Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Notes toward Tsagaan Sar, the Mongolian lunar new year

The day of the new year, all the families are out in ceremonial deels. Babies wrapped until they are as pastel and puffy as care bears unable to do much but stand.

Chilaajav greets with a very old khadag, or prayer flag. My father's, he tells me. Where is your father? I ask. Chilaajav points upward. The sky, he says.

The grandmother in curlers. In the morning, the lamb and cake--even last night's half finished beer--are all precisely where we left them after last night's "full night", as it translates. The daughter who works at Oriflame is there, and the one who buys her groceries in the shop in front of the house.

After the first round of family the grandmother sits like a queen at the head of the table, smoking an Esse cigarette. Her daughter jigs sideways through the door. She has long soft hair, a green deel, and two daughters.

At my teacher Tuya's house afterward I dozed on the bed and Bayraa slept off the morning's activity on the floor. Nemo curls up next to him after an interval, his slim body splayed across the remainder of the floor.

Hardly anyone on the streets. Elephants walk across the blue. Her name means constellation, with the "-maa" at the end to mean girl. She plays with her new rubic's cube. Her cousin writes "row row row your boat" in the condensation in the window.

Families pack and fog up the minibuses. Families spill out of cars. "Walk west five steps, hold earth, walk south, touch metal"--at dawn on the first day of the new year, according to your astrological sign and year.

Sukhbaatar Square was deserted so the child came with me, jumping in front of my path, for blocks, until I shouted no and then felt awful; it is, after all, like begging on Christmas. He followed for blocks instead of feet, drooping mittens.

All day they visit each other, all week, and in the countryside all month, trooping to the house of every in law.

The men got up at dawn to go to a certain hilltop and toss vodka into the mist.

The auntie who was ironing her curtains earlier tosses wrapped candies out into the night.

1 comment:

samraat said...