I started this post on Bituun, the eve of Tsagaan Sar - the Mongolian Lunar New Year celebration. This is my third one, and it has easily become my favorite holiday. I’ve written about it for Giant Robot and Roads & Kingdoms. I think I’ve covered everything there is, and my colleagues at The UB Post have been doing an excellent job this year writing about the dark side of the holiday.
I was less active in the preparations than I would have liked. My surgery set us all back for time, and my recovery has been a bit of a drag as well. Agii was hoping to have the house more complete in order to host people there, but we ended up hosting them at the apartment instead. We got fewer guests, and most of the 900 buuz that family and friends helped us make are still hanging out in the back of Tsogtoo’s truck parked in our yard - our temporary freezer.
The buuz making session took place in Terra’s bedroom. We were able to give one of the house workers a big bag full of meat, and the skin of the goat it came from. He was happy.
Chinguun was an unstoppable cleaning machine leading up to Bituun,but we didn’t see much of her after the holiday officially started. You have to start the holiday with a clean house, no dirty laundry and clear of all debts. Tough to manage, but worthwhile.
On Bituun we built our Ul Boov. Terra tried to help, but mostly sabotaged.
She kept trying to eat the Ul Boov and pulled off candies and aarul as soon as we placed it on top.
The next day - the start of the holiday, we had to give up our car at 6 a.m. Tsogtoo’s car had broken down and he needed to get to the countryside to help Emee prepare for the onslaught of visitors. He said he’d get the car back to us by noon, so we got to start the new year hanging out in bed and playing with Terra. We had a leisurely breakfast, let the four Swiss teachers we invited to come with us that we’d be leaving after noon, and we watched Tsagaan Sar specials on TV.
Sometime close to 2 p.m. Tsogtoo came back to Darkhan with our car. We piled in the Swiss and hit the road. I had tweaked my shoulder on Bituun and my neck got increasingly more painful throughout the day. It wasn’t too bad until we had to make the bumpy off-road drive home, and on Tsagaan Sar you’re supposed to focus on the positive. No talk of negative things or they’ll follow you into the new year.
As we prepared to take the four Swiss teachers to Aruna’s ger, she called to tell us that she was taking her youngest son, Zoloo (my favorite of the family’s kids) to the Darkhan hospital. She had taken him to two closer hospitals closer to their home in the countryside, but the doctors there weren’t equipped to help him. He was diagnosed with appendicitis and needed surgery right away. Same thing they thought I had until they cut me open and found an ovarian cyst. We all agreed to go straight to the hospital to meet them there. As we left, Aruna called again and said she’d meet us on the roadside. She didn’t tell us poor Zoloo was crammed in the backseat, and on the side of the road heading home, Agii and Aruna’s family members driving her in to Darkhan exchanged Tsagaan Sar greetings until I scolded everyone and sent them off to get that poor kid into the emergency room.
Instead of worrying, we mobilized. As soon as Agii got home he was busy making calls to see if the surgeons who worked on me would be available for Zoloo. One was and he picked him up from his home to take him to the hospital. Zoloo’s surgery went well and he didn’t cry a single tear. Tough as nails, that kid, but also the sweetest boy you’ll ever meet. Positive thinking all the way.
Unfortunately, all the positive thinking in the world didn’t make my neck pain go away. It got stiffer as the days progressed. On the second day of the holiday, we mostly stayed at home with buuz hangovers, but did get out to visit the homes of Agii’s elder cousins. As a “younger” family, we didn’t expect many at our place that day.
My stiff neck was obvious and Oyuna’s husband busted out his home cupping kit for a cure. I got my backfat sucked into tiny plastic vacuums and ended up with Cthulhu hickeys.
Our car was borrowed again that next day, so cousin Altlaa and her family could go to the countryside to visit with her husband’s family. Tsogtoo borrowed Jagaa’s car to make sure we didn’t miss out. We hit two homes. Terra played with cousins and defeated a 2 year-old and a 6 year-old in tug of war, and we ate a lot of buuz. I mostly sat as still as I possibly could.
I kept telling everyone it was just a matter of riding it out, but I was seriously hoping my neck pain would disappear right away. We missed a golden opportunity (consecutive days off) for a leisurely visit to Erdenet, where Agii’s mother and aunt live, to pay our respects to them and catch up. We postponed our visit, but then cousin Jagaa came over to check on my and brought her sphygmomanometer and found that my blood pressure was on an unhealthy high side. She sent our nephew Turoo out to the pharmacy for a magnesium and some other vial of mystery fluid and shot me full of stuff that was supposed to bring my BP down and help my neck pain. The neck pain stuck around but my BP came down and she left her equipment with us so Agii could periodically check on me. He has no idea how to use it and pumps it up way too hard, but it’s fun to play with doctoring equipment and the stethoscope.
When our Erdenet family heard that I had a high reading, they ordered us to stay home. They didn’t want us to make the three hour drive while I wasn’t 100%. It was somewhat of a relief, but mostly I feel guilty for not being able to see them. Our family in Darkhan is huge, but I always feel like our Erdenet family gets left out, and no one there has a car to travel to us. We have to schedule a visit soon, for filial duty, family and just the love of being with some of my favorite family here.
We did venture out to visit more family and friends in town, and we got a few visitors of our own, but nothing like previous years. I’m not sure what that means for us in the new year. I know that we’ll be spending a lot of time working on the last bits of the house, and probably spending a lot of time breaking it in. We’ll have a new baby in April - another reason to be homebodies. The year of the Blue Wood Horse is supposed to bring instability and change, which can be good or bad, depending on how you cope with those things. It’s also being described as a year of rich ambiguity.
I actually like the sound of that.