Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Mission Full of Firsts!

Great to hear from Ali and Josh (see comments in the last post)! Thanks you guys!

A few days ago, we had our senior couples Christmas Dinner and what was described to us as a traditional Christmas Dinner. We returned to the same restaurant where we had our party for the entire mission yesterday (see last post). I guess we just didn't understand whose tradition they were referring to! Here are some pictures. Picture one is of the first course. Yup! Sushi! We have had sushi before. Not something we have much interest in, though it doesn't really taste bad. But give us meat and potatoes anytime!

The second is of a Rice/Mushroom casserole. We hate mushrooms! But, picking out the mushrooms, it tasted fairly good. Both dishes Christmas firsts for us! But we were waiting for the promised "turkey and all the trimmings!" The turkey came. Along with mashed potatoes and gravy. And they were VERY tasty. But where's the hot bread, stuffing, yams, cranberries, etc.? But it really was good. Even though the ladies were served all the white meat while the guys were served drumsticks. But the guys scored pretty well in the end. The white meat servings were rather large and the ladies couldn't eat it all. Can't let a good meal go to waste, you know!

Thought you might like an up-to-date picture of Sister Caldwell. She's been rather ill for a couple of days. Then, on our way to the office this morning, she fell on the ice and broke her arm! The first broken bone she has ever had! The medical facilities here are, well, antiquated, shall we say. But we do have a mission doctor (the only mission in Asia having it's own doctor - that should tell you something of the level of medical service here). He has learned where to go here for best treatment, depending on the problem. He took us to an old Russian Hospital building which is now occupied by a couple of private practice physicians. And it is old!

But the doctor was really nice - we liked him. And he really did quite a good job of fixing things up. Sister Caldwell is now in a plaster cast (not the fiberglass kind that is now used in the States) and our mission doctor has her on pain pills.

The break is in her upper arm. But it could have been much worse. She should heal fairly quickly but will have a fair amount of pain for a couple of days.

So, first time Sister Caldwell had ever been on an airplane was coming here. A couple of firsts for Christmas dinner and her first broken bone! The records are falling right and left -- and so is Sister Caldwell!

Other than that, we are really doing well in Mongolia!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

We attended a Mission Christmas Devotional this morning. It was really pretty good. We had a couple of speakers and a couple of musical numbers. Then we watched a recording of the First Presidency Christmas Devotional.

One of the musical numbers was presented by two Mongolian Sister Missionaries -- twins in fact. They are good missionaries and are well liked around here. The song is a traditional Mongolian song about mothers (see the video). None of the seniors were able to understand any of the words, but we certainly felt the spirit of it. You will notice that the Sister on the left has some trouble getting through it. She actually had to stop a couple of times to gain her composure. She told us later that she really misses her mother. We can relate.

Also notice (if you look closely) that most of the young missionaries wore traditional Mongolian clothing. Unfortunately, no one told us that such would be the case. We wouldn't have minded getting some of that type of clothing and joining in!

After the devotional, they took us to lunch at a fancy restuarant owned by a member of the Church. He is from Germany, living in Mongolia and the restuarant is Italian! Go figure! But it is really a nice place and he gave us a good deal. In addition to the pastas and salads, we also had beef tongue and pig tongue! Yum! The dinner was really very good. Some of the seniors want to go bakc and order from the menu. That ought to make for a nice night out sometime.

After the meal, we had a talent show. It was really a hoot! We've included a couple of pictures showing some of the 'acts'. It was a nice day. But this evening we find ourselves missing our family. We have been to busy to think about it up 'til now and they don't celebrate Christmas much here anyway. But this evening our thoughts are back home. Let's see, 22 months, 2 days, 3 hours, . . .

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Almost here!

Christmas is right around the corner, now!
Our District organized a choir for Christmas. You know, the equivalent of the Stake Choir thing! Or maybe not! They held a fireside on Sunday which we attended. This choir was really quite good! In fact, they were really good! They sang songs in both languages (English and Mongolian) and presented quite a program. It was so good, that we invited some people we met on our flight here from Seoul, to come to a Christmas open house the mission held which included a repeat of the choir presentation tonight. There names are Beaver and Rebecca Eller. These folks are here with another church (the Christian Ministry) and are trying to bring in and operate a small airplane here to help reach remote areas for different needs, such as emergency medical evacuations.

