Waiting for Цагаан Сар
Winter continues unabated. Nearly every time I go outside, I feel like I’m going to lose my left pinkie. Maybe it’s time for a new pair of gloves. They’re 16 years old, so it’s possible that they’ve done their duty. I don’t know what today’s high temperature was, but it wasn’t high enough. It’s currently -31. Our school director chose today to talk about a sledding outing for the school. It was hard to drum up much enthusiasm. The colder it gets, the smokier it gets too; so by noon, it was getting hard to breathe outside. Tiffany was tired all day; I thought maybe it was carbon monoxide poisoning. Just got to hang in there. It’s supposed to be up to 8 by the weekend.
The ground is still covered in ice, as it no doubt will be until spring. This evening, I went to teach my English class at the church. Only a couple students showed up, so we called off class until next week. I boarded the microbus to go back home. After a long wait, we started up the hill towards our home. About halfway up, we skidded sideways on the ice. I was crammed in right next to the driver, so I hope he didn’t take my sharp intake of breath as criticism of his driving. A few hundred meters later, we were approaching a “bribe receiving area.” There were a half dozen policemen stopping microbuses, apparently at random. The driver asked the conductor if she had something–“reserves,” I think the word was. She said she didn’t. A policeman waved us down. The driver, after considerable banging on the door, managed to get out of the vehicle. The policeman was pointing at the front tire. I hope he was telling the driver it was unsafe for these conditions, but I really have no idea. They went behind the micro to do their dealing, so I didn’t see the outcome. I had to watch the driver of the microbus in front of us paying off his cop instead.
Finally, I got home. Fortunately, I’ve been able to keep my footing the last few days, primarily by intensely concentrating on every step I take.
So…we’re anxious for Цагаан Сар to come. That’s “White Month,” the lunar new year and the supposed end of winter, or at least the worst part of it. There’s always some debate on when it actually falls, though. It is supposed to be two months after the first new moon following the winter solstice, which seems fairly straightforward. According to the UB Post, though, “High ranking Buddhist religious figures from major temples and monasteries, astrologists, representatives from scientific research institutions and university professors gathered at the Office of the President Ts. Elbegdorj to ‘narrow down’ their views last Thursday regarding long-debated disputes about when to actually celebrate the first day of the Lunar New Year calendar….” They finally decided on Feb. 14, so I’m guessing there were some representatives from Hallmark Cards there as well.