Snow and Ice Festival

There is a big river near Our Town called the Tamir River that has been completely frozen over for a couple of months already. During the summer, the Tamir River is a lovely place to have a picnic and maybe fish for trout (so I’m told). In the winter, the Tamir River becomes a place for games like ice shagai (use small metal rectangles to hit small pillars 80 feet away) and what they call kurling (like giant shuffle board on ice). Upon finding out that we had never been to the river (we don’t have a car and we have been busy, ok!) our community English club that meets on Sundays decided to rectify the situation and we all drove out for an afternoon of history lessons and practice.

Cigarillo in my mouth, shagai in my hand.
I thought Mongolian kids couldn’t get any cuter, then they started wearing father-son matching deels.
James was great at it, as usual. Damn he’s annoying sometimes.

It was cold, but I didn’t feel it much, because I spent most of the time gliding across the ice trying to put enough force behind my shagai to propel it 80 ft. while simultaneously trying not to fall too hard. It was so much fun getting to learn to play from strangers who were more than happy to teach the strange foreigners.

Power Posing.

Little did we know, we would be returning to Tamir River the very next weekend with our schools for the annual Snow and Ice Festival. Everyone dressed in their traditional dress finery, packed themselves into a van, and headed down to the river.

21 people in coats, plus driver, plus food and drink packed into this van. If we weren’t good friends before, we are now.

During the Snow and Ice Festival, we lowly amateurs were not allow to actually play any of the games, but the people-watching kept us busy. I kept a mental checklist of who had the most flamboyant hat and how many animals it probably took to make it.

Some of my colleagues, looking fly. 

Being a California girl, I was a bit put off by the ostentatious use of fur and leather when we first moved to Mongolia, but I have changed my tune pretty quick. Not using every part of every animal would be wasteful (and Mongolians are anything but wasteful) and until you have experienced -35 C, you really can’t appreciate how wonderful being warm is. I am almost ready to invest in some authentic hat and boots, but I keep having to remind myself that while I might feel stylish and cozy wearing horse-hair boots in Mongolia, I doubt I will get a positive response back in the US (that and my feet would be a sweaty mess).

We live in the coolest place.
I participated in a wrestling tournament! I lost this time, but I’ll be back, you’ll see! I’ll be back!

Zoom back to the festival: because we went with my school, we didn’t have any say in when we would go home. By hour four, I was getting a little chilled despite the huge amounts of buuz, hot milk tea, and vodka that was being passed around in the various vans where people would hole up to warm themselves. Despite the cold, my school teachers insisted on staying until the sun went down, six hours after we got there. James and I got home, got under the covers to warm up, and immediately fell asleep.

Just in case anyone forgets how cold Mongolia is. Bet you couldn’t tell I was wearing three pairs of heavyweight long-underwear under those leggings. 

Weather Forecasts or What do you mean it’s not even Winter yet?!

View of Our Town from the Ovoo on a hill, from that time I got so housebound I agreed to go hiking in the snow.
View of Our Town from the Ovoo on a hill, from that time I got so housebound I agreed to go hiking in the snow.

Mongolia is cold. We had our first snow on my birthday back in September, but, it has been especially cold these past few days and it looks like this weekend will be even worse. It is all my fellow PCVs can talk about, as if I needed to be reminded that yes, it is not just cold, it is my-face-hurts-oh-wait-no-I-can’t-feel-it-anymore kind of cold. Apparently we also have the coldest winter in 100 years to look forward to!

This stopped being fun 15 minutes ago.
This stopped being fun 15 minutes ago.

For those of you who don’t know: I do not deal with the cold very well. I grew up in Florida and Southern California. I never acquired the bodily capacity to deal with the cold and hoped never to have to. I think it is a superior testament to my dedication to serve that when Mongolia called, I came.

Blue is most Mongolians' favorite color and it's easy to see why. The vast Mongolian sky is truly spectacular to behold.
Blue is most Mongolians’ favorite color and it’s easy to see why. The vast Mongolian sky is truly spectacular to behold.

Granted, the snow is beautiful when viewed from inside our warm apartment, which is good because because I’ve spent much of the last week in our apartment drunk crying over the death of American civil liberties. Actually, the only way I have been able to convince myself to leave the warm sanctuary of our living room has been by telling myself that if the incumbent president of United States is determined to act like a bigoted, sexist fool in front of the rest of world, it is even more important now than ever that I present America as I want it to be seen: open, generous, and fun. Remember that James and I am the only foreigners that many of our coworkers, students, and neighbors interact with regularly.

As comfortable as pigs in a leaf pile. (There are a surprising number of pigs here considering I rarely find pork anywhere)
As comfortable as pigs in a leaf pile. (There are a surprising number of pigs here considering I rarely find pork anywhere)

Our Town will be a winter wonderland for a couple of weeks, until it gets even colder, cold enough that snow stops falling. Currently, I prefer the snow because the alternative is having the bright sun that always shines over Mongolia melt the snow just enough during the day for the water to become thick sheets of black ice during the night.

View from my English classroom.
View from my English classroom.

But the trick to walking on ice I think, is the same as getting through tough times: small steps, small steps.