It has been rather challenging, apparently. The Mongolians have no concept of a private aircraft. It is either commercial or it doesn't exist. So these folks are needing to convince them of the concept, and then obtain permission to fly as a private enterprise. They would, of course, be the first private aircraft to fly here. But our church has an interest in this service for cases of emergency evac of people we associate with -- members and none members alike. So Sister Caldwell and I are sort of spearheading the effort to for form some sort of
cooperation with them (as if we didn't have enough to do!).

They did come to the concert, along with one other member of their group (see our picture together with them). It was a nice evening and we had a very enjoyable time visiting with them and introducing them to others in the mission, though, as it turns out, they had actually met some of our missionaries before! But no one knew what the Eller's purpose was in being here! We will need to keep in touch with them and hopefully work together here.

We also thought you might enjoy some pictures of our Christmasdecorations in the apartment, particularly of the Mongolian nativity we purchased. It's kind of nice around here. We were able to put the smaller nativities in other areas of the apartment so we had more decorations than just in one room.

Tomorrow we start three days of meetings, conferences and social get togethers. We'll let you know how that all turns out.

To answer Cindy's question under comments in the last post, we have no problem keeping the apartment warm. It is heated by steam from a central location in the city and we have no control over it -- can not adjust the temperature or nothin'! Often, it is too warm in here! I actually wrapped a blanket around the heater in the bedroom and partially open a window to cool it down enough to sleep at night. Go figure!

Saturday, December 20, 2008


We drove out to our Branch at Nalaikh this morning to participate
in a deep cleaning activity at their building. Here in Ulaanbaatar, the weather was cold but tolerable. But the further we drove towards Nalaikh, the worse it got! The picture kind of shows what we had to drive through to get there. But the picture is of the road before it got really bad. Before we arrived, visibility was really, really poor! So, the temperature was about 20 below, and the wind (at one point when we got out of the car and it literally almost blew us down) was about 50 to 60 mph. The wind chill had to be about 70 below! I thought I didn't need gloves for the 60 or 70 seconds I would be out, but I nearly got frostbite!

I've included a picture of us cleaning the chapel area. Not many showed up at the appointed start time. Just Melba, I and the Branch President (President Gonhoya). But the deeper cleaning was badly needed. By the time we had to go, several more branch members had arrived.

While there, President Gonhoya asked if I would accompany him to deliver some food commodities to a local family. I readily agreed. Just after we left the parking lot, a truck drove right through the intersection (not unusual here) and it was all I could do to swerve and miss him. I noticed his windows were totally fogged up and there was no way for him to see me. But the answer to that problem for the locals is to simply keep driving.

President Gonhoya suggested that he should drive 'cause things can be even worse here than in Ulaanbaatar. I soon found out that he was not referring so much to the near miss we had just had. These next pictures are of where he drove us! Trust me, the terrain was not as smooth at it looks in the picutes! Many who live in gers have no real roads to their homes!

We stopped at a ger and delivered the food. This family lives in a typical Mongolian ger and theirs was the first one I had ever been inside of. You'll likely be surprised just as I was! The ger was small, of course, but comfortably furnished and very warm. Note the TV AND the computer in the first picture! Interesting contrasts here! As warm as it was, the snow was not melted off the sheep skin roof. It is amazing how insulating sheep skin seems to be.

They always serve a hot milk mix to there guests. But hot is an understatement! I had to quickly don a glove and then set the cup down to avoid getting burned! I said a very polite thank you, but never tried to drink it.

The Sister Missionary at the stove is cooking a flour mixture that looks like tortillas. But they cut it in strips and use it in soup, something like noodles, but not really!

