Monday, July 19, 2010

Mongolian Permaculture: Day 20 - 1st Design Presentations, Fishing, and A Feast For Kings


Using A-Frames to Find Level and Wicking Garden Beds on the prac list today.

Students were given their first design tasks yesterday and will be presenting this evening so that the Instructors can gague where everyone is at: what areas need more attention, which lessons/principles/tools have been understood best and worst, how people are working together, and which individual students need more attention in any areas.

Ater the pracs I spent much of the day in the outdoors kitchen, working with the cook to prepare some salad and tracking down ingredients to make a socially responsible cake. More on this later as I think it deserves an entire post to explore on its own, The Dilema of Chocolate Cake in Developing Countries.

The very talented Michael [our principle translator] invited me to witness the traditional Mongolian livestock slaughtering technique ...HARDCORE.
The sheep is brought into one of the abandoned buildings to face his executioner. Michael takes of his shirt as he sharpens his knife: "Very Important," he says [the knife, not the shirt!].

Gunrick holds the animals back legs while Michael pins him with his leg as he crouches over its exposed belly, makes a small surgical cut just below the ribcage, then reaches into the live animal's organ cavity elbow-deep to sever its artery with his finger. The sheep kicks a few times and organs bulge out of the incision, pulsing with their last throbs as the life fades from its eyes.

Death comes quickly, and the Mongolians deftly push the guts back into the animal and begin skinning the warm carcass. It is a grisly thing to watch, very clean and efficient. No blood.

The animal bleeds to death internally, and the blood will congeal inside to be scooped out later for the broth and sausages. The organs are highly nutritious, highly prized and will all go into the broth for later.

The next part we had not seen before: the stomach and intestines are cleaned out, and the head and hooves scorched of their hair and scraped clean. The entrails are stuffed with the congealed blood, the stomach turned inside out and stuffed with the head and hooves of the sheep.

The fatty tail pad is scooped out, filled with meat, and sewn shut to be boiled next to the stuffed tripe for at least two hours: it is this part that was considered to be Chinggis' favorite meal ...a feast for kings.

I witness and participate in most of the preparation all day, and am picked up at around 6pm by 13-year old 'Gunner' and his little brother 'Huong', and their buddy 'Tetch' [that is the best I can do to pronounce their names!] while the students present their first design tasks to Rick and Kat.


Gunner stopped by the hasha with about a dozen Mongolian Trout, which we butterfly filleted and salted this afternoon before heading to the river. Tomorrow we will fry them to a crisp and add some garlic and vinegar, Filipino-style. Fish and rice are now on the menu! I have enlisted Tetch help me with my Microfinance class on PDC Day 10 - hopefully he can design a logo for the Co-Operative by then...

It is about a 1 km walk to the river, and Gunner's halting English is good enough for us to have a pretty good conversation all the way there and back. He studies music and dance, likes basketball, soccer and volleyball, and has a very large family living in the ger encampment by the river in the distance.

I am determined to see one of the monster fish that lurk in the depths of Mongolian waterways, but as soon as I start signing that I want to hook the first fingerling he catches, Gunner puts his hands to his throat and signals that going for one of the big fish will mean certain death

So, me and my new fishing buddies stand at the river banks casting handlines hooked with grasshoppers into the current, and manage to pull out one pan-sized trout, and two small fries that the small fries wanted to bag.

We walk back to the hasha as the sun sets behind the hills and I play a little tune on the harmonica Rick has leant me for the trip. I'm not much of a player, but it is fun to walk home Huck-Finn-style from the river, and all of a sudden I am 9 years old again without a care in the world in the middle of Mongolia.

I arrive at the feast late and Rick is not impressed. Rightly so, as Michael has spent the entire day preparing a traditional feast reserved for royalty, and I waltz in with a few small fish on my back just as everyone is finishing up their meals.

We have been invited into their tribe, an extra-special effort is made to welcome us, and one of the guests of honor skips out on the feast. Not the right message to send to the group.

I will have a heart-to-heart with Michael tomorrow, and pay closer attention going forward... but geez it was fun today

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