Thanksgiving and The Mongolian Ryder Cup of Curling

Well, we did it…we made it through our first big holiday in Mongolia. Thanksgiving was wonderful – entirely not traditional – but wonderful all the same. We decided to enjoy a nice dinner, just the two of us, since we would not be able to spend the day with family, and for one reason or another most of our American friends were out of town. We also don’t have an oven, so even if we could have found a turkey, we would have had no place to cook it. Such is our plight.

Next to having a full-on, real Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixings, our second best option was to head downstairs to our favorite Indian restaurant (there were Indians at the first Thanksgiving after all…oh…wrong Indians? Oh well). So yeah, we had a nice strawberry infused vodka drink upstairs before we left. That’s one of the nice bits about having heaps of vodka everywhere you look. You can toss in into a pickle jar with some frozen strawberries, and soon enough the vodka is red and tastes a lot better than its former self. Add soda water and a squirt of squeeze lime, and you’ve got yourself a party. Here we are (a party of two):

Bottle of wine in hand, we wandered downstairs for a lovely dinner. It really was nice. The restaurant itself is super cozy and always just a little bit too warm on account of the tandoor oven they use, so it feels like you’re sitting in front of a fireplace on a cold winter day, even though really you’re just sitting in a hot restaurant in the middle of frigid Mongolia. They do a good job of making you forget that. And speaking of forgetting, we forgot to take pictures until the end of our meal, but you can judge for yourselves with a quick glance at our plates as to whether or not we enjoyed the food:

Following too much food, we met up with some friends for the return of the pub quiz. It has been gone for a while now since the British Pub that used to house it closed, but it was back for one night in a new location, so off we went. It rounded out Thanksgiving nicely…a walk in the cold did our full bellies some good, more beer made it feel just like a real holiday of overindulgence, and our glorious, glorious team enjoyed a glorious, glorious victory. So yeah…it was fun. And in true American fashion, we enjoyed a full day of laziness on the orange couch on Friday (no, we did not go shopping on Black Friday).

Saturday we were up early to meet some friends and head to Terelj, the National Park about an hour and a half from UB. Once there, we hiked to Bert’s Gers, the same place we stayed last time we went to Terelj (our first ger adventure way back in September). This time we took the bus, then a taxi, then walked the remaining few km through the snow to get to the gers. It was beautiful…snowy and peaceful and just amazing how many footprints made their way through the snowy woods. You don’t really see that at home.

Once there, we set out on a hike up the nearby mountain. It was kind of a hazy, foggy day, but the hike was nice nonetheless. Any outdoor activity outside the pollution of UB is nice.

After lunch and some warming up back at the ger, we headed out on our next adventure, small broom in hand. And our next adventure was?

The Mongolian Ryder Cup of Curling! All you need to create your very own Mongolian Ryder Cup of Curling is the following: three Europeans, three Americans, one small ger sweeping brush, one frozen river, 12 river stones, and a small bottle of vodka. And there you have it…

You might be wondering who took home the Mongolian Ryder Cup of Curling Trophy? Duh, the Americans. And our prize? It was vodka. More damn vodka. I’m not sure if that is a reward or a punishment.

Anyways, after curling we headed back to the ger for a celebratory beverage before dinner. Dinner was an absolute pile of pasta. It was so much food. Needless to say we retired to the ger with warm, full bellies and drooping eyes. The boys solved that problem pretty quickly with a moonlit return to the curling court (the result of which was America 2, Europe 0). The girls took advantage of a boy-less ger and hit the hay. It was a good night.

Sunday morning was another big meal, followed by a walk by the snowy river, and then a ride back to Nalaikh to catch a bus to UB. But how did we get to Nalaikh? Right, of course. Well the three intelligent ones in the group rode inside of the Dutch ger owner’s Japanese fire truck (newly imported to Mongolia), and the three, err, more adventurous ones took the more adventurous way home. Have a look at their before and after, and decide for yourselves just how enjoyable of a journey it was (did I mention that I had heat blasting on my feet the whole ride?):

Back in UB, we spent the last week recovering from our days out in the snow and cold. The pollution was pretty bad this week…it smells just like you’re sitting in the fireplace when you walk outside and looks like you’re stuck in pea soup fog. I’m pretty sure it isn’t healthy…at all. Work has been good though; it’s picking up and I’m getting into the swing, so things are good. This weekend we have a quiet, relaxing few days in UB…we need the rest. Next week marks 4 months away from the States. Part of me feels like I have been here forever, and the other part of me feels like we just left home yesterday. The really wacky bit is that 4 months is 1/6 of the way done…when it’s put that way, it seems like the time really will just fly by. We’ll see!

Anyways, I’ll leave you with a funny story. So this week, I had a note in my mailbox at VSO that a package for Chris and me was waiting at the Post Office. Usually they deliver the boxes straight to the VSO Office, so the note meant that the box was held up at customs for some reason. For what reason you never really know. Anyways, last time I had to go to the post office to pick up a package it was a nightmare in terms of me not speaking hardly any Mongolian and the post office lady trying to charge me an arm and a leg to retrieve my box of dried fruit and candy corn. This time, it was a man customs guy all dressed up in his official Mongolian Customs outfit. He had a package for me from Chris’s mom. The customs sheet didn’t look like it had anything on it that would make the box get held up at customs, but held up it was. So he brings me the box, tells me to open it, and behold:

She sent us pot. Not really, but you should have seen dude’s eyes light up when I opened the box and there was a giant bag of oregano sitting right there on top (“no really, I swear it’s oregano”). So yeah, he smelled the package, rifled around the rest of the contents, smelled the package again, and then looked at me and said, “En you way?” What is this? Good grief. Okay…I don’t know how to say “it’s not pot,” nor do I know how to say “It’s herbs de provence,” so I settle upon “it’s for soup…it’s food?” I must have looked convincing enough, because he then taped the box back together and off I went, giant bag of oregano in hand. Needless to say we got a big kick out of the package. And we will have nicely flavored soup for quite a while.

On that note, off I go. I hope everyone is happy and healthy at home. We’re just hanging out on our happy side of the globe, hacking up a little pollution. Not much to report.

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