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.