Then we returned to our apartment and hosted a missionary discussion with two young sisters who are investigating the Church. We said a few things which the Elders translated and then bore our testimonies. And we then fed them all a dinner of chips, salsa, tacos and cookies! They had never had tacos before, but seemed to really like them.

It was a very nice experience.

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's 2:00 am here in Ulaanbaatar. Not getting much sleep tonight so I thought I might as well get caught up a bit. Seem to have the stomach flu or something. Guess I'm the first one of us to get sick here in Mongolia. Lucky me! Not having much fun with it!

We put some Christmas decorations up in the basement by our office yesterday. We got an extra tree from the Service Department on the 3rd floor. First they gave us an old artificial tree they were going to throw out. The top section wea missing and it left something to be desired. But I removed a branch from the back of the tree and made a pretty passable top for it. And we started straightening the branches and makeing it look presentable. All it would have needed is some decorations.

But then, low and behold, the Service Dept. found the top section and wanted their tree back! But that still left them with an extra tree. So, I moaned and whined a bit (just a little, mind you) and they finally agreed to give us the somewhat smaller tree they were going to give to the guy in the office next to us. The two of us agreed that right there by our offices was the best place for it anyway and it worked out well. What's more, this tree came fully decorated! We'll take a picture and add it to the post asap.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Brighter Side

We attended our assigned branch again today - the Nalaikh (pronounced Nal lock - sort of). I'm getting much more used to driving, now. Thinking I'm ok with it. Of course, the only time I have driven is on Sunday when there is merely about one fourth the regular weekday traffic. Better not get too confident, yet!

The picture is us with one of the older branch members dressed in traditional Mongolian attire. We like our branch and the members there but wish it wasn't quite so far. It's difficult to get to everything in the branch we would like to. And they gave us branch callings today, too. Melba is an unofficial member of the Primary Presidency (there were no openings) charged with getting the Primary to run properly. The Primary President often does not come. We think they are just not sure what they should be doing. I am the 1st (and only) Counselor in the Elders Presidency and have the same assignment - teach them what a quorum is and how it should function.

We also spoke in Sacrament Service today at the branch. We spoke of Christmas and families and the branch members really seemed to enjoy what we said. Mom did 1/2 of hers in Mongolian. The Branch President (one of those recently returned unmarried misisonary we've written about) was our interpreter for the rest. The missionaries all felt that he is easily the best at getting it right. It still is really challenging to not know the language. There is so much more we feel we could do to help them if we did.

We also came across this little ice skating rink during yesterday's shopping trip. The 'rink' is simply an area in the middle of town which is fenced off to keep the cars from driving on it! There is no special ice forming mechanism, just the ice that nature provides. But the people were having a lot of fun with it! But why would anyone want to find the coldest place in town to go frolicking in! Brrrrrrrrrrr!

And we thought we had better show you one of the nicer stores which they do have in Ulannbaatar. This is the State Department Store. Unlike what we have shown you in the past, this is a 'real store', several stories high, all run and operated by one owner -- no individual little shops as is so common here. They even have a curtained off room to try clothes on! This one is very much like the stores in the US. There are a couple of these kind of stores around but the majority remain the co-op type stores.
And they do have everything here; grocery section, restuarant, clothing, appliances, jewelry (obviously), art, electronics, etc. But it also tends to be a bit higher priced than the local version of the 'mom and pop' stores we have shown you.

Just thought you ought to know 'the whole story.' Things are not as bleak as we might have led you to believe! But we really liked the simpathy the previous pictures tended to generate!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Thought you might like to see a couple of more shots of where we live.

The first is of the stairway
up which we must climb to get to our third floor apartmant. Yup! Three flights of stairs everytime we come and go! And look at those colors! But don't get excited. That's just painted cement! Let's see, then there is another flight to get to our office at the Church building. Then we climb four flights up to get to various offices above us. There is an elevator, but we generally choose to take the stairs. And there's always the forty or fifty foot rise up the little hill before we reach our apartment from the street! We are in pretty good shape!

