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January 2011

Tsagaan Sar Greeting   (published in Mongolia)

January 31, 2011 by   Comments(0)

For the traditional greeting a blue cloth, or khadag, is held in each person’s arms. The younger person holds up the older person’s arms, then the older person smells each side of the younger person’s head. Traditional sayings are exchanged, too. Also, you must wear a hat when performing the greetings.

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Tsagaan Sar Greetinghttp://www.mytripblog.org/pg/blog/mongolia-social-manager/read/35150/tsagaan-sar-greeting
Tsagaan Sar Greeting
 

Mongolian Traditional Holiday 'Tsagaan Sar'   (published in Mongolia)

January 31, 2011 by   Comments(2)

History

 

Tsagaan Sar (the white month), the first month of spring, has been one of the most important celebrations of Mongols for centuries. This is a time of the year when winter passes away and spring comes in.

The Great Chingis Khaan played an important role to make Tsagaan Sar a State ceremony. In 1207, at the Mouse hour of the first day of the Year of the Red Rabbit, the Great Khaan, wearing all his new clothes, prayed to Blue Sky and Vast Land, paid respect to the elderly and visited his Oulen mother. In 1216, the year of the Red Mouse, the Khaan issued a decree to award people on the day of Tsagaan Sar with gold and clothing materials taken from the State reserve. The Khaan also decreed to award a special title to anyone who is over 120 years old and to release prisoners on the day of Tsagaan Sar except those convicted of the 5-cruelty case.

In 1723, the "Mongol Tsaaz" (Mongol Law) stated that all governors and noblemen were obliged to wear a "Jinst Malgai" (special ceremony hat of the high society) and a "Zaht deel" (deel with a collar) on the day of Tsagaan Sar and to pray in front of the Ministry 9 times with 3 praying words each time. Tsagaan Sar is considered the beginning of the lunar calendar year.

In 1911, the political and religious leader of Mongolia Bogd Khaan approved a new State flag featuring Soyombo (the national symbol) on yellow background. He ordered that all government houses, ministries, the army and monasteries keep this flag raised outside their compounds from the 30th day of the last month of winter to the 15th day of Tsagaan Sar. In other times, the flag was to be kept inside the compounds.

Despite restrictions of Tsagaan Sar during the communist time, thousand years old traditions were never given up and informal celebrations continued among family and relatives especially in the countryside. Since 1990, with democratic changes in the country, Tsagaan Sar has become a nationwide celebration of people.

How Mongolians celebrate Tsagaan Sar

Tsagaan Sar is a celebration of New Year, addition of age and safe ending of winter for animals. Tsagaan Sar is a festival of white food (food with white color – milk and diary products, rice, etc.) Tsagaan Sar represents a heartfelt spirit of people. On this day, people clean their body and mind from all bad things and start a new fresh clean life. Tsagaan Sar is the day when people express respect to elder people and relatives, renew friendship and sympathy to each other and reconfirm family ties. Family and relatives gather together.

The Tsagaan Sar eve or the last day of winter is called "Bituun", which means "full darkness". It is a single night when no moon is visible in the sky. On this day people eat to be really full. It is believed that if you stay hungry, you will be hungry all the coming year around. All the Bituun ceremony is supposed to start when it gets dark outside.

On the first day of the new year, people get up early before sunrise, wear new clothes, open the "Orkh" (ger’s top window cover) and make a fire. Tsagaan Sar signifies the beginning of spring. Although steppes are still covered with snow, the scent of spring is already in the air. The coming year’s weather is analyzed based on animals' mood and behavior as well as other signs of nature. All men go to the top of a nearby hill or mountain carrying food and make a pray to the Nature and the State. Then, men go to certain directions prescribed by the Buddhist horoscope. This ceremony is called “muruu gargakh”, which means “starting your footprints”. It is believed important to start your way in the right direction on the first day of the new year as prescribed by your lunar horoscope in order to be lucky all year round.

With the sunrise, the greeting ceremony starts inside the family. The oldest person stays in "Hoimor" (ger’s northern side) and younger family members greet him or her first and then greet each other. The younger greets the older by extending arms with palms up and holding the older’s arms from underneath. Everybody greets each other except husband and wife. Usually, people hold "Khadag" (long and narrow piece of yellow, white or blue silk with a spiritual meaning) in their arms.

