Off-Campus Study

2012 Worldview Photo Contest

2nd Place

Susannah Spero '13

Ulaan-Uul soum, Khuvsgul aimag, Mongolia

I took this photograph on an autumn afternoon in Ulaan-Uul soum, Khuvsgul aimag, Mongolia, during a two-week homestay with the Darkhad people of the region. I had spent the day picking tart red berries on a mountainside with this man, whose name I do not know, and several other friends. Before heading back to my host family’s ger, we stopped for what turned out to be an afternoon tea. Even though we shared no language, we patiently pantomimed and laughed our way through our tea break in the woods.  This photograph shows a tea libation, a shamanic practice in which freshly brewed tea—in this case, yak butter tea with natural salts—is tossed to the ancestor spirits in each of the four cardinal directions. I love this photograph because to me, it precisely captures that particular moment in Mongolia—the slowly fading sunlight, the billowing sweet smoke, the patient offering of tea to the spirits in the east, accompanied by the distinctly rugged yet gentle Mongolian smile.