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!