When the greeting ceremony is over, everyone sits behind the table and starts exchanging "Khoorog" (a snuff bottle made usually of semi-precious stones and filled with finely pulverized tobacco). The typical greeting words are "Daaga dalantai, byaruu bulchintai, sureg mal targan orov uu?", which can be translated as “Does your 2-year old horse have enough fat on the withers (means good health), does your 2-year old yak have enough muscles (means good power), did all your animals pass winter safely?" and "Sar shinedee saihan orov uu? Nas suuder hed hurev?", which is used to ask an old person about his/her good health and age as people are proud of old age. Exchanging Khoorog means expressing friendly intentions to each other and is usually the starting point of introducing a stranger. Exchanging Khoorog creates a warm atmosphere between people and makes the start of a friendly talk that helps to learn the true heart of the stranger. People eat lot of "Booz" (steamed Mongolian dumplings) and drink "Airag" (fermented mare’s milk). When the ceremony finishes in the family, the hosts give presents to each person. The present symbolizes a wish for wellbeing, health, wealth and power. Everyone moves to the next family starting with the next oldest person's ger first. The Tsagaan Sar celebration can continue for a month, but the first, second and third days are the most important.

Food and drinks

Following the traditions of centuries, every family prepares the Tsagaan Sar Plate, which is the main food decoration of the table. It consists of "Ih Idee" (big plate) and "Baga idée" (small plate). "Ul boov" (Mongolian traditional biscuit) are put in layers on the big plate. The number of layers should be odd. Traditionally, grandparents have 7 layers of Ul boov, parents – 5 layers, and young couples – 3 layers. "Uuts", sheep’s back and tail, is a must on the table. Bigger and fatter tail is considered more delicious. Airag is the important drink during Tsagaan Sar, however, "Shimiin arkhi" (milk vodka) and regular vodka accompany food as well.

DO NOT during Tsagaan Sar…

- Do not wear a black color deel

- Do not drink too much alcohol

- Do not spend overnight in another ger (not at home)

- Do not leave animals at the pasture overnight (animals should be close to ger)

- Do not greet your husband or wife

- Do not do a haircut

- Do not embroil or fix old clothes

- Do not get anything from another ger

- Do not kiss during greetings (old people may kiss their children and grandchildren)

Tsagaan Sar in Ulaanbaatar

Tsagaan Sar is a thriving holiday season in Ulaanbaatar. It has been an official nationwide celebration since 1990. Today, it is one of the most favorite holidays for UB people.

The Tsagaan Sar national wrestling championship is held in the wrestling palace. It is one of the most important wrestling events where the winner earns the next title (the other one is the Naadam, July 11-12, wrestling). UB is full of heavy traffic during the Tsagaan Sar days. Everybody wears new national costumes and goes out to visit relatives, friends and family. Early in the morning, UB streets are full of people who “start their footprints”. The main Buddhist monastery Gandan holds the Tsagaan Sar prayer, which is visited by President and Prime Minister.

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Mongolian Traditional Holiday 'Tsagaan Sar'http://www.mytripblog.org/pg/blog/mongolia-social-manager/read/35148/mongolian-traditional-holiday-tsagaan-sar
Mongolian Traditional Holiday 'Tsagaan Sar'
 

Mongolians hopeful about Year of the Rabbit   (published in Mongolia)

January 31, 2011 by   Comments(0)

According to the lunar calendar, the Year of the Rabbit begins on February 3, 2011. The Year of the Rabbit offers hope as well as warning of peril. Tsagaan Sar (White moon) is Mongolia’s New Year’s; a symbolic holiday where people express their respect for elders and each other, welcome the New Year, exchange gifts and seek well-being. It is considered to add one year of age to every person and marks the beginning of the New Year cycle following a long, cold winter.

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Mongolians hopeful about Year of the Rabbithttp://www.mytripblog.org/pg/blog/mongolia-social-manager/read/35146/mongolians-hopeful-about-year-of-the-rabbit
Mongolians hopeful about Year of the Rabbit
 

Flying to Mongolia   (published in Mongolia)

January 27, 2011 by   Comments(0)

Traveling by air to Ulaanbaatar is generally considered as one of the most comfortable and fastest options available. The network of airlines and destinations is growing year after year with destinations such as London, Milan and Shanghai rumored to be in planning. The airlines flying in and out of UB vary in quality and reliability with Aeroflot very much at the bottom end of the scale and with ANA or Korean Air offering excellent flights, although flights to Mongolia from Europe with Korean Air go via Seoul, and therefore take longer than the more standard Aeroflot Service which goes via Moscow, and the same applies the other way round. The International airport of Mongolia is the Chinggis Khan International Airport of Ulaanbaatar. The Airport is often subject to strong winds. While Mongolian pilots are renowned for being fearless and landing the plane in any conditions, other airlines will sometimes turn back to their original point instead. 

UB – BEIJING

Air China and MIAT both fly regular flights between Beijing and Ulaanbaatar, the regularly of the flights depends very much on the season with more regular flights in summer then winter. There is generally a daily flight from one of the two airlines in summer and about 3 times a week in winter. The cost of a return ticket is generally around 500USD to 600USD. Flight time is approximately one and a half hours. This route is also useful to reach the rest of Asia as well as Europe and the USA as Beijing is a large international and regional hub.

