Thanksgiving in Mongolia

This year for thanksgiving, I did two different activities: Turkeys with my teachers and chicken with fellow volunteers.

Gobble gobble.
Gobble gobble.

I was talking to Halee, another volunteer in Hentii aimag, when she mentioned making hand turkeys with her speaking club. For the uninitiated, a hand turkey is when you trace your hand on a sheet of paper and make a turkey out of it. The head is the thumb and the fingers are its feathers. A nifty, cute little craft project that seems so ingrained that you tend to overlook it when thinking of things to do. So, I had my teachers each draw their own hand turkey. I had brought glitter glue pens, and since they were nearing dry from disuse, I decided to let my teachers use them. They made some really creative birds, I must say! I just did color outlines for rainbow feathers and a white body. He kind of looked more like a chicken than a turkey.

It was nice to read what the teachers were thankful for. Most of them said they were thankful for me, and having me at their school to help them out. It was nice to read that because sometimes you aren’t aware of what other people are feeling, and that uncertainty and frustration you face during the day to day can really drag you down. Even though there can be some problems with scheduling and small cultural differences that baffle both parties, it’s very touching to hear that they appreciate me and the time we spend together.

Lots to digest.
Lots to digest.

Speaking of which, we had a small potluck dinner at my home Friday night. Since there are no turkeys in our city, we made chicken instead. I made mashed potatoes (with chipotle powder) and joining them were deviled eggs, fruit and yogurt, stuffing, vegetables, and some delightful rum. The year prior we did a luncheon and watched a movie, so it’s a nice tradition we have going here. Everyone hangs around, eats, chats, and that’s really the best part of this holiday.

I taught my teachers about thanksgiving, and they thought it was a holiday where you worship god and give presents to each other. One teacher told me how interesting it was to hear about it, and how she thought it was a good holiday. She also really enjoyed the hand turkeys. I’m hoping it’s a cross cultural experience that sticks with them for the coming years.

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