Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tsagaan Sar (Hello Харшлалт Ox!)

So this is the first day of the year of the earth Ox, codename "Harshlalt" or in cyrillic Харшлалт, which sounds a bit like Harshil, meaning allergy or some kinda negative reaction. I'm sure it doesn't denote anything negative, but unfortunately nobody's bothering to find out exactly why the 2009 earth Ox year is codenamed, so to speak, Harshlalt. I did find one interview with a lama in which the only curious journalist in Mongolia asks the lama to explain what this name means. The lama's answer: it's an astrological jargon and does not have any negative connotations. Sort of like "you wouldn't understand, don't worry about it". Or more worryingly, for those inclined to take these wordplays seriously "you don't wanna know, trust me". I wanna know.

Nonsense aside, it's been a good start to the year of the Ox here in Mongolia. Lots of buuz-eating, distant-relative-greeting going on. What I look forward to during Tsagaan Sar, apart from meeting cousins and relatives I haven't seen in years, are the stories the old-timers tell, once they get going, of the fondly-remembered days. The stories are inspiring, interesting, funny and at times heart-breaking. And every Tsagaan Sar, I tell myself that I must write them down and compile them into a family book of misadventures.

And every Tsagaan Sar, after having awkwardly greeted a bunch of distant relatives with a hello-without-a-name, I remind myself to start working on a family tree. It's an ambitious task, one that is at the same time a little scary. From the conversations, I find myself worrying that I am related to half of UB and god-knows how many in the countryside. Imagination running wild. At the end of the day, tired, stuffed full of buuz and potato salad and strangely content with the day, I take some digestive enzymes and postpone the daunting task of figuring out who's-who till after Tsagaan Sar, by which time everyone will be back to their busy lives for another year. May the Ox be kind to you, whether he's allergic or not. See you in the year of the Tiger.