Thursday, January 30, 2014

A New New Year

This is our first of six days off for the Mongolian celebration of Lunar New Year, Tsagaan Sar.  Last Year I was all about getting every bit of use out of my Chinese visa I could, starting with a trip to Harbin during Tsagaan Sar.  If the holiday falls for the right length at the right time next year, I will be off to Greece, so I figured this was the year for me to experience Tsagaan Sar, Mongolian style.
The days leading up to the break are just like such days in any school in America - a total (as Blondie says) "shit show."  Our food drive, which was a little late getting started this year, kept everyone a little bit focused, but by Wednesday, it was pretty futile trying to teach anything, although some of us tried.
The Mongolian teachers had no choice - Wednesday was their big event, the Mongolian culture fair.  There were a few students who set up booths about different cultures, but they were largely about aspects of Mongolian culture.  Since there are a lot more students participating than there are, really, things to research, there was a lot of overlap, but they did a really good job, and I always think it's cool to see the kids in their traditional gear.  I even found out something I've been wondering about.  Mongolians have silk scarves similar to the white ones used in other Tibetan Buddhist cultures, but there are many different colors - most commonly blue, but also white, yellow (for religion and education), green (for nature), and red (for fire).  I've seen a few black ones, and wondered what they meant, and one of my students was finally able to tell me that this is the color you tie to a tree if you are having lots of bad luck.
We also had a performance by our sister school, school 60.  It involved a lot of the usual suspects, and a few unusual ones (a trio of girls who lip-synced to K-Pop in gold sequined dresses, and a group who danced - if I read the styles right - a Bollywood number).  The boys who performed on moriin khuur, the horse head fiddle (an instrument whose story demonstrates why you should never make your woman jealous of your horse), were some of my favorites, and when the student behind me told me he used to play it, I told him he should pick it back up (mostly because smacking him wasn't an option).
The real show stopper, though, was their contortionist.  This girl couldn't have been more than ten years old, and she did pretty much everything I've seen any of the professionals do.  The best part, though, was watching my students flip out - the girl sitting in front of me kept covering her eyes.  It freaked them out that she could bend like that.
The staff dinner was not as great as last year, but I went and had some buuz with Engrish, Champ, and Wallflower anyways.  Teachers are encouraged to dress up in national dress, as well, but since American national dress (t-shirt and jeans) is boring (if comfortable), I wore my eagle hunter coat.  I was on my way out the door when Peppermint told me she wanted to come and participate, too, and after a little discussion we decided she could dress up as my eagle, made possible by the feathers I brought back from the festival.  My students pointed out that I could have used my longer feathers for her tail feathers, and she wanted to kick my ass for not thinking of it myself.  Oh well, maybe next year.

More to come....

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