Wednesday, August 6, 2008
In a Mongolian's shoes
A little further in Inner Mongolia
When we are finished eating these great dishes, we decide to join Ayin who is waiting to go see Mongolian handicraft. First step: a jewelry store. I wonder what the link is between the jewelry store and Mongolian handicraft. I understand a few minutes later. We go through a long corridor that gives onto a stairwell above which I see an interesting scene. A man, an artisan, stuck a metal box in wax and he’s hitting it with a nail and a kind of hammer to make ornaments in what will eventually become a bowl. He is dressed casually with jeans. Oddly, he’s not bothered with the deafening noise his work makes. His hands are blackened from the labor and after watching him hit for a while, I say goodbye and go back downstairs. A few minutes later, dad joins me and we observe the jewelry and we buy a few pieces for gifts. We thank the saleswoman and her artisan and we head for another place. We arrive in front of another store in which everything is made from sheep bone. We see toys, bracelets and plenty of objects from every day life, but what’s funny is that there’s even a lamp made from sheep droppings. That is without a doubt local handicraft! A few minutes later, a woman I thought I had seen before arrives. Even after a long reflection, I don’t remember. Dad turns to me and asks me if I recognize her, I answer apologizing that I don’t and he reminds me that it’s the woman who was painting the temple we visited the day before. That’s when I recognize her and say hi. She shows us her work on bones, but she also hung on her wall a gigantic painting depicting the everyday life of Mongolian nomads. In the bones, she engraves and carves out drawings or symbols. She even carved the Olympic symbol and the game’s mascots. On another bone, she carved 49 horses and it’s magnificent. Her mother comes and joins us. She looks more like a happy child than and elderly person. She goes in front of the painting her daughter made and lets dad take a picture of her. Then, dad takes a photo of the painting on its own and then we all pose together for a souvenir photo. We thank them and say goodbye. Since dad finds it fun to be photographed in traditional Mongolian clothing, he asks Ayin if we can do so in his studio, and he gladly accepts. We arrive in front of the store and Ayin explains to his daughter which clothes to bring out. She helps me to get dressed and does the same to dad before getting dressed herself. We go up to the studio. There’s half a yurt lit up by gigantic lights. We settle in; me in a beige garment and dad in a blue one in front of a portrait of Gengis Khan. Ayin’s wife takes a photo of the two of us until Atchin comes and joins us. Ayin just tells me to turn my head here or to place myself in such and such a way; that’s what bothers me in studio photography because for me it’s not a real image, it’s an image fabricated by the photographer since he only wants to see it a certain way. For me it’s not nice photography. To see nice photography I don’t go in a studio, I look through a National Geographic magazine. After the photo session, we take off the traditional clothes and go to a restaurant with Ayin’s family and Harry. At the end of the meal, dad wants to pay so he eludes Ayin’s vigilance and gives me the mission to pay the bill. That’s what I do discreetly. Ayin isn’t very happy to have missed our ruse, but hey, we wanted to treat him to at least a lunch. We head towards the main place in Ujumchin. There’s a mini fair with a few game stands. The first that I try is a shooting game; at first I don’t score but in the end I do. Then, I try a game where mice come out of holes and you have to hit them with a hammer to score the most points as possible. After, I play a game where I have to throw a baseball into a bucket to get gifts. Then, there’s a stand where you have to throw hoops to try to win 10 to 20 Yuan, I try a few times. When we were going to go around the fountain, Atchin’s grandmother arrives so I incite her to play a game and pay her fee to the baseball game and she has a lot of fun. Going around the lake, I want to go karting but in actual fact, those aren’t karts but cars for babies, so I can’t ride one. Instead, I observe a little boy that is riding one and show him how to turn and stop him from falling into the fountain. I do all this while keeping eye contact with a girl about my age. Since all the stands are closing, we head slowly back to the hotel to go to bed.