Friday, July 23, 2010

It's a Small, Small World!

The first couple to arrive in this mission after we did were Elder and Sister Stevens. That was about 16 months ago. We met them in the Church parking lot as they arrived. I took one look at him and asked, "You're from Californian, right?" He said yes. And I said something like, 'Well, there's a guy in Utah that looks a lot like you and his name is Stevens, too!' He said, 'That's Stan, my identical twin brother!' Stan Stevens was one of our neighbors for several years. He and I served in the scouts together.

Then, we learned a few days ago that we have a new couple coming in September -- Elder and Sister Ford. Just out of curiosity, I asked our mission President if he knew Elder Ford's first name. He didn't, but sent me an email a bit later with the details. His full name is Blaine Ford and they are from Layton.

I served with an Elder Blaine Ford some 45 years ago in the Western States Mission. The last I had heard, he lived somewhere just north of Salt Lake. I think Layton qualifies. I emailed this 'new' Elder Ford yesterday just to see if there was any chance he is the same one. He answered a few minutes ago indicating that he is, indeed, the same one with whom I served so many years ago.

Go figure!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Zuun Kharaa

Last fall, we posted a little bit about a place to the north and east of here called Zuun Kharaa. Just as a reminder, here is a recap of some of what we posted.

Many families in Zuun Kharaa live in a typical Mongolian ger on a piece of property a couple of hundred feet or so square. Each is fenced as required by law and many families raise farm animals, gardens, children, etc. all on their little piece of property. However, in some parts of that city (a really pleasant little city, by the way), the only access people had to drinking water (notice the past tense used here) was to dig a relatively shallow and open water well by hand, on their little piece of property. Right next to the animals -- and the outhouse. It doesn't take much imagination to picutre the result.

Fortunately, the Church was able to have four deep water wells drilled last fall. Each would provide a common well of fresh water which the residents could come to and get water from  But it wasn't until this spring that the pumps and well houses could be completed and the water made available. Three of the four wells were dedicated and opened two or three weeks ago. Last week, several of us had the privilege of traveling to Zuun Kharaa to witness the dedication of the fourth one.

That dedication had been scheduled twice before, only to be canceled because of heavy rains. We were scheduled to travel up there last Thursday. Wednesday night, we had another down pour.

It was questionable whether or not we should go this time, too, because of all the rain. But the couple in charge of those things (Elder and Sister Lasson) felt that this really needed to be done. So, we left first thing Thursday morning. It was still raining. A lot. Again!

When we arrived, Zuun Kharaa was a mess. We felt like we were in Venice, Italy! Water everywhere! We began to wonder if we could reach the wells at all. But, we had a Toyota Land Cruiser so on we pushed. But in some places we kept checking the floorboards to see if any water was getting into the car!

Each of the wells had been located on the property of one of those ger families who would also manage the water station. In exchange, they would receive free water and perhaps some income from selling the water to others. Now, don't be too concerned. The 'fee' for the water is a staggering 2 Tugriks per liter (1380 Tugriks equals one U.S. dollar and a liter is just over one quart). That means a five gallon container would cost almost 3 cents! But it is enough to pay the electricity, provide for long term maintenance and allow a small stipend for the operator.

Despite some remaining question about continuing with the well opening, the Lasson's pushed ahead. We soon learned there were reasons why it was felt needful to push on. It seems that the well operater for well #4 had not yet opened the well, believing that the opening ceremonies were necessary, first. That was actually not the case. And, we also learned that the recent rains had completely contaminated the already questionable hand dug wells, leaving many with no real source of water.

Above is a picture of one of those wells.

So, we held a well grand opening ! And we had a good old time! We had candy, bottled drinks and even a ribbon cutting! Oh, and fresh, pure drinking water, too! A good little group gathered round for the festivities and we made some new friends that day! There was even a drawing for some water containers and one cart!

We'll post more about this special little town next time.