Terelj - Campfire songs

Trip Start Aug 02, 2007
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Trip End Oct 05, 2007


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Flag of Mongolia  ,
Saturday, September 8, 2007

For lunch we were relegated to a ger fitted out like a model-home because the "governors" were occupying the restaurant.  It was a far cozier arrangement being served lunch while setting amongst the stylized clothing and implements found in a normal ger, only with fewer flies buzzing around.  After donning traditional headgear, Ho-Ki joked to Muujie while setting next her that that must mean they were now married.  Ho-Ki laughed, Muujie only smiled.  Hmmm, I wonder...

After lunch and a short nap we agreed to go for a nice long leisurely walk that would help keep our muscles from stiffening up after the horse ride.  It was obvious just moments after starting out that Muujie's and my definition of leisurely walk were far different.  My view was it should be on relatively level ground and at a generally slow pace.  Her view was that it should be at a fast pace and involve climbing up and over as many things as possible, including rocks.   We agreed to compromise, and eliminate the rock climbing, but hills were still in, and we'd do it at a pace more to my liking.  Oh, to have the energy of youth.

We had a late dinner that evening back in the restaurant.  The governors had been replaced by a horde of Taiwanese people all dressed in green t-shirts that referred to some 2007 conference.  They were here at the end of their conference for a night of food and festivities, and that meant traditional Mongolian BBQ, then a song and dance performance around a roaring fire.  

When we had started our walk/climb earlier in the afternoon we noticed smoke rising from beside a wooden shed set away from the camp.  We went to investigate and saw three men with a completely intact goatskin minus carcass, and a pile of meat and bones lying on a sheet of plywood next to them.  They were alternating between stuffing the goatskin with a layer of meat and bones, with placing what looked to be like smooth round medium sized river rocks that were being retrieved from their fire.  Two men held the carcass open from the bottom end while the third filled it with layer after layer of meat, bones and hot rocks.  The filled goat carcass was then sealed shut by tying off the end with wire.  Muujie, having seen enough, led us away as then men then started to singe the hair off the carcass with propane torches.  She swore she would eat none of that meat, and she was true to her word.

The party moved from the restaurant to the pasture area next to a dirt road away from the camp where a roaring fire was blazing away.  There were five performer in native Mongolia dress, two singers, a dancer and two players.  While all the performers were good, I was especially impressed with the horse-headed fiddle player.  His playing evoked the wide-open steppe, and his throat singing added a strange but earthy quality to his pieces.  Before you knew it, they were done.  The Taiwanese wanted group photos, including Ho-Ki and I, and then headed off back to their gers for either sleep or private partying.  It was still quite early though.

We, on the other hand, stayed around the fire with the ger camp staff.  Ho-Ki made his way back to our ger by the light of a small LED flashlight and returned with a full bottle of Chinggis Vodka.  The real party was now on, and we learned the very Mongolian tradition (or at a minimum, this ger camp's tradition) that before you could make a toast to the group you had to sing a song.  Not being a karaoke-bar aficionado, I could only remember a few lines of the tune "what do you do with a drunken sailor" so I added a little sailor jig to accompany my rather poor singing ability.  It must have been the little dance that did the trick, because my performance had them in stitches.  Once you complete your number, you then slam back a shot of vodka, and pass the bottle and glass to the next person.  Ho-Ki did a little number sans dancing, and he too brought down the house.

The bottle actually made it a number of rounds before it was finished and by that time so was the campfire.  The staff were enjoyable to be with, and we certainly seemed to provide a high degree of entertainment value to them.  They all wanted pictures taken with us, so we obliged.

It was almost 1 AM, so we headed back to our ger for our last night in paradise.  Before going to bed, I paused to look at the wondrous night sky for 10 to 15 minutes, knowing that it would be a long time before I would ever see skies this clear again.  I was both elated to be experiencing all this, saddened because it was ending far too soon, and a bit tipsy (27 beers, a 3rd of a bottle of red wine, and 3 or 4 rounds of vodka shots have a tendency to do that to me).

Sleep came very quickly once my head hit the pillow...
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Comments

katjathefire
katjathefire on

Bring down the house!
Dad,

I love reading your stories, especially when at work. It puts me in a far away land of adventure and curiosity. I'm in a deep day dream and feel euphoric as I imagine myself in your shoes. Then the phone rings and Irene wants to no what's going on with so and so's claim. Ugh!

I miss you!

Katja

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