The second is of the door through which we enter our apartment building. I don't think we have ever mentioned that right at the foot of the stairs, is a tiny little space right under that first flight of stairs, where a caretaker type person lives. You know, just like the space Harry Potter is given to be in for the first Harry Potter movie. That caretaker cleans the stairway, removes the garbage we put out in the hall, and sweeps away the snow out front. For that, she gets this 'nice' little place to stay and $50 per month!

And the third picture is of the Chenggis Hotel, across the street from our apartment complex. Our apartment building is actually in the second row back from the street. Makes for a quieter experience!

We just finished our 2nd Career Workshop today. We had nine attendees again -- seven members and two non-members. These really seem to be helpful to those who attend. We focus on helping them realize they have good skills to offer an employer, identifying what those skills are and how to have a good interview with a prospective employer.

We also help young men and women apply for college, usually at the Church College of Hawaii. I have been helping one young man named Tuguldur - not a member of our Church. As I would help him, I had the opportunity to explain some of our beliefs to him. I wasn't sure of his reaction, but was glad to share, just the same. But somehow, he seems to have taken a liking to me as I helped him fill out his paperwork and get the needed interviews. At least, that is what the missionaries now tell me. Yup! He's started taking the lessons! We'll let you know what happens.

Things seem to be settling down a bit today. We continue to make some significant modifications in our office area which should make thing much more efficient AND allow us to help job seekers better. And I am trying to learn to just be happy with what I can do and not feel overwhelmed with what I can see really needs to be done.

And we are seeing more and more Christmas decorations around now. The Chenggis Hotel has quite a few things up both inside and out. We'll take more pictures and show you.

One last thing. We are really feelin' good tonight! The American Store (that's it's name) got a new shipment from the states in the past couple of days (they only get them once every few months). Today, we were able to buy Cheerios, Chex Mix, Western Family Bran Flakes, Raspberry Jam, Boysenberry Pancake Syrup . . . and Pace Salsa! I never knew salsa could taste so good!

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Night at the Theater

Some how, we managed a night at the theater here in Mongolia. Actually, we made these arrangements with a local member of the Church -- a good brother named Galsa-- before everything went so crazy (we have become VERY busy this past week)!

It was a fascinating evening, as you might expect. And, as you can see, it was a very colorful evening! This is a play about a very wise man, the wisest man in Mongolia. He fears his father has died and is quite sad. But soon his father is found and he is very happy. His father wants to be taught by his very wise son, who is very hesitant, insisting that he is not one to teach his father.

But soon, the son is teaching not only his father but also the people of the land. The poor ones listen as he tells them not to drink, not to smoke and to take care of their families (no this was not a Church production!). But the rich laugh and make fun of him. We think (not understanding the language even though we had a translator) that the wise man ended up teaching only the poor -- the only ones who would listen. Sound familiar?

The play was made a bit more memorable due to the special celebration it happened to be. The theater is celebrating it's 200th birthday! So, that theater is almost as old as our country!

You'll have to excuse the quality of the pictures. We didn't have our own camera with us (didn't leave from our apartment and didn't think to take it when we left this morning), which we think would have taken better pictures.

It was an enjoyable night, even though we were way too tired!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A short post to my friends at Osborn's. I have tried to send a couple of emails. They apparently aren't getting through. Could someone check with Randy and see why. I suspect it has something to do with coming in from Mongolia. I'd like to send an email direct rather than through the blog.


This was a very full 'Preparation Day', so called. Not much 'preparation' but a full day, none-the-less.

First, we conducted our first Michigan English Language Proficiency Exam. It went well, for the most part. However, we have only 26 tests on hand but had about 40 students show up. So we had the 26 who pre-registered remain and told the rest they would have to take it another day! Not what we would have wanted.

The rest of the day we spent with our Area Supervisor and his wife (Elder and Sister Gibbons) and some of the other senior couples. The highlight was a trip during the afternoon, to a new statue of Chengis Khan, located about 65 kilometers from Ulaanbaatar. It is actually going to be an impressive complex when finished. The statue itself is pretty much complete.

