Monday, August 9, 2010

July happenings

July - Finally summer!  We got a new mission president, President and Sister Mecham.  We were sad to say goodbye to the Andersens, but look forward to working with the Mechams.

The biggest holiday in Mongolia is Naadam.  It is a celebration of Mongolian culture.  They typically eat Khoshuures - a fried dough pocket containing mutton or sometimes potatoes or other vegetables.  The missionaries came over for a "Naadam party" and taught me how to make Koshuures.

The "three manly sports" of Naadam are horse racing, archery, and wrestling.  We saw some of the horse races.  I am trying to attach a video of them, but don't know if it will work.  The jockeys are boys (or sometimes girls) between the ages of 5 and 12.  They ride 10 kilometers out to the starting point and then race 10 kilometers back.  It was fun to see them. 
Archery was also interesting, but we missed the main competition.  They don't shoot directly at the target, but rather shoot up and the arrow comes down near the target.  The target was a can.  They try to hit the can.

Wrestlers wear a funny open chested vest and shorts.  Years ago a woman tried to wrestle and won.  The men were so mortified that they made the vest open in the front so that women could never fool them again.  They also wear the traditional Mongolian boots when wrestling.  Sometimes it seems like they are just leaning against each other until one throws the other.  When a knee or hand or shoulder touches the ground they lose. 
Below: Two wrestlers and the officials watching them.

When they win, the wrestler do a sort of bird-dance around this structure.  It is made of horse-tails.  When it is white, it is peace time.  If the horse tails are black it is time for war.  In the picture you can see a group doing the bird dance.

Here is a very future wrestler!

Below is D.Dagvadorj, a Mongolian hero because he beat the Japanese in Sumo wrestling.  He is the owner of one of the horses that won in the races.  He is standing by the horse and rider and waving to the crowd.  The crowd really cheered for him!

A picture of Ghingiss Khaan on the mountain overlooking Ulaanbaatar

Part of Naadam is a day of ethnic costume displays.  There were many, many people dressed in their tribe's traditional dress.  Here is one group:

We had the opportunity to be the camp doctor for a Young Single Adult Conference for three days.  It was held at the same camp where we went to Youth Conference.  There were 350 participants, many of whom were  returned missionaries in the group, and they were openly hoping to meet their "eternal companion" at the conference.  Here is one of the workshops being taught by the stake president.

Clair talking with other senior missionaries at the camp.

One morning early we climbed up a small mountain near the camp to see this view of the valley.  In the distance is Ulaanbaatar.  In the foreground you can see a pile of rocks that is a traditional thing in Mongolia.  People add a rock and circle the pile in a certain way to receive certain blessings.  It dates back to pre-Buddhist days.  You can see these piles on almost every hill or mountain and along the roadsides.

It is hard to see in this picture, but the woman is milking a horse.  Fermented mare's milk is a favorite drink in Mongolia.  Everyone likes it (except maybe foreigners like us!).

At the end of the month we made a trip to Khovd, a small city on the western border of Mongolia.  It was very interesting because the landscape was different and the people are also different ethnic groups.  There are many Kazakh people here because it is close to Kazakhstan.  There were not many people who spoke English so when we were not with the missionaries we sometimes had funny things happen because of miscommunication. 

The Manchurian Chinese ruled Mongolia for 200 years and build a fortress in Khovd. Here are the remains of the walls of the fortress. In 1912 the Mongolians overthrew the Chinese and destroyed the fortress in a 10 day siege and two day battle. In the picture below Annette is standing by the wall.

Khovd is surrounded by reddish mountains and desert.  Here you can see some gers near the river with the red rock mountains in the background.

We finally found a "MacDonald's" in Mongolia!  All they sell is Coke!

One purpose of our visit was to meet the surgeons and tour the hospital in Khovd.  We like to be prepared in case any of our missionaries need emergency surgery.  The surgeons in Khovd have had some good training from American doctors, but they are lacking equipment and supplies.  The lighting fixture over the operating table only had two working lightbulbs in it and they cannot get more in Mongolia.  With us in this picture were two missionary sisters who translated for us.

We had dinner with a couple of Mongolian members and their families.  Pictured below is the branch president and his family. 

The branch president and a counselor and some of their family members took us on an excursion for a day.  Here we are on an observation tower overlooking the Black Water Lake.  Mosquitos were very thick near the lake!  On the right was our driver and his two children.

They took us to this cave.  It has been inhabited by birds.  We climbed around in it a little.  Notice one of the rock piles described above.  It is also traditional to hang pieces of blue silk on a pole in the pile.

Here is the valley below the cave.  You can barely see our car at the bottom.

We met a couple of boys who were taking care some sheep and goats.  They let us all ride their horses.

Our driver spotted a pair of "bookhon",  a rare type of antelope that is now protected in Mongolia.  He drove the car off the road after them for a long time and they just kept running very fast.  It was an exciting ride! 

More adventures next month!