Saturday, December 11, 2010

November in Mongolia

 November was pretty much an ordinary month.  We were busy teaching our English lessons--we teach four 90-minute classes and two one-hour classes a week.  They take quite a bit of prepartion.  The students are fun--but don't study much.

One of our students gave us some fish from one of his fishing trips.  Fresh fish is hard to get here (since Mongolia has no ocean or commercial fishing), so we enjoyed eating it.  (See Clair with his fish dinner.)

 This is Khuder.  He was a missionary who had a kidney transplant.  When we first arrived in the mission he was in kidney failure.  We were told he would be on a long waiting list for dialysis.  Fortunately, we were able to get him on dialysis.  Then he was  able to receive a kidney transplant from this sister.  Here he is with his doctor.  His sister and younger brother are both now serving missions outside of Mongolia.

Khuder wanted to do something for the hospital where he got his kidney transplant so he arranged for Deseret International Charities (the church's humanitarian organization here) to donate wheelchairs to them.  They didn't have any and now the patients who have a hard time walking can use them.  This is Elder Lasson demonstrating the proper use of wheelchairs--and a happy patient.  We are very impressed with all the good DIC does here and throughout the world.  

On the left are Elder Adartsuren (who was an assistant to the President and worked in our office building with us for quite a while), Javaa (a new member who is very enthusiastic and very helpful to us) and Elder Tsolman (who also was an assistant to the president).  We have gotten to know these special people very well.  Elder Adartsuren taught Javaa the gospel.  We have come to love these special people.

We had Thanksgiving with the other senior couples and a family from the U.S.  This is the first year they have been able to get turkey for a reasonable price here in Mongolia, so we enjoyed dinner with all the trimmings!

We have learned to be even more thankful for our blessings since being in Mongolia.  Even for simple things like running water, indoor bathrooms, enough to eat.  We are very blessed.

This Relief Society activity was making baby clothes for seven new babies in our branch.  We also had lunch together.  They usually serve hot buckthorn juice--it is supposed to be very healthy and comes from berries grown in Mongolia.  

One of the highlights of November was another choir festival.  This one was not a country-wide one like the one last spring, but it did include all the wards and branches in Ulaanbaatar.  This is our branch choir practicing.  We had a good turn out for the performances and even had one of our investigators come.  The choirs have fun and learn many good things working together.  They also played fun games together between the two performances.

We miss all our friends and loved ones, especially at holiday times.  But we are happy and hopefully are helping build the Lord's kingdom here in Mongolia.  You are all part of the many blessings we enjoy!

Friday, November 5, 2010

It's Fall in Ulaanbaatar

Clair has to come to Mongolia to get over his fear of penguins.  This one didn't bite.

Watching general conference with a room full of missionaries was almost like watching it at home.  It was great, as usual.  There were quite a few talks about having Faith and about having gratitude.  We have many things to be thankful for.

Fall colors by the church.
There is a lot of variety of transportation in Ulaanbaatar.  This cart went by us while we were visiting teaching in the ger district.
Near our home we have to weave our way through traffic to cross the street.  Traffic often goes very fast and the pedestrian better beware.  Sometimes they honk to let you know they are not going to stop.

Sometimes it is faster to walk!

Clair getting ready to go jogging on a smoky day.  One of my Mongolian friends told me that they call Ulaanbaatar “Utaanbaatar” (Utaan means “smokey”) because of all the smoke from the coal fires in the gers in the winter.  
A fun Relief Society activity.  Learning to use vegetables.  These sisters have become dear friends.  They are very special people.
At a pop music concert with our friends and English students (Nara and Bayankhuu).  We have enjoyed teaching them and having them for friends.  Their daughter was singing in the concert.
A traditional Mongolian number at the beginning of the pop concert.  I have grown to like Mongolian traditional music.  They have instruments that are very different than we have in an orchestra, but they produce beautiful music.
Visiting teaching at the home of Tsetsegmaa and Voloj and their 100 year old mother.  I visited this family when they lived in a ger.  Now they have an apartment with hot water heat and running water and several rooms.   Nine members of their family live together.

We even had trick-or-treaters!  These very special young adults have warmed our hearts.