And what a statue it is! This thing is enormous (see picture)! As tall as a ten story building! You can see the rather small looking vehicles out front of the building. People can actually go inside the statue, up some stairs and out on the neck and head of his horse (see next picture) You will notice that Sister Caldwell actually went out there! I don't know which is more impressive -- the statue or mom going out there on it's head!

It's made of stainless steel -- about 210 tons of it! That's nearly half a million pounds!

They will be adding a beautiful area around the statue which will include gardens, several ger groupings where people can rent a 'room' to stay in, an entry way (right now we just cut across the field in our SUV and made our way to the statue anyway we could), and other things. There is a nice restuarant in the building (see picture) and also some nice conference facilities in the basement.

Oh, by the way. I did the driving!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Meeting's Over (See previous post)!

Just had to quickly post our new Christmas decorations! Obviously we received the recently sent Christmas package from our children! Notice the tree, nativity and Poinsetia spray in the hanging stocking (stocking courtesy of Marcia). Thanks a bunch! It just might actually start feeling a bit like Christmas around here!

But you can forget the previous post about the cold temps. It's late evening now and we're already colder than last night (see the new temperature gauge in the header above)! Ouch! It ought to be really fun tomorrow as we pick up our area supervisor at the airport in the morning!

Someone tell Amy she needs to check her email this morning. It is important.

By the way, Happy Birthday, Julie! December 4th ends here in just a little bit but it's just getting a good start there! Hope you have a really great one!

Love you all!

Mom and Dad


Just in case you missed it, winter has arrived in full splendor here in Mongolia! The HIGH temperature for today, was a balmy 13 degress Fahrenheit. . . . . BELOW zero! And as if that isn't bad enough, we've had a 7-8 mile per hour wind along with it! Wind chill -- a minus 35 degrees or so! Trust me, if you haven't 'been there', you have no idea what that can do to a person. Just walking the couple of blocks from our apartment to the office can be a real challenge. We wear coats, hats, boots, gloves, ear muffs and then wrap scarfs around our faces. Sister Caldwell's glasses quickly become fogged and then completely frozen and covered in ice! She can't see a thing and I have to lead her the rest of the way to the office.

And they keep telling us that the temperature will drop another 20 degrees or so before this is over!

Item #2: We got a package from home today! Yiiiipppppeeeee! Haven't had a chance to get home to open it, yet. Will have to wait until after my first District Council Meeting (see entry below) --- which begins right now! Oppps!

Item #3: By the way, I was just asked to serve on the District Council (the mission field version of the Stake Council). So I am once again a Stake/District High Councilor! We won't talk about how the call was extended. Let's just say it was a bit more informal than we would be used to in the States!

TIM (This is Mongolia)!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Our Office and Poland

Here's some pictures of where we work. Our office is small (but we are accustomed to that!) but nice. The gal sitting at the computer is our Assistant/Translator Miigaa. She is really great! We feel fortunate to have her to help us. The gentlemen is one of the young men who we are helping with the Michigan English Language test and who is applying to the Church college in Hawaii. They have to pass the English test before they will be accepted to any of the Church's Universities or Colleges.

The next picture is of the hallway/room just outside the office door. If you look carefully behind that pillar, you can see the doorway we come through to get to the office and the big meeting room outside the office. So if we get feeling cramped, we just go out there. That is also where we hold many of our classes.

The girl you can just see sitting at the desk is someone looking for a job. We keep job postings available in this room and people come, check out the listings and then use a phone we also provide, to make calls inquiring about those jobs. There were about 20 or so people who came in during the day today.

Just outside the above referred to door (the behind the pillar), is this area. We come down a wide staircase which is just to around the corner to the far right in the picute. Lots of young people come and play ping pong during the day here. I've thought about playing a bit, but these guys would make me look pretty pathetic!
The final picture is another view of that big room that is just outside our office door. People come in and browse through the job listings at these tables and then wait their turn to use the phone.

