The Today Newspaper needed first day of school photos so I recruited my friend, Ugi’s niece and nephew, to lead me to the promised land: Kindergarten! Chubby little Mongols, puffed and pressed into picture perfectness, bobbled around with armfuls of flowers, for their new teachers. Their school year commenced following a musical opening ceremony featuring miniature singers crooning the national anthem at the school’s balloon-lined entrance. Two to five year olds shuffled to classrooms attached to parents by a finger. The happy mingled with the befuddled, the suspicious hovered in the corner, while the freaked-out howled against their mommies.
Flashing my press pass I squeezed in with the two-year-olds, and started snapping pictures. The tiniest tots were a roaring sea of tears, when teachers locked the door separating them from their watery-eyed parents. Not even milk-tea and cookies could calm this afflicted bunch! Two tots crawled onto my lap while two more clung to my back, rubbing damp, pillowy cheeks on my shoulders. It seemed I was an island of serenity, in the rough sea of abandonment. Soon, sobbing wained to whimpers then softened into small rag-doll children snoozing in my arms.
I moved onto click a few more shots of the four and five year olds, who fared much better with jolly sain bainuus (hellos). One plump chirpy bird, a hefty five year old in full military regalia, kept waving his meaty paw at me while banging a plastic tambourine! After a round of shots, I bid all the kiddos bayartai (good-bye), sipped a quick milk tea with the director, and stepped outside with a deep sigh of relief; It had been an emotional roller coaster of picture taking! The tiniest tots’ wails were still audible as I walked away through their playground of concrete camels, a small slab chessboard, and tires fashioned into gers. Those kids and teachers will sleep well tonight!