A couple of days ago, my teachers asked me if I had any plans on Saturday. It took me almost zero seconds to explain to them how socially in-demand I am here in Bayankhongor. In other words, with little more than a blank stare, I let them know that if they wanted to get together, I’d try my best to fit them in between laundry, grocery shopping, and staying up-to-the-minute on Deflate-gate. We will have ice party, they told me. At 10 AM.
Of course by 10 AM, they meant 11 AM. So at 11 this morning, my sitemates and I headed out to the river.
Ice parties or festivals are basically like big tailgating parties, but instead of taking place at a stadium, people just head to the closest body of frozen water. They park their cars, set up tents and stoves, mill about with their friends, eat some food, and then go watch an assortment of games being played on the ice.
As far as I can tell, every aimag in Mongolia has an ice festival. Which makes total sense when you spend four+ months in sub-zero temps. The ice is their natural habitat. Why wouldn’t you bowl and play basketball there? (Our sitemate April told us that last year, the games were soccer and tug-of-war. As I slipped around trying to keep my balance on the ice, I could only ask…How? And then I saw a bunch of ten-year olds running across the river as if it were pavement. That said, the older folks don’t typically run. Here’s 30 seconds of video watching the crowd doing the ‘Mongol shuffle.’)
The main thing I have to say about this day, though, is what my sitemates and I all agreed: It might be the most fun we’ve had in Bayankhongor so far. The sun was shining, people were in their Mongolian finest, and we were all getting out to play.
It seems only fitting that just ahead of the Super Bowl, I should also get to share with you how tailgating is done in Mongolia. Just click on any of the images below for the step-by-step guide. And, oh yeah—GO HAWKS! 🙂