Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Mongolian Dozen

Mongol Eggs
I've completed my first week of "Survival Mongolian" language lessons (offered by a fellow teacher who has lived here three years and is fluent--he teaches the entire class IN Mongolian! OMG). We began with the Cyrillic alphabet on Monday, and I'm happy to report that I'm already able to read more signs as I walk and ride around UB. I'm accumulating "gold stars" left and right as I decipher words and phrases. And, it's winning me points with the Mongolian kids in my classes; as they work to learn English, they can giggle at my pronunciations and help me learn Mongolian. 

Toilet paper
I've noticed that items that often came in dozens in the U.S. seem to come in packages of 10 in Mongolia. One can buy six eggs, or a plastic container of 10 (shown here), or larger flats. Additionally, the large pack of TP which I purchased today also came in a package of ten. Interestingly, this larger purchase did not save me money, as it would in the U.S. The price is the same per roll, whether I buy one or ten. I have been contemplating WHY a "dozen" isn't a count of 12. Perhaps there is some specific or obvious reason of which I am unaware. Today as I walked back to our apartment with my bulk purchase of TP, I came up with an historic reason for the count of 10 in what I'm calling the "Mongolian dozen"--Genghis Khan (or rather, Chinggis Khan as he is known here). 

Chinggis Khan was who initially developed a military built upon the decimal system--counts of 10. Small groups of ten soldiers (arban), created groups of 100 (zuun), which built groups of 1K (mingghan), and then on up from there. My experience in Basic Training wasn't exactly in counts of ten; however I was in a squad that was part of a platoon. We had three platoons in our Company. Yes, I think that Mongols use the 10s because it's what they've been doing since Chinggis Khan united the nomadic clans to create the great Mongol Empire. If, per chance, you know otherwise--please do tell. Otherwise, I think this is a brilliant explanation. :)

Other random observances to share today: 

  • Mongolians USE their parks. Today I sat in a small park near the Russian school that Zorig attended as a child. Every bench had a person on it. Young. Single. Couples. Elderly. Couples with a baby. Teenagers. And everyone there to enjoy the sunshine, the greenery, and relaxation. It was lovely. 
  • Females--from the very young to the elderly--walk holding hands or with their arms looped through one another's arms. I find it endearing and sweet.
  • Males--this is a country that exhibits true "brotherly love." These men easily show their love and affection (and good natured joking) towards one another in a physical way. 
  • Females--often carry plastic bags like this--one handle for each woman. These bags (plastic bags here are SERIOUS business and can hold a LOT of weight without breaking!) can be filled with anything--shoes, groceries, or in this case, meat. :)

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