - as I've mentioned at least a couple of times before - is the inaccessibility of information.  I knew the festival was happening - hell, it was postponed, and for once I actually knew about both days - but I had no idea what time the bigger part of the festivities were happening, only that it was scheduled from 10-3.  So around 11 o'clock I arrived on Sukhbaa....Chinggis Square, and what should I find, even before getting to Mongolians in their national dress?  A ger made of potted flowers.  I love the randomness of living abroad, and this is one of those random moments.  I'm sure we do random things back home, too, but I can't see them because they seem normal to me.  A ger made out of flowers?  Not normal.  According to infoMongolia, this was part of a city-wide tarting up where 315 MILLION tugrugs were spent on floral decorations.  In case you don't know the conversion, that works out to $225,000 US.  On flowers.  Hell, we'd just like some smooth roads up here in Zaisan!

After checking out the flower ger, I started wandering around the square.  There were different stands set up with bits and pieces of deel.  I think you probably could have put them on to take pictures; I have a very limited amount of money to work with over the next two weeks, so I wasn't interested.  Instead I wandered around taking photos of people getting ready.  I actually found the article from English News about the postponement very informative.  Rather than just being an excuse to play dress up (because, really, who needs an excuse to play dress up?  I do it whenever I damn well feel like it!) it aims to make the deel more popular with younger Mongolians, for whom it is no longer an everyday fashion choice.  I wish I could give these kids an American perspective on it.  Them there young whipper-snappers ought to be grateful they HAVE a national dress...back in 'Merca we ain't got no such thing, a fact that perenially makes national dress day at whatever international school I am holed up at an awkward moment for my fellow Americans, who typically end up simply wearing the national dress of our host country (a look Fire Marshall and - to a lesser extent - Domestic Goddess owned last February).
There was a stage and a runway set up, but I didn't stay for the show.  I had no idea how long it was going to be til they got started, and Ceylonta was calling my name (yes, call me on it, Domestic Goddess, but I really DO have limited funds; I was just hungry!)  I hung around a little while and then wandered up the west side of the square, where I hit the jackpot.  I don't know if the Mongolians would have called it a parade, but it involved a band and a bunch of people marching around the parliament building to get to the square, and therefore, it looks and quacks like a parade of ducks.
I am not good at asking profound questions when people leave me.  Mostly at going away parties I sit there with tears welled up in my eyes looking extremely pathetic while I get what passes for drunk (for good little Mormon girls, at any rate) on Coke (Condoler of heartsick Mormon girls).  Five doesn't have that problem, and when we were at California's for one last round with Domestic Goddess, she asked what she was going to miss the most about Mongolia.  Her answer: little old Mongolian ladies and men in their deel.  Domestic Goddess would have loved this festival.  The place was absolutely crawling with them!

Anyways, I wandered off and had my lunch, and went off looking for Dashchoilon Monastery, which is supposed to have Tsam Dancing one of these days, although I am still tracking down the exact time.  As I was wandering, it started raining.  Hard.  Fortunately the spiffy backpack I bought for my camera came with a rain fly, so even though I got soaking wet, the Big Guns did not.  I assumed that everyone would be gone from the square by the time I got there, and figured I was right when I saw lots of people in their beautiful clothes leaving the square, but actually the fashion show (for lack of a better term) was still going on.  Or it was, until the rain started up again.  At that point, everyone with an umbrella got under it, while those that didn't huddled under the umbrellas of drink carts or any other shelter they could find.  One lady covered me with her umbrella and asked where I was going.  I thought this was one of the simplest and yet kindest things that's ever happened to me, but I was actually quite happy to get drenched.
Anyways, just a couple more photos for you - I've gone on just about long enough, but the Mongolian people in their national dress are just beautiful.  I wasn't joking around before; I really am jealous of this country's rich cultural heritage. 
Not to mention, you've got to love the bling.

6 comments:

  1. I super duper love their traditional clothes. I'm sad I missed it.

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    1. I wished you could have been here AND Fire Marshall - his photos would have been awesome. But instead you get me and my blogs. Life could be worse.

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  2. Concerning the national dress day- I had just presumed that meant Mongolian national dress. I guess if I had to do an American one it would be khakis, a T-shirt, and a baseball hat? No, I think we'll be taking the Mcfarland route.

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    1. It means you can wear whatever you like. Most people wore deel, but we had some hanbok, a sari, and even a dashiki thrown into the mix last year. I wore my vest-thing that I had made in Shanghai last year - it kinda looked like a deel, even if it wasn't quite.

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  3. Oh c'mon... you take great pictures! We're bummed we missed that. We should have stayed in Mongolia for a summer.

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    1. Thanks, Ryan - I do, don't I? But there's something about your photos that I really enjoy, too ;-) Glad you guys got everything sorted out, finally!

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