Saturday, July 4, 2009

The 4th of July in Mongolia!

Even over here in Mongolia, we manage to celebrate the 4th! Opened, of course, by a children's parade!

There is quite a contingent of Americans over here between the Embassy, the Church, other religious organizations and business ventures. Years ago, the Embassy started this celebration, but then decided that there could be some complications in having the Embassy itself sponsoring the event, so employees assumed the organization of it with the Embassy's unofficial support.

Most of the folks working at the Embassy live in an apartment complex called Star Apartments -- quite a nice place to live, actually, but also fairly expensive. This is where the celebration is held.

Sister Caldwell and I have been serving on the committee which organized this years event. Sister Caldwell was in charge of children's activities and I helped with the food. We both helped with ticket sales.

The US Ambassador spoke to officially kick of the events. He read a speech apparently written by President Obama for this years holiday. You'll have to look close, but that is a picture of him speaking!

He also officially opened the food lines! That was the best part of his whole visit.

We had a small group of vendors come and offer their wares for sale. The small ger pictured is children's size and is, in fact, an actual ger, constructed exactly like the larger ones but on a much smaller scale.

It was really a fun event and everything went well. There were over 500 people in attendance. We had hot dogs and hamburgers (of course!) along with brauts and four pit cooked pigs! And the senior couples made all of the potato salad for the meal! We'll tell you about that sometime!

There has been some difficulty in handling the crowds in the past. It apparently took over two hours to feed them all last year and the lines to get into the event were quite long. This year, we had no lines at the entrance and, despite having a larger crowd, feed them all in about 35 minutes!

Each American is allowed to bring one Mongolian with them, if they want. And it's a good thing or most of our missionaries would not have been able to attend. Most have Mongolian companions!

We had children's activities, a desert contest, a photo contest and adult
activities. Our missionaries really liked the sack race, the three legged race, the egg race and the rope pull -- among others! These guys really put there all into this! But it seems we were pitted against a group of American Marines stationed here! They came as part of the Marine Corps band (yup, we had the actual band there!) and to do most all of the cooking at the grill! They were great, but they ended up eating a lot of smoke! And our guys did ok against those big bruts!

We cooked the dogs, burgers and brauts on about 12 feet of those half barrel briquette grills. And we are really glad we had a cool weather day!

I ended up running the food lines and supplies the food lines from the grill. I've never run so hard in my life!

Oh yah, there was also the water fight(see pictures below)!

They kind of liked that one too! We put some Elders in charge of 'protecting' the water balloons. Ok, so it was like putting the mice in charge of the cheese! Oh, well! And the fact that the temperatures didn't get above 66, didn't even slow them down!

The people here don't have celebrations quite like this, where we get together and play games and have activities that all can participate in. And it has become a really popular celebration. Half the Mongolians in the city would come, if it were possible and we could let them. But that many people would be impossible to deal with or to really find a place for.

Our party ended at about 4:00 pm. We weren't able to have the traditional fireworks -- too much liability for our little group. However, the city of Ulaanbaatar sort of took care of that for us! Later that evening, there was a display behind the hotel across the street from our apartment. And by 'later' I mean 'LATER'! One o'clock in the morning! We were all fast asleep (were being the operative word here!)!

As you can tell, it was a very successful day. But we went home exhausted!

So, happy Fourth of July to you all! Hope you had as much fun as we did!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

We're really in hot water, now!

Those of you who have followed us here will recall the centralized hot water system we have mentioned before. That is, all of our hot water comes from a central plant several miles away from us. It is amazing that, even during the cold, cold winter months, it manages to reach us still warm. But it does. However, the consistency of the supply is still 'iffy'. Sometimes they seem to either not keep up with demand or a small glitch of some sort leaves us without hot water for short periods, from time to time. So you learn. If there is hot water, that is the time to take a bath or shower! Mostly, it works out ok.

