Looking at my last entry, I’m surprised that it was already two weeks ago. I know I’m going to blink and these two years are going to be over. It’s not really that the individual days or weeks go extremely fast, but when I look back at the almost 4 months I’ve been here, it doesn’t seem like it’s been nearly that long. Annnyways…
Trying to get some details down about this last weekend before I forget them all, or at least write down the ones I still remember after drinking enough vodka to kill a small horse. Back whenever I went to UB (Ulan Bator, the capital) with my company, they won an award for best branch of the year. Cool, but its not like I had anything to do with it since I had only been there for a week. But, one of the perks of the deal is we took an overnight trip to this scenic camp type of area about an hour and a half north of town. I knew we were going to be sleeping in a ger(felt tent) but I didn’t know how many or exactly what we were going to be doing.
Got up there around 8 or so Friday night, and started things off with a beer and cracking a bottle of vodka, which is pretty much standard play whenever groups of people get together here in a relaxed setting like that. At this point, there are about 11 er 12 of us in this tent because a few other people ended up coming as well. Around this time I also gathered that only had one ger where we would all be sleeping.--- (9-28 now, but finishing this entry off)--- Which was cool, because whatever, but it was so drastically different than America. How often would you end up sleeping with in the same room with 11 of your counterparts, managers, and bosses? I wasn’t sure how the end game was going to end up, because there were about 6 small beds laid around the periphery of the ger. I didn’t know if we were going to be doubling up in the bed or if a few of us were going to be hitting the floor. I was just hoping it wouldn’t be too awkward later on in the night.
The booze came on to me pretty quick because I had been sick all week with stomach issues and wasn’t holding in a whole lot of food. I was on the better end of things by then but was still using pepto and some other industrial strength medicines to keep my belly in check. Around the time I thought the night was dying down, 2 of my counterpart’s husbands showed up strapped with plenty more vodka. Ended up drinking a few more bottles of vodka and drinking more beers before the booze was gone.
In my experiences so far, no night of drinking with Mongolian women is ever complete without a good round of a dance party. No difference out in the middle of a ger camp either. We had no radio, but one of the guys that showed up later had a car, and that got turned up and we had a dance circle outside at 2 in the morning in 30 degree weather. Dancing circles here are about as awkward as it gets. People don’t really dance with each other here… you just stand around in a circle and dance with yourself while looking at other people. Extremely weird at first, but aftertime you kinda get used to it.
So yea, shortly after that my ass passed out on the floor in my sleeping bag with my shirt off. Was glad I didn’t have to double up in a tiny ass bed with a counterpart. Would have made for a strange night and even stranger morning. The morning was weird as it was anyway because by the time I woke up out of my drunken stupor most people were already up and walking around. Got my shit together a little bit and threw on my shirt, and sat up on one of the beds and waited for something to happen. Had no idea what we were going to be doing for the rest of the day other than having a khor khug(that sheep/goat cooked in a barrel thing). But, for hangovers, the choice breakfast here is a bucket of romin noodles. Packed with us on the trip was a boxfull of the stuff, so we all ate our romin without much talking. After breakfast, at about 9 o’clock, a bottle of vodka gets cracked and beers start to get passed around. Was not looking forward to this part as my belly was still three sorts of fucked up from being hung over and still a bit sick. I took the shot(s), but at first resisted the beer. I tried to explain that I usually don’t drink in the mornings, which was met with various degrees of disgust. A man dropped the Mongolian version of “when in Rome do as the Romans do,” which here is “if you drink the water, follow the customs.” Which I then translated to, “you mean if you drink the water, drink the beer?” Which got some laughs. Soon after, I was successfully peer pressured into drinking it.
The khor khug wasn’t a full animal this time, but just a few large cuts of it. The previous day, the morning before we left, somebody from my work stopped by the market and got some cuts of meat, which were stored in our conference room all day (no fridge) and then laid out in the ger for the night and morning before it was cooked. These are the kinds of things that my stomach and body need adjusted to… Americans just arnt built to handle it here right out of the box. Another for instance… going to the meat market here, there are just butchers in a room, and you pick which meat you want (goat, camel, sheep, cow, horse, etc… although I havnt seen camel yet. I also havnt looked that hard for it. Horse is surprisingly good) The meat isnt in a fridge or anything like that, and the butcher is usually kind enough to shoo away the flies before you pick the cut you want. I usually get the meat ground on the spot for ease of cooking later. The time before last that I bought, I had to pick a fly out of the meat before throwing it in the pan. It’s not the things you see that you worry about, though.
But I digress. Khor khug is fucking delicious. I could eat it everyday. Usually real tender and spiced really well, cooked with potatoes and carrots. I have also taken to getting a hold of the bigger bones after its all over, cracking them open, and eating the marrow. Sometimes you gotta dig it out with a small stick, though. This particular day I was the only one doing it, and I think I pulled some respect from the other Mongolian men. *puffs out skinny chest with pride*
Eating khor khug is also kinda funny because of how gruesome it is. Mongolian women are very rarely out in public without being well dressed and put together, and after waking up in a tent it’s no different. Quick touch ups of make up, some brushing of the hair and other quick primping, and it’s right back to status quo. Seeing a well dressed woman grabbing a sheep bone and going to fucking town is kind of strange at first. I hope all you feminists don’t get your panties in a bunch over all that. (and yes, I grossly overestimate the amount of people that read my blog. Blow me)
Ah, yet again, I digress. After grubbin down and getting’ my marrow on, time for another round of vodka and beer drinkin’ It’s ceremonial to drink after eating khor khug. Ive been told the vodka helps to keep your stomach from getting sick, which I’m a little skeptical about, but it is an excuse non-the-less. We all drank another 2 or 3 bottles of vodka… I forget which it was. Those of us still drinking by the end of things were sitting outside the tent passing around a cup that we take shots of. Behind us, there was a half basketball court with some teenagers playing hoops. After the last bottle was gone, one of the guys I was drinking with asked if I wanted to play some hoops. “Yes.” Nothing like some drunken hoops on a Saturday morning/early afternoon.
Hoops was a blast playing with a bunch of random people and just being tall as fuck. The one time I blocked a kids shot from behind my team mate that was guarding him. We all just kind of laughed. But yea, straight domination on the court. We did lose one game though… people can shoot here. After the game, we were all packing up to leave, but about 10-15 teenagers/people had kinda started to watch us play and a few wanted a picture with me before I bailed. So, somewhere around the Russian border region there are a few pictures of the tall, sweaty ass American after some intense drunken b-ball games.
On the way home, we pulled over because a few friends of my workers were meeting us. And yes, they brought vodka. By now, most people were either rather adamant about not drinking, or when given a shot they didn’t drink the whole thing, or just touched their lips to it and gave the cup back to the person pouring it(both generally accepted to get out of drinking, although I’ve seen it not work before). Before that bottle was gone, I ended up drinking another 4 or so shots in a period no longer than 15 minutes. Fucking hammered, but that pretty much summed up the rest of that trip. The car ride back was uneventful because I was past out drunk.
Other noteworthy things for the trip:
I saw a pregnant lady be awoken from sleep to take a shot of vodka
a new mother milk herself into a cup and then an unrelated grown man drink said cup (not saying it would have been normal to me if he was related… just sayin.)
and a blacked out, past out man be awoken to take a shot of vodka
(all three of which are fine and dandy here, yet you do give a double take sometimes… especially the milk thing)