October has quickly passed by.  We are quite busy with English lessons now.  We enjoy the students.  We also continue to enjoy our missionaries.  Mongolia is a great place to be!  The gospel is continuing to go forth.  We are thankful to be part of this mission. 
 (but we sure miss home at times!)

Monday, October 4, 2010

September - Fall in Mongolia

 It is fall in Mongolia.  In fact, it has snowed in Ulaanbaatar a few times already.  A couple of weeks ago a group of our English students (Dr. Bayankhuu, wife, daughter, and nurse) took us hiking up the tallest mountain around Ulaanbaatar. 

There were quite a few trees that had yellow leaves.

Naaraa had made khoshuurs--a traditional Mongolian food--for us to share.  We also had cucumbers and tomatoes.  We shared our tuna fish sandwiches (on home-made bread) with them and they seemed to like them.
 These blue silk scarves are everywhere in Mongolia--they signify good wishes to the traveler.
 We had some missionaries over to dinner and one of them was an artist.  When we asked to see some of his pictures, he drew some.  Can you recognize these?

 A sunny day at Sukhbaatar Square, the Mongolian government building, and the Mongolian flag flying.

Our translator's little girl, Saikhanaa made us all paper crowns one day.  She occasionally comes to work with her Mom and is fun to have around.  She is in kindergarten.

We have probably done most of our travel in Mongolia and are now concentrating on teaching English.  We have four classes at the Health Science University: Dental students, Pharmacology Students, Public Health Students, and Medical Technology students.  Their ability with English varies a lot.  We have to teach from their textbooks--and each is different, so it requires more preparation time than just teaching conversation.  The students are fun and seem to enjoy our classes.  

We got four new American Elders--the first to come in over a year.  The saying, "There is nothing so constant as change," can surely be applied to Mongolia.  Things are always changing here.  We are learning flexibility and patience.  The people are very special and working with them always makes it rewarding.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Trip to Murun

We had one final trip to make before we started teaching English again.   We traveled to Murun, the capital of Huvsgul Province.  Two missionaries being transferred there traveled with us.  Below is the Murun airport.
Murun is in the northern part of Mongolia, near Russia.  It has mountains with pine trees nearby. 
Here is our church building--a small room added to the front of an apartment building.  Inside some of the rooms were probably once apartments.  People live in the apartments upstairs and around the church.
There were lots of beautiful flowers in Murun.
Once again we went to see the hospital.  This hospital is remodeling their top floor--where all the surgery is done.  So right now they are using a private hospital's surgery room.   When they are finished they will have two operating rooms.  Clair is here with the missionary who translated for us.  We loved Elder Telmen.  He worked very hard to translate for us in spite of a hearing loss (he has two hearing aids), a speech impediment, and not feeling capable of translating.  He used his dictionary a lot to look up medical terms.  We were touched by his sweet spirit and desire to serve.  We all worked hard when trying to help members with their medical problems. 
These are the missionaries in Murun.  We had lunch with them in a restaurant one day.
We visited a couple of homes of members.  In both homes there were people with very severe health problems.  One home had a cerebral palsy child, a father in heart failure, and a daughter who had been hit by a car that day.  There was very little we could do for them.  We did give a priesthood blessing to this sister. 
The little child on the right was very friendly.  He (or she) kept coming up to us and saying, "Sain-bain-oo," (which means, "Hello, how are you") and putting his hand out to shake ours.  When children are little they often dress boys in girls clothes and leave their hair long.  This comes from an old superstition that evil spirits were after boys, so they would disguise them.  Now they have a custom of having a hair cutting time when they are 3 or 4.  After that the boys look like boys.  Sometimes they completely shave the children's heads (even the girls) at the hair cutting ceremony.
Here are some yaks we passed traveling through the countryside.  We saw many yaks in this part of Mongolia.  We also saw a few camels and lots of horses, sheep, goats, and cows.   They Mongolians often live off their animals and milk all of them and use every part of them for something.
Here is beautiful Lake Huvsgul.  We were able to spend a day visiting this beautiful lake known for its beauty and good fishing.  The water was very clear and the boatmen drank straight from the lake.  It is 264 meters deep.
We stopped on a shore and found a couple of kinds of edible wild berries.  Above is Clair, below is Annette by the lake.
By the lake we met a couple who was raising some baby deer.  They were very tame and fun to see.
Our boat drivers saw a fish by the shore when we landed.  While we were looking at the deer they got two long poles and two nails.  From them they made a spear and a fish hook on a pole. 
One man attacked the fish from the top with the spear while the other attacked him from the bottom with the hook, and they caught the fish.
Here it is.  They took it home for dinner!  We had fish from the lake for lunch the day before and it was very good.
After the boat ride we took a horse ride by the lake, up a mountain, and around it, then back to the lake. 
At the top of the small mountain was an "o-woo".  We see these piles of rocks with sticks in them all over Mongolia.  People tie pieces of blue silk on them. Sometimes the silk is other colors.  Sometimes people leave money, or crutches, or other offerings.  Usually people add a rock and circle the pile three times.  It is a place of worship and also a place that signifies good luck to the travelers.  
A herder on horseback out with his flock.  A common sight in Mongolia.  It was fun to see this beautiful part of Mongolia.  Mongolians love their country and love their Mongolian traditional foods and other traditions.  We feel privileged to have been able to learn about their culture and traditions.  We love the Mongolians!