However, during the summer, things become a bit more interesting than usual. We had heard that there would be about a two week period in which there would be no hot water. They, apparently, sort of shut things down for maintenance. Two weeks without hot water! Ouch!

Well, we just finished our two week stint. And now everything is back on and we're doing great, right? Bish (not)! Oh, the hot water is back on, for sure. And it is scalding hot! In fact, it is just like the water in the cold water pipe!

Yup! That's right! The cold water, isn't!! First we had no hot water, now we have no COLD water! Now we have more hot water than we know what to do with! And it's been like that for two days -- so far!

Ever tried to do . . . well, just about anything, with nothing but scalding hot water?! Let us point out a couple of things for you. A shower is out of the question -- unless you want boiled missionary! To take a bath, you run a tub of water and then wait for an hour or two for it to cool down enough to get in!

Oh, and of course this is happening during the hottest part of the year! Remember those exposed pipes that run through the bathroom? Well let's just say we now have a built in sauna in our apartment! And it is doing a nice job of heating the rest of the place, as well!

And picture this if you will: sitting on a toilet full of scalding hot water! (ok, so don't spend too much time with the picturing thing!) Wow! And shaving is a real experience! Run sink full of water; do not touch; wait for 45 minutes; test water; shave; rinse off with . . . oh, wait a minute. You can't rinse off! I mean WIPE off with dry towel!

And, of course, you will remember that we have to filter the water before we can drink it. To help with that, we have a nice three stage water filter installed in the kitchen which we direct water through when we need drinking water. But hot water will destroy the filters and we don't dare use it. Ergo, no drinking water either!

Why are they running hot water through all of the pipes you ask? TIM (this is Mongolia)! If you can figure this one out, please let us know!

And did I mention that we saw a newspaper article yesterday that indicated they were having a bit of trouble with the maintenance issue and that we would likely be repeating this wonderful experience at the end of July?

Stayed tuned for more exciting adventures from half way around the world!

Note to Elder and Sister Lasson: it is too late to change your minds, now. We expect your here on August 1st as scheduled!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Hello Elder and Sister Lasson!

We were excited to see a comment from Elder and Sister Lasson on our last post. They will be joining us here in Mongolia soon! We have heard you were coming and can't wait to meet you! Would love to here from you (see email to the right under our picture).

During last week's Zone Conference, one of the Elders related the following story.

As he and his companion were walking the neighborhood, they met a man named Inkhbat. After speaking with him and telling him a little about the Gospel, they arranged to visit him at his home the next day.

After locating what they thought was his home (let's just say that addresses here are not what we are used to in the States!), they knocked on his door. They did not, however, immediately recognize the man who answered. Not too surprising really. They speak with many people in a day and just could not be certain whether or not this was their contact from the day before.

They introduced themselves and asked if he was Inkhbat. He did not respond, but invited them in. They had a good discussion (while he smoked nearly a whole pack of cigarettes) and arranged for an additional time to continue teaching him the Gospel.

The following day, they noticed him near the Church building and were excited to see him there. They spoke with him and he then told them that he, indeed, was not Inkhbat but that Inkhbat was his brother. They asked him why he had not said anything the day before. He answered that he was afraid they might leave!

He told them that he had been fishing a few days before and, not having much in the way of food, needed very much to catch some fish, but was having no success. He became quite discouraged and depressed but finally began thinking about the concept of a God, wondering if there really was one. He eventually concluded that if there was a God (offering probably the closest thing to a prayer, of sorts, that he would likely know), then he would be able to catch fish.

Within a short time, he indeed began catching more fish than he knew what to do with. And his belief in God changed. When the missionaries knocked on his door, he was ready and wanted to learn.

He joined the Church and quickly became a very strong member and an asset to his branch.

I have wondered how many frustrating experiences I have had which the Lord used (or at least would have used) to prepare me to learn something I needed to know.

I hope that at least sometimes I have managed to listen.