UB – MOSCOW

Aeroflot flies between Moscow and Ulaanbaatar with flights two to three times a week depending on the season. Aeroflot runs the old Tupolev planes on this route, comfort and safety do not seem to be priorities so a route which is generally better avoided. Price of a return ticket is around 500USD. Flight time is an impossibly long and stressful six and bit hours. It is possible to take a connecting flight to Europe from Moscow but the wait in Cheremtyevo airport can be up to 12 hours long, the airport itself looks like it was built by prison contractors and has about as much charm as its draconian staff. This route is generally considered to be the last option reserved only for the terminally poor or the truly adventurous characters. Should this be your last resort the author would recommend spending the 10 hour wait trying to make a local employee smile without the exchange of monies or goods, so far this author has been unsuccessful.

UB – BERLIN

MIAT airline (Mongolian national airline) runs bi-weekly flights from Berlin to UB. The plane would often stop over in Moscow for refueling and a couple of hours rest before it carries on to UB. MIAT runs a fleet of modern Boeing and Airbus planes, has an efficient and polite service on board and comes warmly recommended by the author as a comfortable and cost effective flight. Return flight would generally cost around the 800USD mark. From Berlin there are connecting flights to the rest of Europe. 

UB – SEOUL

Korean air flies directly between Seoul and Ulaanbaatar. It is the preferred route between Europe and Mongolia for most of the executive expats based in UB as the flights are comfortable and the quality of service excellent. Flights between UB – Seoul – Europe do have the disadvantage of being longer then any other route as you would fly back over Ulaanbaatar on your way from Seoul to Europe. There is also the added disadvantage that the connecting flights in Seoul can be around 9 hours apart but the airport hotel in the transit lounge is excellent. There are about 3 flights a wekk between Seoul and UB.

UB – TOKYO

There are once weekly flights between Tokyo and Ulaanbaatar; this is operated by MIAT during most of the year but predominantly in summer while ANA would sometimes fly during the summer months. Excellent quality and service can be expected on the ANA flights while the MIAT crew also provides for a pleasant journey. The cost can be expected to vary between 600USD and 800USD. Flight time is around two and a half hours.

UB –OSAKA

As with Tokyo but flights only operate in summer and generally by ANA. Flight is a little bit longer and slightly more expensive than Tokyo.

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Flying to Mongoliahttp://www.mytripblog.org/pg/blog/mongolia-social-manager/read/33968/flying-to-mongolia
Flying to Mongolia
 

TERELJ National Park Activity   (published in Mongolia)

January 25, 2011 by   Comments(0)

In front of the biggest mongolian traditional boots

On 22th of January we went to the Terelj National Park. It was nice weather, first we drove to Tsonjinboldog Chinggis Khan's Statue and rode horse in the national park.

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TERELJ National Park Activityhttp://www.mytripblog.org/pg/blog/mongolia-social-manager/read/33416/terelj-national-park-activity
TERELJ National Park Activity
 

GETTING TO ULAANBAATAR   (published in Mongolia)

January 24, 2011 by   Comments(0)

Mongolia is an enormously large country with a very small transport infrastructure, most travel within the country still has to be done cross country buy rugged jeeps. This is of course part of the charm of coming to Mongolia, discovering the virgin landscape of the country but it can also make travelling form place arduous and time consuming. Arriving in Mongolia is possible by plane or by train, some people also like to come on motorbikes, driving 2 C.V’s or even on horseback. This blog contains all sorts of information concerning the various means of getting in and out of the country.

TAKING THE TRANS-MONGOLIAN TO ULAANBAATAR

                Travelling by train to Mongolia is often a dream for many people and a reality for few. In many case it is an adventure in itself which is well worth the experience. There are a number of options available to the traveler who takes the time to travel. The trains generally run between Moscow and Beijing. While all the trains leave Moscow and arrive in Irkutsk in Siberia there are then three options available. The first is to carry on with the Trans-Siberian and go on to Vladivostok, the second option is to take the trans-Manchurian which goes to the north of Mongolia in Siberia and then curves around to China without entering Mongolia to end up in Beijing. The third option is to take the trans-Mongolian which goes in a direct line Irkutsk – Ulaanbaatar – Beijing.

