“If you drink the water, follow the culture.” —Mongolian saying/proverb (basically, when in Rome, do as the Romans? Is that what we say?)
So my total for Tsagaan Sar is 35 buuz eaten this week. That’s way small for a missionary. Most eat that in one day, but I’m stealthy! But 15 of them were yesterday alone and it’s 10 am and I still feel so full.
I loved the holiday! It’s all about visiting with family members and friends and celebrating together that winter is over and we survived. On Tuesday morning we got up early and greeted the sun. We hiked up Zaisan and there were so many people. You could see people on all the mountain peaks surrounding us too. Everyone was wearing deels. When the sun starts coming over the mountain, everyone shouts “uuhai!” (ooh hi) which is a word they only use for this purpose and I’m told means something like “yes” or “amen” or “hallelujah.” People fling rice and milk into the sun.
After that we started visiting homes and kept it up all week. Everyone wears deels. It reminds me of the beginning of Harry Potter 1 when Uncle Vernon is super confused about all the wizards in the street wearing robes. When you come into someone’s house, you have to greet them in a special way for Tsagaan Sar. You hold each others’ elbows, with the older persons arms on top and say “Are you peaceful?” Then you either kiss each others cheeks or the older more traditional people just like sniff each cheek. (They sniff their babies too. It’s endearing.) We do this with everyone, male and female of any age, so it was kind of a shock to be so close to men haha.
Then there’s the Table. It’s loaded up with all sorts of food. Every house has a tower thing made of a special kind of boov, which is like biscuits I guess, and covered in aarul and candy. Then there’s usually a plate of processed meat and pickles, and several different “salads” such as potato salad and this rice and raisins and butter thing that’s really good. It’s basically the same food in different permutations in every house.
But the main event is buuz. People have spent the last several weeks making 500+ at every house. Then they put them outside and leave them to freeze. When people come over, they grab a big portion and steam them for 25 minutes or so. During that time you talk and stuff yourself on the food on the table. When you’re full, the buuz are finished and you’re not allowed to leave until the plate is empty. I was lucky I was with not only one Mongolian but 2 companions to help out.
The best part was just getting to know our members. Maybe our key indicators this week were low, but we did a lot of important missionary work I think. I think people will be much more willing to support us and teach lessons with us now. We also found a lot of less-active and part-member families. And my favourite miracle – Tuvshinjargal’s parents and sister want to take the lessons! Her 14 year old sister came to church yesterday without her (TJ had to work) and was adorable. (see recording)
I love Mongolia! And I love you all!