Celebrating the End of Winter

Another week has just gone by...more precisely, it rather rolled over us after the chang whirlwind we got caught up in. In short, celebrations of the end of winter and beginning of hard work on the fields took place this week. It can be simply described as that chang and arak (local alcohols) flowed and singing and dancing were the order of the day. I strongly doubt it will ever end. I am even worried that the villagers taken up by this chang-happening will forget to sow and their fields will end up empty. Well, hopefully that is not going to happen but the truth is that they have been celebrating since morning till morning for almost a week, and still they’re not done yet. Even the children had school only in a morning this week so they could take part in the celebration. Needless to say how much they appreciated it.

The celebrations started on one happy evening when whole village was gathered in the local community hall. Men and women sat separately on opposite sides of the room, the children sitting between them. Having had to sit among ladies, I was mercilessly exposed to their curious voices, which, by the way, I still hear in my ears. Few “starting” cups of the local alcohol were followed by the opening dance of fathers who danced holding their white scarves in one hand.

The archery contest started the very next day with a considerable amount of chang in everybody’s system. The contest was an important part of the celebrations. Two targets were erected but before the shooting started, the women had opened the contest by ceremonial dance wearing their beautiful dance costumes (colorful Gonchas).

The contest took up two afternoons during which we all had loooooot of fun. Everyone present including me had plenty of opportunities to try the bows and arrows. In case someone actually hit the target, there is a special rule in force in the village - those who hit the target have to pay certain amount of money to the common fund. I did not let myself dissuade from the contest by the concept of “male only contest” and the villagers were kind to let me take part in it eventually. Sometimes I managed to see the target and sometimes I also managed to hit it with an arrow. What a wonderful feeling that was!

The next day we all (the teachers) set out for a journey to the nearest village of Ski where the horse-racing event was just about to start. It was a brilliant change to leave Kargyak after months of being stuck in the snow. As it was warm and sunny, we could enjoy a beautiful picnic prepared for us by the villagers. Not only was there a bunch of all kinds of delicacies and plenty of chang to drink, but the picnic area was right next to the racing track so we had a great view of the racing horses. We enjoyed that pleasant time until the night fell. It was spectacular to watch the horses flying over the racetrack trying to get as close to the target as possible...There was also one racer representing our team, Topjor, and he did a great job. He did not fell down from the horse which we all appreciated.

After the race we had to choose whether to attend men’s, women’s or children’s party as we were invited to all of the parties. We did not want to offend anybody so we rather attended every single party that took place that evening.

The following morning was so beautiful and the walk back to Kargyak so refreshing that the two-hour journey seemed to take only few minutes. But what a surprise was there waiting for us in front of Kargyak. The local girls did not want to be ashamed by those from Ski so they invited us for their picnic as well. No chance to escape the never-ending bustle of celebrations :-)

So, that’s how we celebrated ourselves into the next week.


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