What a weird music video. It’s about the Eternal Friendship of Russia and Mongolia — still a big hit today! Ahan dvvsiin duu means “big brother little brother song.” Javhlan (the young dude) is our biggest star. If you listen to it, “oros” means russian and “Moskvagiin tsetserlegees” means “We come from a Russian kindergarten” (I think).

My USSR-born friends have asked me some interesting questions about Mongolia’s relationship with Russia. Like, “Does Mongolia still really love Russia that much?”

Well, no. As my copy-machine-shop friend Zulaa told me, “Amerikand hairtai, Orosond dund zereg durtai. Hyatadand uzen yaddag.” (We love the Americans, we medium-like the Russians, and we frickin’ hate the Chinese.)

I mean, what have Russians done for Mongolia lately? Nothing. According to Youtube comments — “The Russians were damn thieves and they’re still grabbing our treasures from our mines.” “If Javhlan didn’t sing this, it would never play so much on TV.”

But the video just shows you how deeply years and years of Soviet propaganda wormed into Mongolians’ heads. Now those songs and brotherhood images have become part of Mongolia’s cultural vocabulary. People will happily belt out the familiar “little brother” song, even though they only kinda like the Russians.

I think a good analogy would be the way Americans see the 1950’s. Some people want to bring the USA back to the 50’s, just like some Mongolians wish they could go back to Russian domination. In both cases they’re the minority. Still, practically all Americans enjoy 50’s diners and oldies music. Putting footage of Lenin parades on TV is the Mongolian equivalent of showing girls in poodle skirts doing the twist.


If you want a laugh, check this out. That’s the weather forecast for Choibalsan. Folks emailed me to ask if the temperature really did drop to – 45 F. Last week, tiim shuu (yes indeed). It only gets to -45 at night, though. I prefer -45 and calm to -20 and windy… which happens every morning during my 20 minute walk to school. You can’t avoid frozen eyelashes these days.

Mongolians believe winter has 81 days. They split the season into “nine nines” — amusingly subtitled cycles of cold.
I borrowed these from Jon Haley’s VSO blog:

  • First nine – Fermented milk freezes.
  • Second nine  – Vodka freezes.
  • Third nine  – The tail of a young cow becomes frozen.
  • Fourth nine  – The horns of a four year-old cow freeze.
  • Fifth nine  – Boiled rice no longer freezes.
  • Sixth nine  – The snow and ice starts to clear and the roads blacken.
  • Seventh nine  – The hilltops and mountains began to blacken.
  • Eighth nine  – The ground unfreezes and becomes damp.
  • Ninth nine  -Spring arrives! (Though it can still freeze, snow, and be generally unsettled)
  • In a few days, we’ll enter the fourth nine, the most bitter of them all. Those poor four-year-old cows. Wish them — and us — luck!

    Imagine a pageant…

    January 16, 2008

    …with critters and clowns; time travelers and tango dancers; Student of the Month awards and a teachers’ Cutest Miss contest; Cinderella and a quite underaged Prince Charming… welcome to Mongolian New Years’!
    That’s “Father Winter,” the Mongolian Santa Claus. His outfit is a marvelous mix of Mongolia and the West. Santa wears a traditional silk robe, sash boots, and hat. But they are all in red and white. Plus, he’s added pompoms and a cape.


    Father Winter’s girlfriends, the Snow Maidens.

    Meet the Snow Boys! My little imps, of course.

    I kid you not about the length of Mongolian rat-tails. This boy’s tinted his red for good measure.

    The 7th grade boys practice their merengue.

    Fourth graders … or bad-ass glam-rockers?

    Here’s the one word you need to know: “tsaa.” That means glitter, rhinestones, sequins, tinsel; anything shiny and sparkly. You gather up tsaa and stick to your body. And you keep on slapping it on. Because no matter how much tsaa you applied before leaving the flat, you will need more once you get to the party.