There are various classes of travel available on the train, 1st class is usually a comfortable 2 bed cabin, often with small washing facilities and maybe even a television if you are very lucky. In china the first class is known as “soft sleeper class”. There then is a second class which consists of either 4 or 6 beds in a cabin, this is generally shared with a Chinese/Russian/Mongolian family and can provide for an amusing if sometimes noisy and drunken distraction. This class is known in China as “hard sleeper”. The third class of travel is a large dormitory with approximately 46 beds in one compartment, this is taken by the locals and is often a very happening place and gives you a great insight in the life’s of the region you are traveling in. Do not expect to get any sleep or rest in the class but in return you will have amazing stories of gambling, corruption, deceit, drunken behavior, violence, love, spontaneous demonstrations of joy and anger, in short, all the ingredients for an undying friendships with the local smugglers, soldiers and peasants. This class is known in china as “hard seater”.

IRKUTSK – ULAANBAATAR

The journey between Irkutsk and Ulaanbaatar is a stunning one. The train leaves Irkutsk in the afternoon and glides seemingly effortlessly around the abrupt cliffs of the Baikal Lake as the sun sets over it. This leg of the journey is accompanied by the many legends and tales surrounding the construction and logistics of the most difficult few miles of the Trans Siberian express. At first the train was loaded at the village of Baikal on two enormous British made ships to be taken to the other side of the lake, but at the first try the ship sunk with its train, the second ship never left the harbor. After this first failure, tracks were laid over the ice in winter so that the train could cross the lake; sadly the first train to attempt the crossing rejoined the other one at the bottom of the lake. It then became obvious that the only way of doing it was to blast an impossible track along the edge of the lake. This resulted in one of the most breathtaking train journeys in the world. The journey takes about 1 day and 2 nights arriving in Ulaanbaatar early on the morning of the second day. It is of course possible to go to the other way, Ulaanbaatar – Irkutsk. Please remember that all trains travelling in Russia travel at Moscow time, which is very different to the time in Siberia. This means that your ticket would say departure from Irkutsk at 10:20 but this is Moscow time, the real departure time would be at 16:20 Irkutsk time. This system has caused many travelers to miss their trains, so beware and ask at the train station well in advance to confirm departure times and actual time zones. There is slight wait at the border as passports are checked and the trains restaurants wagon is switched between the Russian one to the Mongolian one (the Mongolian one is considerably better).

ULAANBAATAR - BEIJING

                The Beijing – Ulaanbaatar route is a bit more monotonous then the one described above but is nonetheless interesting. The train departs from Beijing in the afternoon and travels out of Beijing more or less following the path of the great wall. There is a stop on the way to admire the wall and then onwards towards Mongolia. The train reaches the border in the middle of the Chinese border guards. Next morning the train crosses the wide expanses of the Gobi before reaching Ulaanbaatar later that same afternoon.

Please not5e that it can be extremely difficult to obtain train tickets in July and August as there are a limited amount of trains on the line and most tickets are booked very long in advance by large tour groups. If you plan on using the train to Beijing or Ulaanbaatar book well in advance. A single way ticket to either one of those should cost no more than 200USD in 2nd class.

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GETTING TO ULAANBAATARhttp://www.mytripblog.org/pg/blog/mongolia-social-manager/read/32928/getting-to-ulaanbaatar
GETTING TO ULAANBAATAR
 

Volunteer corner:   (published in Mongolia)

January 18, 2011 by   Comments(0)

Mein Erfahrungsbericht aus der Mongolei

Tanja Kernchen, German, Law& Human Right Project

Was macht man, wenn man sein Abitur in der Tasche hat? Diese Frage habe ich mich mehrmals vor meinem Abschluss gestellt. Es gibt die Abenteuerlustigen, die ein Jahr entweder reisen oder einfach ein Jahr Auszeit nehmen und es gibt diejenigen, die sofort im Oktober studieren gehen. Ich wusste absolut nicht was ich machen sollte und habe deswegen im Internet recherchiert und Projects Abroad gefunden, die auch Praktika fuer Nicht-Studenten im Bereich Human Rights in mehreren Laendern anbieten und auch in einem Zeitraum, der es mir moeglich machte mein Studium dasselbe Jahr beginnen zu koennen. Damit war fuer mich alles klar. Ich komme raus fuer einen Monat, lerne eine absolut neue Kultur kennen und nebenbei noch als Freiwillige versuchen in einem Entwicklungsland zu helfen, soweit man kann. Fuer mich war diese Kultur und dieses Entwicklungsland defintiv die Mongolei. Und ich bin so gluecklich, dass ich diesen Schritt gewagt habe. Die Erfahrungen und neuen Situationen, denen ich gegenueberstand haben mir bewiesen, dass man nur durch Offenheit und Reisen sich weiterbilden kann.

Projects Abroad hat mir so viel geboten. Saemtliche Informationen und Hilfestellungen vor und waehrend der Reise, die Auswahl meiner Gastfamilie, Angebote und Programme waehrend der Wochenenden und besonders Freundlichkeit der Arbeiter vor Ort.

