Since the end of the world has come and passed, a new kind of long count may begin: The Nine Nines.
The count usually begins on December 22 (Winter Solstice), and is a way Mongolians measure the intensity of the cold during winter. Each “Nine” is nine days in length, with nine “nines” in total. This makes for 81 days of winter. The first few nines are described in terms of what will freeze outside during those nine days. The second and third nines, our medical officers tell us, are particularly brutal. Knowing this, many primary schools close shop for a solid five weeks during the third, fourth, and fifth nines.
I asked my supervisor and my English teachers about this. There was debate as to how everything translated. I’ve seen different versions online, but this is what my teachers came up with. My supervisor noted that when the fourth nine rolls around, the temperature starts to rise.
First Nine: Starts December 22, ends December 30. During this period, milk vodka (Нэрмэл айрх) will freeze.
Second Nine: Starts December 31, ends January 8. During this period, two year old vodka (Хорз айрх) will freeze.
Third Nine: Starts January 9, ends January 17. During this period, the horns of a three year old cow will freeze.
Fourth Nine: Starts January 18, ends January 26. During this period, a four year old cow’s horns will freeze (I’m still unclear as to how this is different from a three year old cow’s horns, but there we go).
Fifth Nine: Starts January 27, ends February 4. During this period, your rice will stop freezing.
Sixth Nine: Starts February 5, ends February 13. During this period, there is no more snow on the roads.
Seventh Nine: Starts February 14, ends February 22. During this period, some spots on the mountains will be free of snow.
Eighth Nine: Starts February 23, ends March 2. During this period, all the snow will melt.
Ninth (Final) Nine: Starts March 3, ends March 11. During this period, warm weather returns once more.
You can bet that I’ll be putting some vodka outside to test this all. I can watch it freeze while I hug my radiator.