driving back to Ulaanbaatar
Before I close out the blog entries on Mongolia, I decided to add a few observations. I don’t mean these to be culturally insensitive; I just am trying to help my readers (friends and family) to know my travels more intimately. The recent addition of video seems to be a big hit as many of you can now see and hear in motion some of what I’m seeing. However, there are some things that you just can’t catch on video unless you are rolling 24/7.
I first experienced this in China, and later in India, and now again in Mongolia – throughout this entry, substitute Chinese or Indian for Mongolia or vice versa. The ever constant “clearing of the throat” followed by the spitting that can best be described as cough, spit, splat. Mind you, this isn’t your typical western style throat clearing. The Mongolians seem to make a grand show of clearing their mucous and then launching the (often yellow or green) contents onto the sidewalk with a jolting splat sound. The women are no different, I’ve watched a group of old women gab and splat spit as if it were an Olympic sport. No matter how much I hear it, it still makes my skin crawl.
The other “interesting” habit is the “snot rocket.” In the cold weather, one’s nose tends to run a bit. I use some tissues to blow my nose or to wipe. Instead, the Mongolians cover one nostril with their fingers and blow a sharp exhaled breath out of the other nostril. A large “snot rocket” (often yellow or green) explodes out to the ground – if its big enough, it also makes a “splat” sound on impact. In front of large department stores or at bus stops, there are literally thousands of snot rocket remains on the ground. During cold weather they freeze leaving a wonderful flem and mucous garden behind. I was always sure not to slip on these treasures…
bus stops – watch out for snot rockets!
And the last habit that I found (find) interesting is the chewing of food with the mouth open. It is “normal” to chew with one’s mouth open. I wonder if it is to say, “Hey chef, the food is good, look here – you can see me chewing it!” They talk while eating with full mouths and there is no mystery as to what one is eating as you can (literally) watch the digestion process in action from its earliest stages. Oddly, following the meal, one must cover their mouth while using a toothpick. This I can’t understand – why is it impolite to pick a small piece of food from your mouth when you’ve just showed everyone your whole meal as you chew?
Not that any of these customs or wrong, they’re just very different and do take a little adjusting to get used to.
Sumo wrestling on the big screen…
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