Der Anfang meiner Reise war zwar holprig, da Aeroflot meinen Koffer irgendwo hingeschickt hatte, wo ich nicht war, aber ich habe ihn schliesslich nach zwei Tagen wieder bekommen. Abgesehen von diesem Fakt waren aber meine ersten Tage der absolute Hammer. Nachdem ich vom Projects Abroad Staff am Flughafen abgeholt wurde, brachten sie mich direkt zu meiner Gastfamilie, von denen zu diesem Moment zwar nur zwei Mitglieder, die Oma und einer der Soehne, da war, da der Rest Urlaub machte. Ich bekam Fruehstueck und mir wurde mein Zimmer gezeigt, alles mit einer solchen Ruhe und Freundlichkeit, was mir meine gesamte Nervoesitaet nahm. Daraufhin nahm ich erstmal einen langen Schlaf, den ich dringends brauchte. Ich wachte auf und mein Gastbruder erlaeuterte mir die Gegend, wo ich Einkaufen koenne, ins Internet kaeme und Geld wechseln koenne. Zum Glueck sprach er gut Englisch, da ich mit der Oma nur mit Haenden und einzelnen Geraeuschen kommunizierte. Aber es klappte. Mein erstes Abendbrot war Khoshuur, mit Fleisch gefuellte und frittierte Teigtaschen. Genial. Besser kann man die Mongolei nicht beginnen.

Am naechsten Tag bekam ich eine Einweisung, damit ich mich in Ulanbator zurecht finden koenne. Man zeigte mir die gesamte Innenstadt und das erste Mal verstand ich das Wort “Entwicklungsland”. Es gibt defintiv westliche Annaehrungen vom Standard her, aber trotzdem ist noch vieles mit der alten Tradition verankert. Ob das jetzt gut oder schlecht ist, darueber laesst sich streiten. Ich persoenlich habe es genossen, denn dieser Mix macht fuer mich die Mongolei aus.

Trotzdem gibt es einiges was man fuer den Lebensstandard der Menschen hier aendern kann und deswegen auch muss. Denn man bekommt die Luecke zwischen den Staenden klar zu spueren. Es gibt diejenigen, die sich gut in diesem Mix zurechtfinden aber auch diejenigen, die mit der aus der Entwicklung resultierenden Armut zu kaempfen haben. Damit kommen wir zu meiner Freiwilligen-Arbeit, die ich hier begonnen habe. Im wahrsten Sinne des Wortes begonnen, denn das Projekt gab es vor mir und drei meiner Mitfreiwilligen garnicht. Unsere Aufgabe war es in den Ger-Distrikten, die Gebiete ausserhalb der Stadt, wo groesstenteils die arme Bevoelkerung lebt, Menschen mit rechtlichen Problemen zu helfen, wenn sie selbst nicht wissen, wie sie sich helfen koennen. Dabei sind wir auf viele Barrikaden gestossen, die wir immer wieder ueberwaeltigen mussten. Wir hatten zwar immer unsere Supervisor, die fuer uns so gut wie moeglich versucht haben fuer uns zu uebersetzten, aber trotzdem waren die Sprachprobleme eigentlich das groesste Problem, das wir ueberwinden mussten. Desweiteren mussten wir genau erlaeutern was wir machten, denn viele von den Menschen, die zu uns kamen brauchten Land, Geld oder Jobs, die wir ihnen ja nicht geben konnten.

Der Moment, der mir zeigte, dass ich genau das tat was ich machen will, war als ein kleiner Junge aus dem Ger-Distrikt mich mit absolut froehlichen Gesicht begruesste, mich an die Hand nahm und mir stolz sein Zuhause zeigte.  Das war eine Holzhuette, die fuer mir meinen bekannten Standard absolut kein Zuhause fuer eine vierkoepfige Familie mit einer alleinerziehenden Mutter ist. Aber trotzdem zeigen die Menschen hier eine Gastfreundlichkeit und Offenheit, die mich ueberwaeltige.

Natuerlich ist nicht alles so positiv. Ich habe auch mehrmals Kinder abschuetteln, die etwas von mir stehlen wollten oder die Hand eines aelteren Jungen aus meiner Tasche nehmen muessen.  Desweiteren kommen viele westliche Touristen und Frewilligen mit dem Klima und dem etwas anderen Essen anfangs hier nicht klar, aber da gibt es verschiedene Wege, wie man sich immer helfen kann und ausserdem steht einem der Staff von Projects Abroad immer zur Seite.

