Week 1 in Mongolia

My days are busier than I expected and my internet is struggling. For a few days it worked relatively fine on the corridor in front of my door but now I can access the internet only if I take a walk to the first floor and sit down next to the dormitory manager’s door. I don’t do that very often, I arrive home late almost every day and I cannot get bothered with answering my emails. I was away for my second week on the countryside and after that I found over 200 new emails in my mail box. Somehow the online world seems less important here. I was planning to post regularly and share my journey with you as it happens but you will have to wait a little more if you are interested in my adventures. I will post whenever I can and maybe more after I have left Mongolia and I am back to my routine at home.

My first week couldn’t have been better. I met those I thought I would never see again after my last visit and I met those too I haven’t met before in person only in emails or via Skype. I was greeted with open arms and hearts, the intensity of it surprised even me. For some reason this summer most Hungarian Mongolists are in town. It hasn’t happened for ages that we are all here at the same time. Therefore, apart from above mentioned meetings I spent some time with one of these very serious people and we had lots of fun. You believe or not, it’s fun to be around scholars! One major event we attended was a Tsam ceremony, organized by the main monastery of Ulaanbaatar, less than an hour journey from the city. Already the journey there was an adventure. The first day we had a driver ordered to take us there but the second day we took a bus to get there. I know public transport very well so I knew what was waiting for me. I comfortably sat down on the stair between the chairs but 10 minutes later I found myself half sitting in the lap of a young guy, half hanging in the air. It wasn’t a problem though because my hanging side was supported by an elderly gentleman who soon offered me his snuff bottle. We became good friends by the end of the journey.

We had invitations for both days of the weekend from the monastery but even this way it was challenging to get into the arena where the main event took place. We have been refused several times but then with a little trick we managed to enter. Sadly, my lips are sealed, I cannot disclose how. What is important is that we watched the whole ceremony from one of the main tents. It might have been over 35 ºC so we really appreciated the shadow. Most visitors couldn’t enjoy such luxury.

I have seen Tsam ceremony before but on a smaller scale, organized by one of the smaller monasteries. This one took half a day and played as Buddhist traditions dictates. The masks were beautifully made, the actors not only fulfilled their religious roles but made sure the audience were having fun too. You can find a short description about Tsam dance here. For mentioned reasons I will focus on sharing my photos of the event this time instead of going into its theoretical background. Around the fenced area where the ceremony took place there were countless food stalls and various people selling souvenirs. I don’t know how many people attended but the crowd was massive by the afternoon. We didn’t feel anything of it while we were inside and enjoyed the performance. However, when it finished and we again entered the mundane world it hit us how far the dancers have taken us from reality.




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