My friend Erka wrote a book of poetry! It was published and on Monday I went to her book reception. It was held in her shoe store which is in the new Darkhan Department Store. My supervisor, her husband, and I were the first to arrive. The store is small, with the 25 people who came to the reception it was crowded.
Once the bulk of the guests arrived, Erka spoke about the process of writing her book of poetry, when she began and what the collection of pieces means to her. Then a bottle of champagne was popped and split among the group. We all had a splash of champagne in our little paper cups to toast her success. A few other folks made speeches and Erka was presented with gifts; wine baskets with fruit, a journal with a pen, a crystal pen, and other thoughtful items.
Erka then read one of the poems in her book. She said to me that the next time we went for coffee she would translate one of the shorter poems for me. I’ll have to translate the rest on my own and ask her for clarification when I’m stuck.
I thought I had escaped the speech giving because it looked like Erka was about to start signing copies of the book and then she sprung it on me, “Chris, would you like to say something?” Of course, of course I would *sigh*. So I made a brief speech about this being my first Mongolian book reception and how I was proud of Erka and that I wished her great success and congratulations. She translated for the rest of the group and people smiled at me. Awkward much? I like being a wallflower.
Everyone who came to the reception got a copy of the book which she signed. After the book-signing came the snack-eating and wine-drinking portion of the program. Then we all went back to work. The whole shindig lasted about an hour.
I’ve been in Mongolia for a little over a year now. I haven’t been to a hair-cutting ceremony, a wedding, or a funeral. But I’ve been to a book reception. Not many PCVs can say that.