We also use the tables for classes and instruction, as already mentioned. And, of course, the room is used for Sunday School classes on Sunday and/or whatever else we happen to need it for. Immediately to my back as I was taking the picture is a kitchen where we can prepare food. We will be holding a senior missionary potluck dinner there this Saturday night as we entertain the Area Employment Specialist and his wife who are coming in from Hong Kong. He will be here for five days and mom and I are in charge of his itinerary while he is here.

Yesterday (Monday our time), the President of Poland came to visit for a couple of days. We have already mentioned that we live across the street from the Chengis Khan Hotel (by the way, we pronounce that Genkis Khan but the correct pronounciation is Chengis Han) which is the nicest place in town. And, of course, that is where the Polish President stayed.

So all day yesteday and all day today, the street (all the way down to our office) was lined with uniformed police and there were police cars everywhere! And they would sometimes close the street entirely to automobile traffic. I came out of the office and was walking down the sidewalk at one point when I noticed I seemed to be the only one on that side of the street. It wasn't long until a somewhat excited officer let me know I had to be on the other side of the street -- immediately!

This evening (Tuesday our time) our visitor seems to be gone and everything is back to normal.

Friday, November 28, 2008

It was great to get your comments about 'Black Friday'. How quickly we forget! We are told they do some celebrating of Christmas around here, but so far we have seen nothing to indicate Christmas is close at all. Except we are getting daily visits from "salesmen" coming around to peddle their wares. They see American's as easy targets. But since our 'home' is bare of decorations (Christmas or otherwise) we are buying a Mongolian nativity. We'll have to send you some pictures when it arrives. Then we will have an American one, an Australian one and a Mongolian one! I wonder if they have a Nauvoo one?!

We are also going to attend a Mongolian production with their traditional dance and music. It was to be last night, but they have moved it to December 8th. That's just the way they do things here. They have a saying around here--T-I-M (This Is Mongolia). You would think a big production like this would have to go on as scheduled, but they decided to add a few dance numbers so they had to make more costumes--so the logical thing to do was to postpone it for a week! But, when we do attend, it will seem like a holiday celebration to us.

That change actually turned out good for us. Our Area supervisor is coming next week from Hong Kong, and now we will have some entertainment for him. We haven't been here long enough to know of anything else to take him to.

The power went out in about 1/2 of the apartments last night for mostg of the evening. Fortunately ours was not one of them, so a couple of the seniors came over here for the evening. It was fun. We have some really great senior couples here. This couple is going home in April and we will really miss them.

We look forward to talking to everyone this weekend. Maybe you can get us into the holiday spirit. But please, no stories about 5:00 a.m. shopping! You have heard what shopping in UB is like--nothing you would get up early in the morning for (especially when the temperatures are below zero and you have to walk to the store)!

Love to everyone,

Elder and Sister Caldwell
Mom: Well, looks like everyone made it through Thanksgiving. I thought of a lot of things I am thankful for that I thought I would share with you. I'm thankful for hot water in the morning, I'm thankful for my dishwasher (not Dad), I'm thankful for a lawn, and real landscaping. I'm thankful for traffic signs and people that actually obey them. I'm thankful for the FDA and packaged meat. I'm thankful for packaging directions in English.

All joking aside, I'm really thankful for my family and I miss you all a lot. I am thankful for the good friends we have made here and that we have the opportunity to look out for each other. I'm thankful for the strong testimonies of these very young Mongolians. I'm grateful everytime I hear one of them pray. They are so reverent. I love you all.

Dad: I bought a new suit today. I new I would need a second one all along, but waited 'til we got here to buy it. Finally came time, seein' how's the old one is gettin' in bad need of a good cleaning! The suit cost us about $65 American; it's grey and mom thinks it looks pretty good on me. Now, here's the rest of the story. I bought it in one of those stores I have mentioned before. Just a bunch of individual merchants with a booth like arrangement of about 20 feet or so each. I found the suit and, of course, needed to try it on.

