The first weekend of March was not the first time I’ve experienced the weather going from t-shirt to snow, but it was definitely the first time I’ve considered upper 40’s F t-shirt weather. Jessica and Yin (my sitemates) and I took the morning bus up to UB on Thursday, enjoying the warmer weather and being able to see out the windows on the bus. That day we went grocery shopping at the State Department Store, ate at Millie’s Cafe, and had drinks at the Blue Sky. Glorious.
Throughout the day, we were getting warnings about a snowstorm making its way across the country. I don’t remember when it started snowing, but it ended up being a lot. On Friday, the roads were shut down. All major forms of transportation, except the trains, were at a standstill. UB was still bustling. We did our major shopping trip that day, going to two cashmere stores, Mercury (an indoor open market where we buy some of our foreign foods), Good Price (where we buy peanut butter), and then we hit KFC. Best cheese fries this side of Siberia.
Saturday, we got on a bus near the Blue Sky and paid ₮20,000 (or about $10) for the ride to and from and entry to the festival. The opening ceremonies were in Mongolian and I’m pretty sure only about half the crowd could understand it. There were seriously more tourists there than I had yet seen in one spot in Mongolia. There were craftspeople with tables set out selling their wares and I was very sad that I had not brought more cash with me, though I really shouldn’t be spending it on things like fur hats.
We got to watch a competition wherein the hunters were at the bottom of a snowy hill and their eagles flew down to land on their arms. Then the hunters went down the hill on horseback and the eagles flew down to land on their arm. Then the hunters pulled a lure behind them and the eagles flew down to attack the lure. Then there was a real live fox that the eagles chased down!
I got to meet the Huntress! Aisholpan is the first female eagle hunter in Mongolia. There was recently a documentary about her that did extremely well at Sundance and she is now world-famous. And I got to take a selfie with her! She’s the coolest.
My new friend (and fellow PCV) Bud and I stood out in the snow for hours watching while our companions went back to the food ger. We ended up standing behind the hunters at one point and it was, as Bud said, “like standing behind the blocks at a swim meet.” The energy was thrilling. The smell was pervasive. Let me tell you there is nothing like the aroma of sweaty horses and people and leather in the snow.
We got back on the bus around 4:30 and back on the road around 5:30. When we returned to the city center, 6 of us headed to KFC. I didn’t buy into the group buckets, but it was a glorious sight. Afterward, we went to Blue Sky, interrupted a date, got drinks, and danced to the band that plays there just about every night. A delightful end to an exciting day.
A+ weekend. 10/10. Would weekend again.
Next up this week: International Women’s Day and Secret Gifts!