One of the biggest celebrations here is a summer festival called Naadym. It's a celebration of the T culture and the people. Every year they put their traditional yurts up, eat their traditional food, and have traditional games and competitions. It's their version of the State Fair. This year I (B) was invited to participate. I should of been prepared for what that day would bring since we've been here for a few years but I admit, my American upbringing didn't make this day very easy for me. I'll explain.
The company my friend works for asked me to set up food for their yurt that they entered into the yurt contest. They also asked me to make my flag yurt cake as a present for a high ranking official (very exciting). They told me to have everything ready by 9:00 am because the judges were to come around then. My friend and I spent all day the day before preparing the food.
The next morning she came at 6:00 am to finish the preparations and had everything ready by 8:00 which is when they said the car would pick us up. So, we waited and waited and waited. Finally at 9:00 they show up. "OK" I thought, "I should have expected that" since the culture here is to do everything 1-3 hours after the said time. No problem. We get there and the yurt is not even set up. I start to worry and ask "what time are the judges coming?". They said "we don't know". OK.
So, eventually we get everything set up and the food out. Everything was ready by 10:30. The cake is sitting on the edge of the table ready to be presented as a gift for when the officials come to see everything. So, we wait, and wait, and wait. As people start milling onto the fair grounds we start to get visitors in the yurt (it's like when people walk around looking at the displays at the State Fair). Every time a person came into our yurt they would walk to the cake and try to stick their fingers in it to taste it. After the first few attempts (a few succeeded in getting their fingerprints in it) I finally had to stand guard. This is unheard of here. If there is food you share. That is what you do. It's a community here and everything is everyone's
I guess I have my limits. This was the most important cake I've made and wasn't about to let someone come in and destroy it (remember, I am still an American by nature). I should mention that I was struggling with the worst migraine I have ever had and didn't have any medicine with me. So, I was not in the best mood on this day! ;)
Finally, 12:30. The officials show up. My cake is presented and it was a big hit. Now, more waiting as they go from booth to booth and yurt to yurt with a few speeches to the crowd here and there. We wait and wait and wait. 3:30. My migraine is causing me to see double and get dizzy. My mousse cups are melting and the chicken fingers and cold. But, we are still waiting for them to come by (remember they told me that the officials and judges would be there at 9:00 AM). I finally said I had to go because I was sick but they begged me to stay. I decided that this was a great opportunity and stayed.
5:00: The lady runs into our yurt and announces they are coming. I was laying down at this point and was half asleep when she did this. I jump up and as I gathered my balance, they walked in the door. My friend who was standing beside me told me to fix my hair since it was sticking straight up. My makeup had run all over my face and, well, I wasn't exactly presentable. I was also suppose to say a phrase to them (in their language) which I was drawing a blank on so my friend spoke up and said it for me. We sat and talked for a few minutes and they left. But, I couldn't leave yet. My friend's coworkers and boss sat around the food and started eating. They begged for me to stay so I did until I got so dizzy my friend thought I was going to pass out (I started to sway). They sent a car for me and took me home. I spent the next 4 days in bed recovering.
You may be asking "was it all worth it?". Absolutely! Although I wish I had been feeling better during it, it showed me that I am in this culture and can't expect to have everything adjusted to my liking. I, instead, have to adjust to my surrounding. As J likes to say, the most important quality to have in our line of work is flexibility. I couldn't agree more. I guess I'm still learning that lesson but what a good lesson to learn.