August was great!

The church has sponsored a large gardening project in Mongolia.  They provide seeds and tools and training for the people to grow gardens.  Some learn to garden well enough to produce food to sell.  I stumbled (almost literally) upon this well among the tall grass.  I hope they only use this water to water the  garden.     This family had a nice garden and even a green house.
In August we visited Choilbasan, in the eastern part of Mongolia near China.  Here is a monument to the soldiers who fought there under General Choilbasan.  They were able to stop the Japanese in World War II from reaching Russia by crossing Mongolia. 

Many of the buildings in Mongolia were build during the Russian Era, from about 1920's to about 1990's.  Here in Choilbasan we saw many Russian pictures on the buildings.
Our purpose in visiting Choilbasan was to get to know the doctors and see what the hospital is like in case our missionaries need to use it.  Here we are with the missionary who translated for us as we are getting ready to tour the operating room.  Most hospitals in Mongolia are sorely lacking in equipment and supplies.  This one actually had quite a bit of equipment that worked.

We usually take time wherever we go to offer medical advice to missionaries, members, and others who want to see us.  These were waiting for us when we arrived at the church.  In all, we saw 50 patients in two evenings.  There was a wide variety of health problems, some very serious.
On our last day in Choibasan we visited their historical museum which was very interesting.  It is on the outskirts of town where no taxis come by, so we waited in the rain in a leaky bus shelter for a taxi (or two!)  The Choilbasan missionaries were with us.
We visited a couple of member's homes.  This lady has been a member only a few months.  She has 5 children including a two-year-old and twin babies.  Her home was very humble but her spirit was wonderful. 
Many Mongolians (and other Asians) are very flexible.  This girl is demonstrating a contortionist dance.
Flying back to Ulaanbaatar, we encountered bad weather so we flew on to the next airport--Murun.  We spent part of the night there in a very cold ger, which we shared with two women and a two-year-old child.  It had snowed the day before and we were freezing because they couldn't seem to light the fire in our fireplace. Who would have thought we would need warm clothes in August!  We were happy, however, to be safe.
Mongolians collect "ankle bones" from sheep, chew the meet and sinew off of them, and use them for games--sort of like playing with marbles.  Here are some of the seniors playing a horse race game with the ankle bones. 

Anyone want some pork for dinner?  We see every part of the animals in the meat markets.  Sometimes the meat still has the hairy skin on the outside.
New missionaries have arrived!  All abut one were Mongolians.  We do a health training session with all new missionaries.
We got sister missionaries too!

This is part of a Mongolian Circus.  It was too dark for most of my pictures.  There were no animals in the circus--just a clown and various acrobatic acts and contortionists. It was very interesting.  

Summer in Mongolia is a time when many people go to the "countryside."  Traffic becomes less in the city, and we get a break from some of our English teaching assignments.  We enjoyed the time to travel and catch up on our other responsibilities.  We love the Mongolian people.  They have lots of patience and truly help each other.