Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Happy New Year! Шинэ жилийн мэнд хүргэе!

It’s 2016! Happy New Year from Mongolia! This Christmas and New Year’s has been quite different from any holiday I’ve ever experienced before.

Our Christmas tree, made out of yarn
Here in Mongolia, Christmas is not celebrated. The big holiday during this time is Shin Jil (Шинэ жил), which means “New Year” in English. All the schools and businesses host their own Shin Jil parties at some time during the month of December. Caleb and I had it worked out that both went to each of our schools’ parties.

My Shin Jil party
Both parties were very similar. They were actually both at the same restaurant, about a week apart from each other. There was food, drinking, dancing, and entertainment. Most of the entertainment was the teachers singing songs, but my party had a very talented Bollywood style dancer and Caleb’s party had a sort of parade of people dressed as animals. Caleb played Auld Lang Syne at his party. Both parties also had time for Santa or Father Christmas in a more Russian sense. Someone dressed as Santa walked out as others sang songs. This, and the Christmas trees that popped up all over the town, were the only semblance to Christmas. Mongolians just throw them in with Shin Jil for some reason.

Caleb's Shin Jil party
These parties were purposefully not on New Year’s Eve. In Mongolia, New Year’s is more of a family holiday. People stay home with their families and spend New Year’s Day eating, sleeping, watching TV, eating, sleeping, watching TV, repeat, repeat, repeat.

Caleb's performance of Auld Lang Syne at his Shin Jil party
On Christmas, Caleb and I hosted Kyra, Dylan (other Khentii PCVs) and Candice (a PCV in UB) at our apartment. We had Christmas dinner and ate the cheese and smoked sausage that my amazing mom sent in a package with wine we bought here. We played a few games and watched a movie. It was a very pleasant Christmas. I think in America, we get so caught up in gift giving as the main focus of the day that we forget how special it is just to spend time with people. Caleb and I did exchange gifts Christmas morning, and had a few packages from family we had waited to open, but it wasn’t a huge deal. It was just one small part of a really nice day.

The dancer at my Shin Jil party
On New Year’s Eve, Caleb and I went to Kyra’s ger and made fajitas! I also baked peanut butter cookies beforehand and took them. We spent time talking and eating and stayed until after midnight. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that many people and our city shoot off fireworks. Our city shot off fireworks from the main city square, a good ways from Kyra’s ger. But when we were standing outside in way below freezing weather, we could see them from her haashaa (fenced in area). Many of her distant neighbors were shooting off fireworks, so we were spinning around in circles trying to see it all. It was really nice.

Afterwards, I used the outhouse in her haashaa and couldn’t but help to notice the ever extending stalagmite of frozen poop getting higher and higher from the base of the deep hole. The tip was still a ways away from the opening, so nothing to worry about there. But you just don’t think about things like poopsicles before coming to Mongolia.

Anyways. A few days ago, we were sad to say goodbye to the KOICA Korean volunteers. Out of the seven in our city, six of them left to return to Korea. One volunteer will be staying here for 2 years, like us. Before they left, they were kind enough to give us a lot of their stuff, such as electric blankets, cooking supplies, etc. It was like Christmas all over again! We will miss having many of them here, but we are glad that we still have one!

Our six KOICA members on their way home
Caleb and I are exciting about beginning a new year in Mongolia. We will be here from the entirety of 2016!!! We have made a few resolutions, like learning more Mongolian, doing yoga, etc. With yoga, we are doing a 30 day challenge in January with a great instructor that produces free videos on youtube. Check her out if you’re interested! We completed day 5 yesterday, and my body is loving it. Here’s the link to her channel:

Caleb with one of our recently departed Korean volunteers
I hope everyone had a great Christmas and a Happy New Year, wherever you were when 2016 began. This is going to be a great year!



  1. Sounds like you had a very good fun first Christmas/New Years away from home.
    Happy 2016!

  2. Happy New Year, Sally! I like your creativity with the yarn tree :) Looks like you guys are doing well and enjoyed the festivities. I'm still cracking up about the "Poopsicles"...I guess nothing ever prepares you for what it will be like. Always love to see your pictures and posts, may 2016 be one of your best years yet!

    1. Gina! Happy New Year! We are doing well. Glad you found the poopsicles amusing. :) We are very excited about 2016! I hope you have a great new year and that you are doing very well!