However . . . . . . . . . . . . . no dressing rooms in that kind of a deal! Each booth has a counter type arrangement in the front part of the booth, stacked about chest high with goods. Then each has the expected side and back walls, all covered with hanging and/or shelved goods. So, they had me step behind the counter, the owner stepped out front and I tried the pants on! Being a bit sheepish, I noticed a full lenght mirror on wheels against the wall beside me and sort of moved that out by the walkthrough space in the counter, to give me just a little bit more privacy.Then I proceeded to . . . . . . well, you know . . . . . . . take my pants off! No one could see below my waist, but no one walking by or around us would have any doubt what I was doing either!

This experience continues to be filled with new and exciting things to write home about!

We also purchased a set of sheets today. Not too exciting. But . . . . .The beds here are box springs only, for the most part. No mattress. So you purchase a one or two inch foam pad to go on top of it. Not us! We purchased four inch pads to get the softness we are accustomed to. Didn't think much of it nor tumble to the problem it might create with sheets. It seems the sheets here are made to accomodate the thinner pads. The bottom sheet is really a sack with a zipper in it. But the zipper only goes about half way across the sack. It is apparently expected that you fold the thin pad in half and insert it through the zippered opening. Ever tried to fold a four inch foam pad and insert it in a small sack opening? I'll tell you about it sometime!

This is a picture of the Church building where our office is. We are in the basement. It's actually quite a nice building - one of the nicest around, in fact. We'll take some pictures of the inside and post them, but probably not until next week (it is late Friday night here right now).

We love you all and think of you often. Thanks for all of the support. It means alot to us way over here!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

As you can see, we seem to be back online and doing fine.

Today, we feed about 115 missionaries a Thanksgiving Dinner! And if we do say so ourselves, it really was a good dinner! Actually more tasty than it will likely sound. We had chunks of chicken (turkey is about $15-20.00 per pound here!) in a chicken gravy, over potatoes, stuffing, cooked vegetables, fruit salad, coleslaw, rolls, fresh vegetables and desert (see pics). And we managed to get every one of those missionaires full to the gills! It was a really successful get together but it sure was alot of work. By the time we were finished, we were exhausted! But we didn't mind! These missionaries are terrific and we were happy to do this for them!

We even managed to share with a few hungry people we noticed on the street, as well.

The desert was a make it yourself turkey constructed from cookies, marshmellow, candy sprinkles, pretzels and a couple of other candies. The missionaries had a good time with that! Some of them were pretty creative with their efforts. Some just put something together but then couldn't wait to eat them! But, as you can see, they were pretty proud of their creations!

About half or so of the missionaries serving here are native Mongolians. And some of them do not speak much English. Most have an American companion, so one is trying to learn English while the other is trying to learn Mongolian!

Also, as you look at the first picture, you are actually seeing the Chapel here in the Bayanzurkh building. The buildings here are not full sized chapels and the rooms must serve as multi-purpose facilities. They do not have benches in the chapel, and we sit on chairs only. And, yes, they do get a bit uncomfortable after a three hour block of meetings! So we just remove the chairs and now we have a cultural hall!

The final pictures we've included are of the 'master bedroom' of our little apartment (not all that bad really!) and the front of our apartment building. Just in case you are interested.

Monday, November 24, 2008


No pictures today. They are at our home on the laptop, but we were having problems connecting this morning. Instead you just get an update.

One thing we didn't mention about our little trip out to Noliahk was the road! You have heard us talk about the traffic here. Well, long distance traveling is also an experience. People travel at the speed of light and there are no lights out there. Fortunately we were traveling in the daytime, but we will be traveling at night for family home evening with the young adults (which, by the way, are incredible). Dogs run across the road, there are big holes or "speed bumps", we even got stopped by a herd of Yaks! Yes, you read that correctly. Where is the camera when you really need it? Apparently it is common enough that we should see it again.

This morning we came out of our apartment to find a little lady sweeping the roads and sidewalks. They really do try to keep things tidy here. Someone is out there every day picking up trash and raking the weeds to get trash cleaned up. It's kind of funny, because they don't do landscaping. They have trees and fenced off areas, but no landscaping. President Anderson told us he would like us to help advise (I'm sure it will go beyond that) on the landscaping here. They just put it in last year and would like it to stay attractive. Maybe I'll get to help--that would make me almost as happy as making cookies!

