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The Stunning Adventures "Not all those who wander are lost." Tolkien

Naadam Festival, part 2

MONGOLIA | Thursday, 12 July 2007 | Views [5760]

A very strong wrestler. We really thought he would win.

A very strong wrestler. We really thought he would win.

So finally the day for the Naadam Festival had come.  We awoke to a cold rainy day, and threw on our water-proof jackets ready to see some festivities.  We started out by going into the stadium which reminded us of a football field you might find in Cle-Elum.  We carefully made our way up into the stands and watched as men clad in tight fitting speedo-esque shorts, little silk fitted jackets, and tall, pointed leather boots with the toes turned up, started to warm up for wrestling.  The outfits didn't leave much to the imagination as you might be able to tell from the descriptions, and let's just say that these men were strong, skilled wrestlers that we immediately took very seriously.  Eventually they all lined up on the side-lines with overseers spaced in between each wrestler.   Each side of wrestlers took turns doing the "Eagle Dance" which is done by the winner of each pair after the fight has ceased.  The wrestlers put one arm on the overseer approximately an arms length away, and put out the other arm at a slight angle above shoulder height.  They then dance around the overseer going in one full circle one way, and then the other.  They each did this with a very focused face. You could sense each wrestler's pride concerning the dance and the match that was about to take place. 
We had envisioned each pair of wrestlers going forth two at a time, but instead all wrestlers from each side matched with one from the opposite side and they all began to wrestle.  The point was to get your opponent down on the ground before you hit the ground yourself.  They mostly went for eachother's thighs or knees and surprisingly, this took quite a long time in several occasions.  Others were over quite quickly.  Then, the winners all took turns wrestling eachother, leaving the final man that had not touched the ground, the winner.  We were rooting for the wrestler that was ranked number two.  By the way he handled the loss, head cradled under his folded arms while kneeling on the ground for quite some time, it was quite apparent that he had taken the loss seriously.  We had been informed that most likely there was a trophy involving livestock and other helpful items that he probably could have used. 
When the wrestling was over, we headed out the back of the stadium to find a "bathroom" (turned out to be pits in the ground where the doors didn't close and it seriously smelled like things were dead down there--really, one of the worst ever) and some food :).  Behind the stadium there were a number of old trucks with cloth tied up over the back revealing a stock of goods; breads, drinks, candy, plastic toys, etc.  They were all lined up one behind another on the dirt roads.  Men, women, boys and girls were all mingling about looking at the goods; a good portion of them on horseback.  It felt like we had stepped back in time.  We were trying to find some khuushur but were having no luck.  There were some little canteens called "guanz"  (little tents with fold-up tables under plastic tarps), but we weren't so sure about the fare they were peddling and so decided to return to our seats.  As we were entering, a woman opened a big metal pot and inside was piping hot khuushur; some of the best we have had.  
After our quick meal, we made our way up to the hillside where all of the horse-riders would be finishing their race.  The young horse-riders are roughly between the ages of 5-9 as they are old enough to stay on the horse but smaller so the horse does not have to bear too much weight.  These riders had begun out away from town (similarly to the ones we had seen the day before), much earlier.  We came to the roped off area where they were all coming in.  Far off in the distance, maybe about a half a mile away, we could see a large, long plume of dust that was increasingly getting closer.  These were the riders.  As they got closer, and we could see them coming in, and hear the applause, hooting, and hollering, plus feeling the all-together excitement of the crowd, we found it difficult not to get swept away in all of the energy. Two kids were coming in neck and neck, and to be quite honest, it was too difficult for us to realize who was the winner.  Adults on horseback would come running up beside the youngsters as they raced passed the finish line, pulling them off their speeding steeds and letting the race horses slow down on their own.  Apparently because the horses have been running for approximately 10-20 miles (15-30 kilometers), they are diificult for the "jockeys" to slow down manually and so are "de-ridered" to cool down on their own accord to be retrieved later.  Unfortunately, we did see one horse come loping in whithout a little person on top.  We convinced ourselves that the little one had been picked up along the way by monitors of the race.  We stayed until the last rider came in and gave them a hardy cheer as they passed the finish line. 
Unfortunately we had missed the archery that was apparently going on about the same time as the horse race.  By now, the rain had started to come down and we ran to shelter.  Huddled amongst many others who were trying to stay dry, we decided that we were from Seattle, and should not be thwarted by a little rain.  Pretty much as soon as we had made it down past the stadium, there was a huge CRACK ,bright lightening went through the sky, and was accompanied by a torrential down pour.  We ran back into the stadium, and huddled up high on some rafters trying our best to stay dry.  The wind was blowing the rain so hard that our efforts were a bit in vain.  We laughed despite the uncomfortable situation as we were surrounded by several local people who didn't seem very bothered by the storm, and also seemed to be getting a kick out of the two of us.  After the storm calmed down a bit, we decided to brave our way again, and made it "home" without getting too drenched.  We were quite happy about crossing the threshold of our ger once we finally made it back.

Tags: Culture

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