Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Tsagaan Sar in Mongolia - Week 62

Dear family and friends,

I have just experienced the equivalent of Christmas in Mongolia in March (and the last couple days of February) and the most amazing thing is that it is all the same. The love that you feel in the air, the expectations of kids to receive presents, the joy of family and friends coming together, it is all the same. We really are not that different when things are said and done. Even the missionaries were treating it more like a holiday season than I thought possible because we just 'celebrated' Christmas a few months earlier. The one realization that I felt was that I was so thankful to recognize the spirit of Christ even though i was going through something brand new and there was not an ounce of jealousy or loss because I wasn't with my family in the US. 

That really is the secret to happiness: be happy for others. Not the polite, let-me-smile-in-your-general-direction happiness, but an honest joy in being around others and seeing them do well. Their success has no negative affect on your success. 

One thing that made me so happy was that I was able to visit two grandmas (emmes) from my previous two areas and even though they do not remember my name, they recognized my face and were thrilled that we remembered them. I was also able to go with other missionaries and survived the buuz. It was so humbling because during Tsagaan Sar, older generations will make an elaborate dinner and then guests just kind of float in and out of houses without making a set appointment--some times they will call ahead, but you never know. The first day is the most special because it is a time of close family to visit, then by day four, it is just for friends. The first house we went to was AMAZING (not necessarily because of the food), but because the host was SO HAPPY to have 6 missionaries show up--the 2 currently in her area, me (I served there my first 3 months in country, so almost a year ago), and Sis. Bottorff (served there last transfer) and Sis. Bollwinkel (served there the transfer before me, so more than a year ago). We all came because we remembered her and loved her. There wasn't anyone at her house yet, so she was probably anxiously awaiting visitors and hoping that she wasn't forgotten about. I am sure that the best way to recognize the feeling is when you throw a party and that feeling that you get when you are one minute away from starting and the visitors still hadn't shown up. However, all things have a way of working out, guests show up to your planned party, and the emme welcomed us happily into her house set up with a feast.

Then we did that again for another Emme and she was just so happy.

All in all, we visited about 17 houses, and ate the same meal at every place: a ham/mayo salad, carrot salad, sliced meat, and the dreaded buuz (any where from 3-8 per house). My stomach was dying by the end of every night, but I would drink lemon water, take a digestion pill, say a very strong prayer to protect my stomach, then go about doing the same thing the next day. Do you know what, though, I survived! There was only the very last house where I had to decline eating, but the rest of the time, I know that my body was blessed.

This week, the missionary work starts again. Life gets back to 'normal' and we go back to teaching lessons. My companion leaves to go home in 2 weeks back to America, so while it is not going to be a perfectly normal week, it will be great.

I love being here. I love that I was able to experience Tsagaan Sar with my Mongolian family, and I am hitting my year in country mark in 2 weeks. Yikes! Where did all of the time go?

I love you all,

Sister Jessica Olsen

This is my beloved emme and look at how happy she is cutting up that meat.

Here are just the starting of the Tsagaan Sar madness~ I think that I forgot to take pics at only 1 house that we were to, but just look, it is the same feast over and over again.

And my wonderful old companion Sis. Austin went and bought Cokes for all of us that say! Man, I love that girl so much, the cola helps to kill the bugs in your stomach

Here are some more! So when you walk into a house, you greet the oldest one in the household first (what the Elders and doing) and say, 'Amar baina uu?' which means are you resting well? It is customary to give respect this way and after the greeting, you take off the hat and you give heed to the oldest one the entire meal. It is really respectful and fun. Normally Elders and Sister are not allowed to attend the same house together, but there was a scheduling mix-up where we were with a member family and they took up to the bishop's house, then the bishop took us to another member's house, but the Elders were in route all along.

It was a lot of fun and they ate all the buuz for us during that appointment, It was glorious.

The fun just keeps going. This is by day three, again, the exact same meal at every house and every house asks you to eat A TON. It is a superstition that the more that the host is able to provide to their visitors, the more success will come their way the following year. So you don't want to deprive them of future success, so you eat.

Then, on day 4 when we were all filled to the brim, we went on a mini hike to relieve our stomachs. It was really cool because there were these 3 big dogs that came up and were like our little protectors throughout the fun little retreat.

But I know what you are thinking, where are the rest of the pictures of the buuz? Don't worry, there were still houses left to eat at after this hike.

Still, just day 3, starting day 4

​These are little kids in the deel from school yesterday. It was so cute!!

Tegeed boloo! We finished Tsagaan Sar, this is a pic of my comp and I finally detoxing the last night.


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