I briefly mentioned Shine Jil in my last post, but now that I have experienced the holiday season here, I can share what it’s like.
Health Department Shine Jil Party
Every workplace has a Shine Jil party at some point during the weeks leading up to the new year. These are almost like a mix between the standard office Christmas parties in America and prom. On the day of the health department’s party (which was a weekday), everyone stopped working about 4 hours before the party to get all dolled up. They brought in 2 hairdressers and a makeup artist, so I spent almost an hour getting my hair done, complete with tons of glitter (I’m pretty sure Mongolia is a major importer of glitter this time of year) and little stick-on flowers:
All for only 10,000 tugriks (about $5)
Our party was at one of the most expensive restaurants in town, and we each had to pay 50,000 tugriks for tickets to go, but when the spread looks like this:
That fruit plate alone probably cost 50,000 tugriks
…along with 2 dinner plates and (of course) tons of alcohol, it’s not too bad.
The party consisted of lots of food, drinks, and dancing, as well as some contests (with prizes). The people at my table forced me to participate in a dance contest with the director of the health department, but we ended up winning, so I guess the embarrassment was worth it!
Overall, it was a lot of fun!
Even after the restaurant kicked us out around 1am, most of my coworkers went back to the health department to continue the party there. But, like I said, it was a weeknight, and I wanted at least some sleep before going into work the next day, and a hangover didn’t sound too fun either, so I skipped out on that.
My supervisor was nice enough to give me Christmas Day off from work. And because she and the other coworker in our office wanted to come visit my home at some point over the holidays, I invited them (and the other Uliastai PCVs) over for Christmas dinner. My mom had sent me my grandma’s super yummy spaghetti and meatballs recipe, and I had acquired all the ingredients I needed (including some things while I was in UB that I can’t get here). But the sauce takes about 5 hours to make, so it’s the kind of meal you can only really make when you have all day to do so—which I now had!
On Christmas morning I went to the meat market to get a kilo of beef, which I then took to the guy with the meat grinder to make it into ground beef for the meatballs (isn’t that what everyone does on Christmas morning?). Then I went home and started the sauce, made the meatballs, and tidied up my ger as best I could. I already had some nice Christmas decorations up that my parents had sent me in a care package:
Finally my guests arrived, and it’s a good thing the recipe makes so much (and my ger is so big) since I had my supervisor and her boyfriend, my other coworker and her husband and daughter, and 3 other PCVs over.
The food was great, and it was nice to have a taste of home on Christmas.
Bookbridge Shine Jil Party
That Saturday, we had a Shine Jil party at the library for the students in our Bookbridge English classes. All of us PCVs assumed we would just be giving out candy to the kids and watching a Christmas movie or something, until we arrived at the library and saw this:
Apparently the head of the Bookbridge center had been arranging an actual party, so all the students had brought in food from their homes (and lots of cakes!), dressed up all nice and fancy (while we PCVs were walking around in essentially lounge wear), and had prepared tons of songs and dances to perform:
Playing the morin khuur
All the girls love their K-pop
And then they forced us to go up there and dance to some random mix of songs (but I’ll save your eyes the horror of looking at those photos).
PCV Christmas Celebration
The next day we had a Christmas get-together with all the Zavkhan PCVs. Peace Corps had given someone from each aimag a turkey during the TEFL IST to bring back to their site so that we could have a turkey dinner for Christmas (since turkey is really only available in UB, and probably way beyond our price range regardless).
We also made mashed potatoes and gravy, risotto, and roasted vegetables:
…as well as cake and brownies for dessert!
We had arranged a Secret Santa, so we exchanged those gifts, and I got a little baby Christmas tree!
I had seriously considered buying one a couple weeks ago, but getting it as a gift is even better!
And then we chatted and sang songs to some guitar and ukulele music:
The next day was even a holiday, so we had some time to chill before going back to work.
New Year’s Eve
And I was back at work for all of one and a half days! On New Year’s Eve, I went to the health department just to find out that everyone would be leaving early in the afternoon to go home/shopping to prepare for whatever they had going on that evening. But first, we of course had to drink several bottles of champagne and a bunch of cake (sooooooo much cake this time of year! The students in our Adult Beginner’s English Class even gave each of us teachers a whole cake!)
That evening, my khashaa family invited me over to their home to celebrate, along with a bunch of their relatives. We had tons of food, as well as more cake and champagne. And I finally got a picture with my khashaa parents!
Then my supervisor picked me up and we went to the stadium, where there was a concert, a bunch of ice sculptures, ice skating, and even some fireworks.
Ice-sculpture Christmas/Shine Jil tree (with a real one behind it)
Next we went over to my supervisor’s home and ate even more food and played khuzur (cards) with her relatives until midnight, when we opened more champagne and cut into more cake.
Luckily the next two days were holidays, giving me a nice 4-day weekend!
Happy New Year (Шинэ жилийн мэнд хүргэе)!!!
UPDATE: I made a YouTube channel where I’ve uploaded some videos, included a few from my Shine Jil parties, if you want to check them out here.