Halloween… Mongol-style!

so, to make up for the fact that I had an utterly bum halloween last year (consisting of me dressed as a Day of the Dead cabaret singer drinking a beer at the bar down the block) i decided to make this year’s halloween a carnival extraordinaire… namely, i just really wanted an excuse to have a costumed dance party… and make a roadkill cake (which i’ve been thinking about doing for years now). and, in honor of being in mongolia, naturally the roadkill must be a marmot!!

so, alex and i decided to throw a party and spent the day crafting delightfully creepy edibles which included:

olive-spider topped deviled eggs:

chocolate-covered oreos with icing spider webs:

‘bloody’ jello shots (see bottom left):

and of course the marmot!! (complete with hazard sign… because yes, mongolia is the last place on earth where you can still get the bubonic plague.. damn marmots):

close-up of marmot ribs/ guts/ maggots

as for costuming… thanks to a stroke of genius from the brilliant Alex… me, Alex and another fulbrighter Teresa decided to go as nesting Russian dolls!!! (myself being the big one, with the help of some obnoxiously tall heels) however unfortunately for me, whereas Alex and Teresa look charming in their colorful babuska get-ups, everyone agreed that i looked like a large, somewhat unsuccessfully gender-bending and poorly dressed babuska transvestite…:


at least the other two looked cute! :

though looking like a hot mess of a Russian drag queen aside, I was able to (perhaps more successfully) help with some other costumes this year… including doing Badmaa’s make-up to be an angel of death:

and, (with the help of Nina and Taylor’s old sleeping bag).. Manus’s Mongolian death worm costume!! which might possibly be my favorite Halloween costume… ever. (for those of you unfamiliar with the myth of a large red acid-spitting worm from the Gobi.. here’s some info):

some other great costumes were Matt’s magpie (though one could argue he looked more like a blinged-out David Blane than a bird… sorry Alex!):

and Jasmine’s geisha costume (legit from Japan!):

Jasmine and her cousin Orgil

Jasmine and her cousin even added to the creepy edibles by bringing tombstones/ ghosts:

and hotdog/pasta ‘spiders’ that they invented themselves!:other ghoulish edibles included: slightly flattened but still creepy ‘severed fingers’ from Teresa:

and (though I regret lack of photos in this regard) ‘monster fingers’ made of peanut butter and jelly sandwich rolls, and ‘band-aids’ made with crackers, cheese and jelly… yummmm

though, if i do say so myself, the highlight was my marmot roadkill cake… even the cutting of it was exciting! :

I might even start a tradition of making a roadkill cake every year…

in the meantime… Happy Halloween!!


leaving ulgii

i write this at last back in my studio in UB, returning to the sharp beginning of winter in a city that feels more chaotic than i had remembered.

I have to admit, it had been hard to be truly ‘present’ at the end of my time in ulgii.. attempting to turn off the brain chatter that had kept me awake and rabidly tying up loose ends (both in the studio and with my friends there) these past few days proved near impossible. but i left the Altai to a flawless blue sky on a crisp autumnal day knowing that i will probably be back here sooner than i think.

i will miss this place. there are some things that lack, of course (hot running water, non-root vegetables, and electrical sockets that don’t flicker and fry your electronics), but there are some things that are infinitely better. fresh homemade bread for example. and having extended family around all the time. never having to call before visiting a friend or worry that you’re overstaying your welcome. Offering someone food and them always accepting. calling good friends mother, brother, sister, father because there is no other way to describe how intimate your relationship is otherwise. fresh horse meat in… anything. the physicality of people’s affection- so very un-western and effusive and fantastic. and of course the endless suu te tsai and tea biscuits and bowls of chocolates wrapped in brightly colored metallic paper.

oh ulgii, you have been good to me.

i must also extend an enormous thanks to my beloved peace corps friend Caitlin for so graciously allowing me to invade her life (and her space) for the past 2 months. she is one of the most generous people i have ever met and i am eternally in her debt.

(even if she is a horribly tone-deaf singer):

and studio mad dash part 3:

these are two small pieces that i created as thank-you gifts for both Inaa and Khadis (every time Khadis would come to Caitlin’s apartment she would check up on what art i had been working on and repeatedly mentioned that she could take one of the drawings off my hands if i didn’t feel like carrying it back to UB..). They turned out quite well though i think, so i thought i’d share them:

studio mad dash part 2:

After the warm reception my first tugen jer piece received from locals, i decided that i should continue the series with two more.. the pattern i used for the first is one of my favorite embroidery themes from wall hangings- a series of stars that hails back to communist days and is a reminder of the fantastic malleability of kazakh designs- in their ability to fit both different shapes and different visual trends (which keeps the embroidery practice not only interesting, but very much a living creature).

Here is the first:

and the second:

for these pieces i managed to snag an Austrian friend and fellow traveller Philipp as an assistant (perhaps somewhat in repayment for having patched up his bleeding cheekbone from a recent bar fight (granted he got into the fight in the first place defending me from an insanely drunk man who had stolen my beer…) or perhaps just because he’s spectacularly nice… and had very little to do with his time).

studio mad dash part 1:

so, post-eagle festival #2 recovery.. it’s back to the studio!

yesterday, thanks to caitlin’s kazakh ‘mom’ Khadis, i completed the final portrait in the series ‘the shape of kazakh.’ though Khadis is an elementary school teacher, she’s also an incredibly talented embroiderer (we’re talking some of the most meticulous needlework i’ve seen thus far) and an excellent weaver, and as you can see… the result is pretty spectacular! :

here are some pics from the making.. this time i was lucky enough to have my friend Bronnie (an Australian Peace Corps volunteer) along who graciously acted as my installation helper for this one:

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eagle festival #2

the second eagle festival in Ulgii was much larger though not quite as eventful as the first.

The day was spent in large part huddled in tents eating delicious horse meat hussur (which was a much-needed and excellent hangover remedy), drinking beer with kazakhs in parked cars, and as an extended shopping trip (as everyone and their brother was out selling their wares to eager tourists) which of course, was just as exciting for me as any eagle-related event- as i can never get enough of kazakh embroidered products- and luckily i was able to buy 3 wall hangings to sell as a future fundraiser for Daughters Rising.. so if anyone is interested in funding one year of a Karen hill tribe girl’s education AND acquiring an antique hand-embroidered kazakh tapestry… here’s a preview!:


also here are some pics from the festival- including a new event in which men on horseback would gallop at full speed and swoop down sideways from their horse to grab a small red ‘coin’ from the ground.. pretty impressive!

Nick looking extraordinarily dapper in his new hat


Inaa was also there with her adorable granddaughter Isor in tow (my newest little pal):

and of course selling her wares too, including this crazy fur jacket which i just couldn’t help but try on.. :

too bad it’d never make it through an afternoon in new york without being redecorated with red paint…