Ich persoenlich war eine Freiwillige, die weder mit Diebstahl noch mit grossen Krankheiten oder anderem zu kaempfen hatte. Meine Gastfamilie hat mir ihre Kultur vorgestellt, zum Beispiel das Spiel mit Schafsknochen oder auch wie man traditionell kocht.  Ich habe aber auch andere Geschichten von Freiwilligen gehoert, die nicht so viel Glueck hatten wie ich, aber trotzdem blieben die meisten von ihnen immer auf dem Boden der Tatschen, dass dies weit weg von Zuhause ist und dass man mit solchen Situationen wie Diebstahl rechnen und deswegen immer vorsichtig bleiben muss.

Neben der Stadt habe ich auch das Land waehrend Programmen von Projects Abroad, wie einer Fahrt zu der acht-Stunden-entfernten alten Hauptstadt Kharkarom, kennen gelernt. Alles ist so weit weg und trotzdem hat man das Gefuehl nach ein paar Metern jeden Huegel beruehren zu koennen.

 

Es gibt eine Sache, die ich sicherlich bereue. Naemlich, dass ich nur einen Monat geplant habe. In einem Monat kann man garnicht alles das tun, wie zum Beispiel mal in die Gobi-Wueste reisen oder mal ein Ger-Camp am Khovsgol-See besuchen, da man nur waehrend der Wochenenden Zeit bekommt und man schliesslich auch nicht so viel von seiner Arbeit versaumen will.

Trotzalledem bin ich sehr gluecklich hier gewesen zu sein und ich werde defintiv vieles vermissen.

Danke an das Staff vor Ort :)

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Volunteer corner:http://www.mytripblog.org/pg/blog/mongolia-social-manager/read/31074/volunteer-corner
Volunteer corner:
 

Geography of Mongolia   (published in Mongolia)

January 13, 2011 by   Comments(0)

Mongolia is a landlocked country in Northern Asia, strategically located between China and Russia. The terrain is one of mountains and rolling plateaus, with a high degree of relief. Overall, the land slopes from the high Altay Mountains of the west and the north to plains and depressions in the east and the south. Huitenii Orgil (soc.period. sometimes called Nayramdalin Orgil--Mount Friendship) in extreme western Mongolia, where the Mongolian, the Russian, and the Chinese borders meet, is the highest point (4,374 meters). The lowest is 560 meters, an otherwise undistinguished spot in the eastern Mongolian plain. The country has an average elevation of 1,580 meters. The landscape includes one of Asia's largest freshwater lakes (Lake Khövsgöl), many salt lakes, marshes, sand dunes, rolling grasslands, alpine forests, and permanent montane glaciers. Northern and western Mongolia are seismically active zones, with frequent earthquakes and many hot springs and extinct volcanoes.

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Geography of Mongoliahttp://www.mytripblog.org/pg/blog/mongolia-social-manager/read/29548/geography-of-mongolia
Geography of Mongolia
 

Mongolian Traditional Food: Buuz   (published in Mongolia)

January 10, 2011 by   Comments(0)

Small filled pockets, steamed

 

The ingredients for dough and filling of the Buuz are exactly the same as with Khuushuur and Bansh, the differences are in the size, shape, and cooking method. Buuz are cooked under steam, and usually have an opening at the top.

A variety of Buuz made with yeast dough are called Mantuun Buuz.

Ingredients

Dough

250

g

Flour

1.5

dl

Water

Filling

300

g

Minced meat

Traditionally, mutton is used, other types of meat such as beef work just as well.
Mongolians consider fat meat to be of higher quality, but there's no problem in using western style lean meat.
Borts can also be used.

1

p

Onion

Minced

2

p

Garlic cloves

Minced

3-5

Ts

Water

Salt
Pepper
Caraway

Prepare the Filling

·         Mix minced meat, onion and garlic.

·         Add water until the mass is smooth to work with.

·         Add enough salt and spices (the dough has no salt).

Prepare the dough

·         Mix flour and water to create a pliable dough. Let it rest for 15 min.

·         Cut the dough into 2 cm (0.8 in) thick slices, roll the slices.

·         Cut the rolls into pieces of 3 cm (1.2 in), flatten the pieces with a finger.

Form the pockets

The decorative design of the buuz is a matter of honor for the cook. At first, the result will probably look a bit clumsy. Mongolian experts produce small miracles in no time almost without looking.

There are several different possibilities to form the buuz, but the beginning is always the same.

·         The pieces of dough are rolled into circles of about 7 cm (2.8 in) diameter, making the center slightly thicker than the edge.
It is best only to roll as many circles you can process further within a few minutes. Forming the pockets will be more difficult when the dough is already starting to get dry.

·         Hold one circle the open hand (the left one for righties) and place about one tea spoon of the meat mass in the center.

Round Buuz

This is the most traditional shape, and differs the most from the other forms of mongolian filled pockets.

