When my friend Cass first got her kitten, we decided to name her “Omheezaya.” Zaya means “destiny.” Many women, and a few men, bear this sonorous word in their names. But Omhee? That means “putrid” or “smelly.”

So why would we name the cat “Putrid Destiny?”

In Mongolia, if a child has suffered sickness or bad luck, the parents might take the child to a Buddhist lama. The lama will give the child a new name. Sometimes a “bad name” can ward off wicked spirits. So children might go by Nergui (No name), Bibish (Not me), or Muunohoi (Bad Dog!)

And our poor little Omhee had a tough early life. We found her in the Anna home, a home for former street children. But most Mongolian kids don’t know how to care for kittens. So they threw her around and caught her like a Koosh ball. So, when we “rescued” the cat, we gave her a funny name. Putrid? It’s love. We want to ensure only good luck will come her way from now on.

kenny, me, and jasmine with Omhii


Thank you, Temur, for translating a bit of the Ahan Dvvsin Duu:

Tertee Moskvagiin tsetserlegees Orosyn hus duulna
Tergel sartai dornoos orgen Sibir duulna

The Russian birch sings from a Moscow park
Wide Siberia sings from the East where there is full moon

And Temur also offered this interesting comment.

Javkhlan is from Uvs which is the reddest aimag in MGL. The MPRP gets 80-90% of votes there. Almost every Uvs person is proud that both Tsedenbal (ruled Mongolia during 1953-1981) and Batmunkh (ruled Mongolia in 1981 – 1990) are from Uvs aimag.

The MPRP, or “Huvsgalt Nam,” is the party of the former communists. 

Naizuudaa (my friends), do you remember how I used to try to make you all dance? And it was really really embarrassing? Do you know that my sister Lizzy calls my style of dancing “butt seizures”?

Well, I’ve found the right place to live. I can make Mongolian 12-year-olds do very silly Latin dances….and they love it!

The school’s talent show happened last month. So I choreographed a butt-seizure dance for my friend’s 7th graders.

We did a pairs dance — merengue. The kids used Elvis Crespo’s “Suavemente,” which we translated as “Namaig zoolon uns.” (Kiss me softly). Lots of hip shaking. Lots of crazy turns. Some scandalous come-hither moves. We practiced it for two nights. Then the kids got on stage and swayed to the music. You cannot believe how cute Mongolian kids are. Especially the boys. Their favorite hairstyle is the Mullet, followed by rat-tails, and then sideburns. The boys spike their hair into little ponytails and then smother glitter all over themselves. The girls wear two things: tiny shreds of sequins, and frizzy red hairbows that are bigger than their own heads.

Unfortunately, my camera broke so I couldn’t take pictures.

You could never get American kids to do anything like this.

The talent show judges gave “Namaig zoolon uns” a 4 out of 5. : )

Mongolians like to give their boys strong, bold names like, uh, Bold. Bold means Steel. Dozens of boys are named Batbold (Sturdy-steel), Ganbayar (Happy-steel), Altansukh (Golden-axe), or Tumurbaatar (Iron-hero).

Girls’ names are lovely and lyrical. For example:
Bolortuya (Crystal Ray), Erdenechimeg (Treasured-ornament), Oyuun (Intellect), Urantogs (Skillful perfection).

Ashley is not the best name to have in Mongolian. It sounds like “person with a bad reputation.” Meanwhile, Mike means “wife-beater-style t-shirt.”

Happily enough, Saraa is already a Mongolian name, meaning Moon. It can be short for Sarantuya, or Moonbeam. I like it especially because Moonbeam is my American family’s nickname for me.


February 28, 2007

If I were to write a sci-fi/fantasy interracial romance novel set in Central Asia, and if it were to include bellydancers and boa constrictors and magical Kazakh lutes —

it might look like this:


Thank you, Asylbek Ensepov.

In other news, I’m medically cleared for the PC. Now for the crazy part?