Birthday excitement and Tsaagan Tsar lessons
on Sarah in Mongolia (Mongolia), 09/Feb/2010 12:01, 34 days ago
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I had a fantastic birthday weekend starting with a lovely quiet Saturday spent reading the paper at the Bakeri Cafe, one of my favourite coffee shops in UB. On Saturday evening we headed out to a lovely restaurant nearby called Silk Road which does fantastic steak and pretty decent creme caramel. It was a real treat. We headed out for drinks to a local house party afterwards.On Sunday I decided it was time for some cultural learning. Next weekend is Tsaagan Tsar which translates as white moon, and is the Mongolian new year celebration. What it involves is visiting lots of relatives and eating a lot of food. THe traditional food is Buuz, a mongolian mutton dumpling. Having requested Tsaagan Tsar lessons so I don't monumentally embarass myself. The lessons started on Sunday with Buuz making lessons. I was taken to my counterparts house along with another colleague who was charged with teaching me the variety of shapes you can make Buuz in. Before we could start I had to eat sweets, biscuits and a slice of cake before we could start cooking.Once the first round of eating was done we progressed to the cooking stage. Buuz are made by rolling out a circle of dough (water and flour), placing the meat mixture in the middle (mutton, onions, salt, pepper) and creating a dumpling. The difficult stage is the closing of the dumpling which involves pinching it closed. Although we stuck to the easy shapes (sheep, moon, flower and rose) I was absolutely rubbish at it. This of course provided much entertainment for the entire family from the young kids aged 3 and 5 who were better than me, to the grandparents who were very patient but couldn't hold in their laughter at my dreaful attempts. I was told I had made many a mouse - the term for when you mess up a design. Once we finally made it through all the ingredients I had made a little progress and they weren't quite so dreadful. But in my excitement to learn how to make Buuz I had forgotten they would then have to be eaten. I had hoped that the family would freeze them and add them to the massive amount they make for Tsaagan Tsar (Some families make over 1000 dumplings) but obviously mine were so bad we were eating them. I was then informed that since they had been made on my behalf it was up to me to eat them! 20 dumplings later and I was about to explode!! But it was a great fun afternoon and I now have a little experience in making Mongolian food.After recovering from Mutton overload I was back in work to celebrate my birthday. This of course involved more food! Luckily some of the girls joined me for lunch at the Grand Khaan, our local Irish pub, where we could avoid mutton. I really enjoyed my enormous burger! Then in the afternoon we had a work party involving a huge Mongolian cake with about 2 inches of foamy icing on top and Seabuckthorn champagne (definitely not something you should try!). They cut me the most enormous slice of cake - approximately a quarter of the cake! It took me all afternoon to finish it!Then I headed home where Sarah had made me a normal chocolate birthday cake with regular icing which was fantastic, as well as potato wedges and we spent the evening watching a movie - Seven pounds. It was not the happy romatic movie I thought it was - a real weepy one! It was a really nice birthday.It was a bit of a quiet week in work but we did manage to re-record the Voice Box TV show that we shot a couple of weeks ago. Unfortunately due to issues not related to my organisation or the content of the show we had to re-record, but for me that meant another day out of the office playing with the kids!Aside from that I did very little last week, and due to that and some other work issues, there may be some changes in the next few weeks - finger crossed!We also had another leaving dinner on Friday. There are a few people leaving in February as it is an intake month for VSO's and AYAD's. It does mean that we have a new batch of VSO's arriving in a few weeks and more AYAD's a few weeks later. Unfortunately the new VSO's arrive on the 19th, and most of the UB volunteers (including me!) are heading to Khuvsgul lake, about 17 hours north, for the ice festival. So the newbies will have to fend for themselves in freezing UB for their first week.As I mentioned a group of us are heading up north in just over a week to spend about 5 days freezing on one of the largest lakes in Mongolia. It should be great fun and we are looking forward to it. So the plans for this are in full swing.Hopefully I shall survive next weekend without either exploding or committing some unpardonable cultural faux pas!