Friday, August 29, 2008

Naadam Festival Day 2

After watching a lot of man-on-man wrestling the day before, Jon and I decided that we would try to go see the horse races of the festival instead. Unfortunately the horse races were outside town and no one really seemed to know how to get there. When we got up in the morning we set off in search of money and breakfast before heading to the festival. After hours of walking we finally secured both and then started asking around for the best way to get to the races.

We were told there was a bus we could take but when we tried to get on a bus they told us to take another bus. When we walked halfway across town to get on that bus they told us we wanted a different bus. When we finally reached the location of that bus we were told that there was no bus that went the 22km outside of town to the races. At this point we probably could have walked that distance ourselves. We had tried along the way to flag down a taxi to take us out to the venue, but the drivers were all asking ridiculous prices (more than our tickets to the festival had cost us) and since it was just the two of us we didn't want to pay that much just to see some guys race horses.

As we were about to give up hope we met a group of people our age who lived in Mongolia and were trying to also make their way to the horse race. They found a taxi, got a slightly better deal and suggested we all ride together and split the cost. This sounded perfect to us but just as we were getting in the taxi one of the guys got a call from his friend who said almost all of the races were over and they would definitely be finished by the time we actually got out there. So we had the taxi take us back to the original venue for some more wrestling and our new friends even picked up the tab wishing us a good time at the festival.

Once we arrived at the stadium we walked around for a little bit and ended up finding the smaller archery stadium that was home to one of the other manly events.

Archery was actually pretty cool and a welcome change from all of the pushing and flabby man boobs from the wrestling we had watched the previous day. After archery ended Jon and I walked around the grounds and looked at all of the overpriced crap for sale and it made me feel like I was back at any carnival or fair at home. We decided it was time to grab a bite to eat and so we went across the street for a bit.

After a good meal we were crossing back into the festival area on this rickety old bridge when I thought I felt something in my pants pocket. I reached around and turned at the same time and sure enough there was a man with his hand in my pocket trying to steal my cash. I quickly jerked his hand away, spun to look at him and let off a not-so-friendly, "what the (you get the picture) ... "He looked at me with disdain and repeated my words back to me as if I had been the one trying to steal his money.

I huffed off the bridge, but with the language barrier as strong as it was and no one around who seemed to care I wasn't quite sure what I could do. Jon was waiting for me at the other side wondering what had taken me so long to cross the bridge and when I relayed the story to him he looked back to see if the guy was still there and, sure enough, he was still on the bridge this time trying to take cash from a woman's purse. We ran up the bridge and both started yelling at him and, no doubt, scared the lady who was trying to mug. The offender got mad at us for interrupting him yet again, gave us the finger and stormed off. We tried to do charades to explain what had happened to the woman and after a few tries she seemed thankful that we had stopped the guy.

Of course this was a moment that made me sad and a little sick to my stomach. As everyone knows I had my passport, credit cards, cash, camera and iPod (among other things) stolen during Spring Festival. I chose to rise above the situation then, knowing in my heart that people are inherently good. I really love to see the best in everyone and when I meet people I tend to open up right away and trust them. This should be a good thing, but when I see people like the man on the bridge it always makes this attitude a little bit more difficult. In the end though I knew I had to put it behind me, remember all of the kind people I've met on this incredible journey and keep smiling.

Jon and I went back to the main stadium to watch some more man-on-man wrestling action and to continue to be confused by what was going on. Every time a wrestler won they did this fantastic little dance and I just absolutely loved it. It was cool to see the tradition that all of these people were apart of and to be able to bare witness to it all for just a short amount of time. The wrestling outfits were absolutely ridiculous and it got a bit old after a while, but it was a unique experience if nothing else.

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