We checked out of the hotel at the Xang Sha Wan resort and headed to a nearby city and a new (and warmer!) hotel. I may not know much Chinese, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn. Justine, one of our photographers from New York is still without her luggage. One bag, New York to Beijing and it is still MIA two days after her arrival. She is putting up with it as best as possible, but it’s not any fun at all for her. Here she is before getting on our bus to leave to the new hotel. Her attire is not unusual for any of us here in Mongolia. There is nothing between XSW and the North Pole except Siberia and a few barb wire fences.
We had the most amazing luncheon at the Holiday Inn. It was the most spectacular in terms of presentation, variety of dishes and quality. I can now say that barbequed ostrich is really pretty good. Something this spectacular and I didn’t even think to pull out my camera. It was the last day before the Photographic Conference Opens and we had to go back to XSW and tend to the last minute chores to do at the Arts Palace. The only thing we had to do was apply labels to each picture. That’s about an hour’s worth of work once the labels have been cut. It took a while to cut all the labels for eleven photographers so we stood around in the dome waiting for the one guy with a box cutter and a T square to cut our labels. Once that was done, I was able to get out around the Arts Palace and take a little walk and photograph some sand because that’s just about all there is around here to photograph.
(It will be better in black and white)
After finishing up the labeling and what not, we headed back to the banquet hall for the Erdos Wedding Feast. I will do my best to describe what happened. We had speeches. We had toasts. We had dinner theatre. It was a musical/dance/gymnastics/soap opera reenactment of a traditional Mongolian Wedding. There was traditional Chinese Music, Mongolian Throat Singing and a whole bunch of over the top dinner theatrics. I would have made some pictures, but the chaos on stage was over shadowed by the chaos in the audience. We were among three hundred or so Chinese Photographers and these folks were out there to get some photographs of the performance. They were jockeying for the best position, flashes were going off all over the place. The first four tables of dignitaries were schmoozing with one another, table hopping, drinking toasts and generally having a great time. All the time this was going on, we were being fed dinner. Lots of dinner. Chinese feasts are non stop. It was exotic, bizarre and delicious. This guy, while ferocious looking was not popular at our table.
As the show wound down, the father of the bride carved a whole goat to simulate the actual cuisine of a Mongolian wedding. When you could eat no more, the waitresses delivered heaping platters of various goat parts for your table to eat.
No wedding would be complete without a toast to the bride and groom. So the bride and groom bring a plateful of metal cups and some Mongolian liquor and you must toast the newly wedded couple. It tasted like tequila. Then we had to toast the New Year. Then we had to toast the Conference. Again.
I fell asleep on the bus back to the hotel. Happy New Year.