Cultural Connections

Musings about my experiences, art, and life in Mongolia and beyond.

My Photo
Location: Ulaanbaatar, Tuv aimag, Mongolia

Native Chicagoan currently teaching in Mongolia.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

No Ordinary Thanksgiving

No turkeys in these parts of the world. Kind of missed the annual Thanksgiving feast. There is some chicken; otherwise, it's all beef and lamb. They don't celebrate Thanksgiving here obviously, but some of the teachers had Thanksgiving activities for the kids – writing thank-you cards to parents, etc.

Thanksgiving eve, we went to a reception for an art exhibition on Mongolian Pop Art. A group of artists I know created paintings based on Mongolian business logos - ala Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. I also met a Member of Parliament and more interesting artists, writers, and poets from Mongolian society. It was like an art scene from the 50's and 60's in New York or Paris - everyone with their berets, tweed jackets, smoking their cigarettes...kind of romantic in a way. I’ll write more about the art scene later.

Then we went to the "Grand Khan Irish Pub" - sounds like an oxymoron. There was a Mongolian rock band playing that night. They were very good at imitating American rock. They even played Deep Purple's "Smoke on the Water" which made me think of a family summer at Lake Louise.

Thanksgiving Day was also interesting. Had planned to treat myself to some tandoori chicken at a local Indian restaurant, but after my Mongolian class, I met my friend Altay. He is working on his PhD and has patented a wonderful computer program teaching English with pictures. He wanted to show one of his old professors his program and dragged me along. His professor was a very charming older man who has written many books on Mongolian place names found throughout Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Who knew?!

After that, we went to visit one of his friends who is Chief of Mongolia's Bureau of Environmental Affairs. I talked with him about some ideas for public education and museums. He knows the head of museums and it would be nice to work with them on some projects.

Then we went to dinner at an interesting place – The Lenin Museum. As you enter the large concrete building, there is a big hall with some mosaics on the wall and a giant head of Lenin in the middle. I was waiting for him to start talking to us. The Mongols haven't taken this down because they discovered in the past few decades, that Lenin was part Mongolian – another surprise.

One of Altay's family friends joined us for dinner - an older gentleman who has composed many famous songs for Mongolian movies. He's also been an actor and now works on documentary films. He's very funny too, kind of a cross between Johnny Carson and Charlie Chaplin, but he looks a bit like Henny Youngman.

So no turkey for dinner; no American food. I wondered who was taking my place at home making the gravy. No, this Thanksgiving was spent with friends, eating Khuushuur, (one of my favorite Mongolian foods actually) and toasting Thanksgiving with Chingiss beer and a shot of vodka.

As my family would say: “Svakes!”


Post a Comment

<< Home