 

·         Fold the edge at one side, and press it together with your fingers.

·         Create another fold next to the previous one, slightly offset to the outside, and press it together as well.

·         Continue this way, continuously rotating the buuz as you go along.

·         When done right, then this will result in a ring, which keeps the pocket together at the top.

·         A small opening remains open in the center.

Folded Buuz

This method doesn't require as much dexterity, but also yields an esthetically pleasing result.

·         Fold the circle from both sides, and press the opposing edges together in the middle over the meat.

·         Fold the edges from across as well, and press them together into the previous connection.

·         The result is a flowerlike pouch, with four openings around the top.

·         With a little practise, you can also try to make six "petals".

Semicircular Buuz

This shape is normally reserved for Khuushuur or Bansh, but as shown here, it is extremely quick to produce.

·         Fold the circle into half, to crate a crescent shape with the edges lying on top of each other.

·         Press the edges together along the semi circle to close the Buuz.

·         Place the Buuz on its "back", and compress the round edge by lifting the ends. This will result in various shapes, with a meandering edge.

·          

Cooking the Buuz

The finished Buuz are cooked under steam without pressure. The easiest way to do this is a special pan with perforated inlays. Such inlays are also available for normal pans. Flat and wide inlays are used for the wok type pan used on the stove in the yurt.

·         Oil the inlays, or dip the bottom of each Buuz in oil.

·         Place the Buuz on the inlay, ideally without touching each other.

·         Fill sufficient water into the bottom of the pan.

·         Insert inlays, close the lid, and don't open it anymore until the Buuz are finished.

·         Keep the steam going for about 15 min.

·         Now open the lid, and fan some air to the Buuz, eg. with a cutting board. This will give them a glossy look, and a tasty looking slightly reddish color.

Serving suggestions

The tradition mongolian cuisine knows very little vegetable, so that the Buuz are considered a complete meal (possibly with Ketchup or other condiment). Served this way the quantities given are good for 2 people.

When served with vegetables or other side dishes, the quantities should easily feed 4 people.

 

Of course, modern technology won't stop even in front of traditional dishes like Buuz. All of Buuz, Bansh, and Khuushuur are sold in mongolian supermarkets frozen and packaged and ready to cook. But the results of our comparative experiments were unambiguous: Handmade tastes better almost by principle!

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Mongolian Traditional Food: Buuzhttp://www.mytripblog.org/pg/blog/mongolia-social-manager/read/28266/mongolian-traditional-food-buuz
Mongolian Traditional Food: Buuz
 

Lunar Year (Tsagaan Sar)   (published in Mongolia)

January 5, 2011 by   Comments(0)

History

Tsagaan Sar (the white month), the first month of spring, has been one of the most important celebrations of Mongols for centuries. This is a time of the year when winter passes away and spring comes in.

The Great Chingis Khaan played an important role to make Tsagaan Sar a State ceremony. In 1207, at the Mouse hour of the first day of the Year of the Red Rabbit, the Great Khaan, wearing all his new clothes, prayed to Blue Sky and Vast Land, paid respect to the elderly and visited his Oulen mother. In 1216, the year of the Red Mouse, the Khaan issued a decree to award people on the day of Tsagaan Sar with gold and clothing materials taken from the State reserve. The Khaan also decreed to award a special title to anyone who is over 120 years old and to release prisoners on the day of Tsagaan Sar except those convicted of the 5-cruelty case.

In 1723, the "Mongol Tsaaz" (Mongol Law) stated that all governors and noblemen were obliged to wear a "Jinst Malgai" (special ceremony hat of the high society) and a "Zaht deel" (deel with a collar) on the day of Tsagaan Sar and to pray in front of the Ministry 9 times with 3 praying words each time. Tsagaan Sar is considered the beginning of the lunar calendar year.

In 1911, the political and religious leader of Mongolia Bogd Khaan approved a new State flag featuring Soyombo (the national symbol) on yellow background. He ordered that all government houses, ministries, the army and monasteries keep this flag raised outside their compounds from the 30th day of the last month of winter to the 15th day of Tsagaan Sar. In other times, the flag was to be kept inside the compounds.

Despite restrictions of Tsagaan Sar during the communist time, thousand years old traditions were never given up and informal celebrations continued among family and relatives especially in the countryside. Since 1990, with democratic changes in the country, Tsagaan Sar has become a nationwide celebration of people.

How Mongolians celebrate Tsagaan Sar

Tsagaan Sar is a celebration of New Year, addition of age and safe ending of winter for animals. Tsagaan Sar is a festival of white food (food with white color – milk and diary products, rice, etc.) Tsagaan Sar represents a heartfelt spirit of people. On this day, people clean their body and mind from all bad things and start a new fresh clean life. Tsagaan Sar is the day when people express respect to elder people and relatives, renew friendship and sympathy to each other and reconfirm family ties. Family and relatives gather together.

