Sunday, July 29, 2012

Finally some church work

Want to fight? You have to go through these guys!
I started off this blog with a picture of our son, Tyler, with his Mongolian compatriots who are guarding the Air Base in Kabul. It was the Mongolians turn to demonstrate their changing of the guard ceremony and to share cultural information with other troops there.

These Mongolian connections with our family are uncanny and more than coincidental.
It has been a regular work week for us with no tourism bonus thrown in. From now on we’ll have to use our Preparation Day (Saturday) to visit great cultural and historical sights.

There are at least ten or more places worth visiting in Ulaanbaatar so that should keep us busy when we get in the sight-seeing mood. I will be interspersing some sights from our recent trips to make the blog more interesting.
College student home for the summer milking a yak
The traffic. The traffic in UB (Ulaanbaatar) is horribly congested and drivers fight for every inch of turf they can to get around the city. On one of our recent errands, we saw a female pedestrian walking calmly toward us on the sidewalk. Behind her was a string of cars trying to use the sidewalk to move ahead in traffic. The pedestrian was or acted oblivious to the cars behind her and didn’t move over. There wasn’t much place to move anyway. The cars eventually gave up and had to butt back into the lane they originally left. We wished we had our camera for that one. It was a classic scene.
The other side looks pretty good but not this side

Most drivers are about this friendly

Crosswalks don't mean a thing. However, we and most drivers and pedestrians honor red lights. We look in all directions on a green light. So another skill we are learning is how to walk across a busy street one lane at a time while the cars next to us are whizzing by.

If one lane stops or is almost stopped, you make eye contact with the driver or motion that you want to walk in front of his or her vehicle. Then you navigate the next lane the same way to the middle. Or when one side of the road doesn’t have any traffic, you go directly to the middle of the road.

Taking the road less travelled - Steve McQueen style with a vintage World War II German motorcycle

The trick is to get to the center of the road and wait for a break in the oncoming traffic in order to get across the rest of the street. If you wait until both sides are clear, it will be a long wait. It is a piece of cake when traffic on both sides of the road has come to a standstill. If there is any opportunity for a car to gather speed, then cars rule. Don’t even think about it!

Going by horse is the Mongolian alternative to fast and furious

Darlene swears that one car saw us and deliberately sped up as we ran across the street . I believe it was to frighten us and he succeeded. Just as the drivers have a keen sense of awareness of playing chicken with each other until the right of way is ceded, drivers and pedestrians have worked out their own code for coexistence.

Milking a mare - the colt nurses a little to trick the mare into cooperating
Family History work. Our mission took shape this week. We are trying to get a records acquisition project for Mongolia off the ground and we may have a break through. It is too early to know for sure but if it is successful, it will be a wonderful blessing for the Church and the members here.

We met with several key people during the week, analyzed past correspondence and made key recommendations to the Mission President on how to move the work forward. We will meet with him tomorrow to get his reaction.  
A nomad pausing for a cigarette break
Young Single Adult Conference. We were asked to participate in a Young Single Adult conference during the 3rd week of August. We will take the train up to Selenge Province by the Russian border and camp for 3-4 days. The focus of the conference is on proactive LDS courtship.

The beginning of the day
Darlene and I will be joint presenters on how to make a relationship grow and blossom. Over 250 young singles from most of Mongolia will be attending. We arranged with our sponsor to change our English teaching schedule to accommodate the dates we will be gone.
And the end of the day

Branch calling. Today, I was called as the first counselor in the Suhkbaatar Branch Presidency. We were both warmly received and our Branch church responsibilities will evolve quickly. We both bore our testimonies and I introduced us to the members in a joint Priesthood/Relief Society meeting. Afterward, our new Branch presidency met for the first time.
Elder Farmer, Pres. Davkharbayar, Bro. Batjargal

The Branch membership clerk, Odgerel, was my translator for the meeting. We brought him love and greetings from this former mission companion from Turkmenistan. They were in the San Jose California mission together. They were practically the only two foreign missionaries at the time so they really bonded. We met him in the Costco parking lot in Orem when our name tags atteracted his attention. Odgerel was pleased.

It is a friendly branch with a number of Russian speakers that warm up to Darlene immediately. Her callings will probably be in the music area. Today we took a taxi to and from church for the first time. It worked out fine, including a free Mongolian lesson from one of the taxi drivers. 

On our way home, we encountered the auto repair zone. There are children in the back seat of the car in the foreground. 
Auto repair shop

Shopping. We had a several shopping forays, most of which were on our own. Darlene clutches me for dear life as we walk as she is so prone to falling. We discovered the Bayanzurgk Market close to us will meet most of our food needs. We bought a pressure cooker and shopped for meat in their open market.
Next on the menu is horsemeat

Darlene is nothing but gutsy and is a world-class shopper in terms of getting value for our money. Mongolia is a challenge and she enjoys a challenge.
Who belongs here - us or you?

Not everything works out however. Our hot water has been shut off for at least two weeks for summer maintenance. We bought a super-duper electronic horse trough warmer to heat our bath water. Otherwise we have to heat about 20 hot water pots (similar to a tea kettle)  for enough  hot water for a normal bath. Very tedious and time consuming! 

Which will it be?

After two long walking trips to the “Home Depot” section of Ulaanbaatar (small shops selling anything and everything pertinent to home repair), we finally had the perfect wire to splice on the cord to make it long enough to reach the bath. Then the first time we used it, we proceeded to break the circuit after four minutes of using our powerful new water heater. Live and learn. 

They know their way home
Terelj as seen from the monastery

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