Cultural Connections

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

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Location: Ulaanbaatar, Tuv aimag, Mongolia

Native Chicagoan currently teaching in Mongolia.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Women and Children's Day

International Women and Children’s Day
It was a beautiful summer morning here in UB. If I had a back porch or garden, that’s where I would have been to write the weekly news. Alas, it was not meant to be and I tried to think of the next best place on such a beautiful morning. The French Bistro!

So I packed up my laptop in my backpack and headed out the door. As I passed over the river, I could see from the bridge that Sky shopping center had many activities set up for the children and that a large crowd of people had already begun to form in the parking lot. I made my way to the café across from the Mongolian National University’s building #1.

The glass doors along the front of the café were wide open and it was as f the café were part of the street, merging onto the sidewalk. It was a great place to sit and watch the parade of children and families on their way to Sukhbataar Square for the Children’s Day festivities. I would walk over there after I finished writing the news.

The café was unusually busy today. Not the best time or place to focus on writing news items. So after a couple of hours and my “big cup of coffee with milk”, I went indoors to pay my bill. To the left of the cashier, were a few café tables pushed together and about a dozen small children crowded around it, flanked by two Catholic nuns in traditional long habits. It was like a scene out the storybook, “Madeleine!” The small Mongolian children were wearing oversized ball caps that had “Sisters of Notre Dame” printed across the front. They were all being served big plates of what looked like a steak dinner. The owner, a graying, but handsome, Guy, sauntered over with cigarette in hand. He motioned to the children and shouted “Mangez! Mangez!” (eat! eat!) I felt too shy to as, but got the impression these were orphan children that he was giving them a special meal for Children’s Day – so cute! I wished I’d had my camera.

Later, I walked over to Sukhbataar Square, this time with camera, to check out the festivities. The square was full of people. There were stages with entertainment, concessions, tents from various businesses, and organizations who were selling, distributing, or demonstrating; vendors selling food and toys. But what really got my attention was a recreation of a 13th c. village from the latest Chingiss Khan movie. The kids could go inside a ger, see men dressed in old armor, try on costumes and get a general feel for 13th c. life. It was pretty cool and I know some adults who would think it was pretty cool too!

The day or afternoon ended with recording the weekly news program at TV25. One of the program technicians is expecting a baby soon. While I was leaving, I got the usual question from our news director, “Do you have any children? Or do you plan to?” In an ideal situation…sure. She seemed kind of sad and I asked her, How about you? She’s engaged to be married soon. Then she mumbled something about being too old. “How old are you?”, I asked. “30!” “That’s not too old!” But apparently, by traditional Mongol societal standards it is. Cultural differences. Then I reminded her of the woman in New Jersey who recently gave birth to twins at the age of 62! We both chuckled and agreed how lucky that woman is.
So as I finish writing this (in yet another café – Nayra’s – after indulging in their free issue of Vogue magazine) I think I will walk home and write my Mom, sisters, nieces and nephews an email and wish them all a Happy Mother and Children’s Day!


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