The Tsagaan Sar eve or the last day of winter is called "Bituun", which means "full darkness". It is a single night when no moon is visible in the sky. On this day people eat to be really full. It is believed that if you stay hungry, you will be hungry all the coming year around. All the Bituun ceremony is supposed to start when it gets dark outside.

On the first day of the new year, people get up early before sunrise, wear new clothes, open the "Orkh" (ger’s top window cover) and make a fire. Tsagaan Sar signifies the beginning of spring. Although steppes are still covered with snow, the scent of spring is already in the air. The coming year’s weather is analyzed based on animals' mood and behavior as well as other signs of nature. All men go to the top of a nearby hill or mountain carrying food and make a pray to the Nature and the State. Then, men go to certain directions prescribed by the Buddhist horoscope. This ceremony is called “muruu gargakh”, which means “starting your footprints”. It is believed important to start your way in the right direction on the first day of the new year as prescribed by your lunar horoscope in order to be lucky all year round.

With the sunrise, the greeting ceremony starts inside the family. The oldest person stays in "Hoimor" (ger’s northern side) and younger family members greet him or her first and then greet each other. The younger greets the older by extending arms with palms up and holding the older’s arms from underneath. Everybody greets each other except husband and wife. Usually, people hold "Khadag" (long and narrow piece of yellow, white or blue silk with a spiritual meaning) in their arms.

When the greeting ceremony is over, everyone sits behind the table and starts exchanging "Khoorog" (a snuff bottle made usually of semi-precious stones and filled with finely pulverized tobacco). The typical greeting words are "Daaga dalantai, byaruu bulchintai, sureg mal targan orov uu?", which can be translated as “Does your 2-year old horse have enough fat on the withers (means good health), does your 2-year old yak have enough muscles (means good power), did all your animals pass winter safely?" and "Sar shinedee saihan orov uu? Nas suuder hed hurev?", which is used to ask an old person about his/her good health and age as people are proud of old age. Exchanging Khoorog means expressing friendly intentions to each other and is usually the starting point of introducing a stranger. Exchanging Khoorog creates a warm atmosphere between people and makes the start of a friendly talk that helps to learn the true heart of the stranger. People eat lot of "Booz" (steamed Mongolian dumplings) and drink "Airag" (fermented mare’s milk). When the ceremony finishes in the family, the hosts give presents to each person. The present symbolizes a wish for wellbeing, health, wealth and power. Everyone moves to the next family starting with the next oldest person's ger first. The Tsagaan Sar celebration can continue for a month, but the first, second and third days are the most important.

Food and drinks

Following the traditions of centuries, every family prepares the Tsagaan Sar Plate, which is the main food decoration of the table. It consists of "Ih Idee" (big plate) and "Baga idée" (small plate). "Ul boov" (Mongolian traditional biscuit) are put in layers on the big plate. The number of layers should be odd. Traditionally, grandparents have 7 layers of Ul boov, parents – 5 layers, and young couples – 3 layers. "Uuts", sheep’s back and tail, is a must on the table. Bigger and fatter tail is considered more delicious. Airag is the important drink during Tsagaan Sar, however, "Shimiin arkhi" (milk vodka) and regular vodka accompany food as well.

DO NOT during Tsagaan Sar…

- Do not wear a black color deel

- Do not drink too much alcohol

- Do not spend overnight in another ger (not at home)

- Do not leave animals at the pasture overnight (animals should be close to ger)

- Do not greet your husband or wife

- Do not do a haircut

- Do not embroil or fix old clothes

- Do not get anything from another ger

- Do not kiss during greetings (old people may kiss their children and grandchildren)

Tsagaan Sar in Ulaanbaatar

Tsagaan Sar is a thriving holiday season in Ulaanbaatar. It has been an official nationwide celebration since 1990. Today, it is one of the most favorite holidays for UB people.

The Tsagaan Sar national wrestling championship is held in the wrestling palace. It is one of the most important wrestling events where the winner earns the next title (the other one is the Naadam, July 11-12, wrestling). UB is full of heavy traffic during the Tsagaan Sar days. Everybody wears new national costumes and goes out to visit relatives, friends and family. Early in the morning, UB streets are full of people who “start their footprints”. The main Buddhist monastery Gandan holds the Tsagaan Sar prayer, which is visited by President and Prime Minister.

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Lunar Year (Tsagaan Sar)http://www.mytripblog.org/pg/blog/mongolia-social-manager/read/27143/lunar-year-tsagaan-sar
Lunar Year (Tsagaan Sar)