The boom of fireworks and the smoky smell of hot dogs and hamburgers cooking on the grill on a hot summer night is indescribably only an American dream. This is how most families spend the Independence Day of North America. Living and breathing in Mongolia made my mind lose track of time and even American holidays. I almost forgot the 4th of July if I hadn’t been reminded by some American friends. Wesley and Zoloo were taking their children to the U.S. embassy hosted 4th of July on the 3rd of July for a picnic of bratwursts and hamburgers, potato salad, and cold drinks (I emphasis cold because many Mongolians prefer hot drinks).
After a hectic morning of running errands and receiving the amazing care package from my sister, I finally arrived at the picnic, fashionably late. If you ever live in Mongolia, one thing you’ll notice is that you never get junk mail. Actually, you never get any mail. Their is not postal system to citizens’ homes. Some businesses (mostly government) can have mail delivered to their office. Otherwise, if you ever get mail, then you have to buy a P.O. box and check it regularly. If your like me, you have to wait a month and then get a slip that tells what time of what day that you can go to pick up your package at the post office. However, it was completely worth all the work and hassle because my sister went above and beyond my expectations. Excuse me for this aside, but I love having sisters. There is a bond between siblings that is much stronger than words can explain – it is more an understanding of our souls.
After I arrive at the picnic, I was astonished to see the large number of foreigners, especially from America, in Mongolia. Many are working with government-based or NGO-based developmental programs, but there are exceptions. About 20 percent of the entire crowd, if not more were Mormons serving their mission here in UB, and others, were pilots working with the airport or part of the U.S. military. For some reason it surprised me to see the amount of Americans in such an inconspicuous country like Mongolia. It makes me wonder what our level of presence is like in other countries around the world.
There were no fireworks, but the food was good, the music provided by live by the U.S. army band, and the conversations were in English. Have you ever sat in the library or stood in the subway and with nothing to preoccupy your mind, your ears start eavesdropping on the people’s conversations around you? Well, I do. I sat there on the steps of the International School of Ulaanbaator munched on my bratwurst, listening to the Mormons on my left and parents on my right. I never even realized how much I am missing out because I don’t speak Mongolian.
To top off the evening, some of my friends decided to go karaoking that evening. It was my first time to go karaoking in Mongolia, which is a much better system than in America. You get your own soundproof room and only your friends get to make fun of your bad singing instead of an entire bar/pub. The music in Mongolia, in some ways is up-to-date, but in other ways, is about ten years behind everyone. The boy bands and girl bands (i.e. Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls) of my childhood come back alive on the TV screen as the lyrics race across to non-related video background. It was fun and makes me understand why there are so many karaoke bars in Mongolia. There is one on almost every street.
The next day, being July 4th, I had planned a dinner party for some friends. Although I had expected about 20 to come and only 10 come, I was very glad for the smaller number after we ran out of food. Board games, Vietnamese Beef Pho Soup (the first time I’ve made it and it turned out well!), and an impromptu decision to go karaoking again made July 4th a success despite the lack of fireworks and cold beer.