Things are really coming together now. We will be doing our first workshop Thursday--yes Thanksgiving day. I can't imagine a country that doesn't celebrate American Thanksgiving! We are actually having our "feast" here tomorrow(Wednesday). It is Mongolian Independence Day. Instead of turkey we are having shredded chicken! But we are having dressing, homemade rolls (compliments of the Caldwell's), and pumpkin cake (no one has enough pie pans to cook pies for 120 people). The senior sisters are making all the food for all the missionaries. It should be a real eye opener. I haven't seen a missionary eat for a long time and these guys are really hungry. They have a traditional food here called buuz and on Christmas they will get invited to as many as 9 dinners in one day. They have a contest to see who can eat the most. The record is 100! I can't even imagine!

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Elder and Sister Caldwell

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Well, we unexpectedly visited the branch we are assigned to for the first time today. It is in a town called Nolaikh about 35 to 40 km east of here. The 2nd Counselor in the mission presidency decided to visit there and then heard that we were trying to find a way there. So he called and said, "I'll be there in 5 minutes to pick you up!" Good thing we were ready to go!

It seems to be a really good branch and we enjoyed our visit there. There are about 200 to 250 total members but attendance has not been good. The Church first started in a community on the outskirts of Nolaikh but things were very new and there was some sort of difficulty with the membership there. They are all inactive now.

Attendance up until a month or two ago has been around 40 or so. But there has been a concerted effort to reach the inactives as well as teach new contacts and attendance has more than doubled. There were 84 in attendance today. Here is the amazing part. In our Stake in Magna, Utah, we have one set of missionaries. In this little branch Nolaikh, there are four sets -- eight total missionaries! And they are very busy with inactives and investigators!

We'll share more as we learn about them. It is still going to be a bit tricky to arrange transportation there as much as we would like to be there. It is a bit more complicated as a result of the previous couple who were assigned there. They were CES missionaries and had a CES car assigned just to them. They were at the Nolaikh branch more days than not! We will not be able to keep up that visiting schedule, but judging from their comments, the branch is sort of expecting/hoping that we will.

We have also included a couple of fun pics with this post. One is a wide shot of Sukhbaatar Square (the well known area of Ulaanbaatar -- sort of their tourist equivalent of Temple Square). The other is of me in another hat I've got my eye on. Which one of the two do you like best? (see prior post for a pic of the first hat).
One more thing. Among the many things we have come to notice and appreciate in the Mongolian people is their dress. They seem to be very nicely dressed no matter where we go. It is extremely rare for us to see anything that even approaches the sloppy style which we see so much of in the US. It is rather refreshing and nice.

Friday, November 21, 2008

They are really putting us to work now! We have scheduled approximately 10 classes to teach in the next little while! English, Career Workshop, Starting a Business, Computer Use, Michigan Language Test, Test Preparation -- well, you get the picture! I resurrected a small computer lab and we are trying to get it put to use. There seems to be alot of excitement and interest concerning the classes we are scheduling. We hope they all work out!

We are also posting some new pictures. Thought you might like to see the living room of our apartment. Kind of drab, but it is one of the bigger living areas among senior apartments. We hope to spruce it up a bit before we are through.

The other picutes are of one of the markets they like to use around here. If you look carefully, you will see small sections of the building, each with their own proprietor (so to speak). The counter you are seeing is home to about 3 or maybe four business, each having 10 or 15 feet along the display your looking at. This is how many people make a living here. Very small businesses that would never support anyone in the States but which do provide a meager living here in Mongolia.

Note the meat section. No one knows how long the meat sits there on the counter before it is purchased. You just tell them what you want and they start slicing off of the larger pieces. Note particularly the tasty looking pigs heads! Yum!

The owners tend to be very honest. Some missionaries just hold their money out and the owner takes what is needed to make payment! Personally, I prefer counting it out! It's been interesting to become familiar with their currency. They have no coin; bills only. They have bills for 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, etc. It is really a fascinating environment we find here!