Turns out it IS possible to have a vegetarian Mongolian New Year without making people cry, beat you up, or offend in some milder way. Classes start tomorrow and I couldn't be happier: turns out three weeks of vacation are enough. I was reminded how short my time left here is when my host sister and I said our final goodbye this last week (she is returning to inner Mongolia where she is working on her Ph.D. in linguistics). Weather warming up here as it always seem to do after the lunar new year. Snow even melted a little the other day! Enjoy the Tsagaan Sar (New Year) pictures and be well!
There is a German development agency working in Bayankhongor doing projects in the yurt districts. The first phase of the project involved helping families living on the same street form committees which decided what kind of projects they wanted to undertake. Often these committees decided to build outhouses (when your outhouse fills up you bury it and dig another one). My haashaa family (consisting of three employed adults with cars and houses) was part of our streets committee and we ended up with not one but two new outhouses!
Recently been spending lots of time with the "Shurens", a family with a piano in their yurt which they allow me to use in exchange for English and piano lessons. Needed to use the outhouse the other day while at their place and discovered that their outhouse is almost full. Family background: a single mom (occupation: janitor at the theater) with three daughters (one is an accountant, another unemployed, and the youngest a high school student).
How did this happen? Most importantly, I feel that the blame does not go on the development agency: once the Mongolian committees are formed they are hands off concerning who gets what. The problem then lies in who becomes members of said committees. What kept the Shurens from taking part in their street's committee? It seems likely to me that it was simply a matter of time: the two adults who could have attended the meetings work until late in the evening (sometimes all night in the case of the mother). The fact that their long hour jobs kept them from participating seems...