Sunday, October 14, 2012

Asian General Conference weekend

English speakers taking in General Conference
General Conference weekend. We were able to take in all the sessions of General Conference in English while the members here are able to watch the Conference after it has been translated into Mongolian. All the Asian countries have conference one week later so they can hear it in their native languages.

On Sunday we had a potluck dinner between Conference sessions with the other Senior couples. Darlene prepared a beef curry main dish. It was like a Thanksgiving dinner. Was the food ever good!
A beautiful table setting in President and Sister Clark's apartment.
The Clarks and the Senior couples between conference sessions
 Conference was wonderful. We appreciated all of the talks, especially Elder Scott’s talk on Family History. We had a couple of missionaries over for leftovers later in the evening, Elder Woodward from Provo and Elder Flint from Payson, UT. They are so full of enthusiasm for the gospel and they loved the beef curry and dessert.
Joseph and Mary fleeing to Egypt with Jesus

Teaching English. Our English class is going well. We have a much better focus in term of lesson plans and goals. We are aiming to improve their job-related English skills will a focused vocabulary with plenty of practice listening and speaking words and phrases they will actually need and use. We are giving the tools they need to speak in the present, past and future tenses. I say we loosely because it is mostly Darlene that is teaching and I am involved in a supportive role. 
We have a new schedule – Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 5 -7 pm. No more Saturday classes!
A church choir begins reheasing for a Christmas program - they love music in Mongolia  
Marriage enrichment workshops. This coming Wednesday I will be teaching a 2 ½ hour class on marriage and family therapy at the University of Mongolia. There will be a lot of prep time as I get ready for this. The teacher, Alimaa, will be in the hospital for a week and she asked me to teach her class for her.

I have been asked by the Mission President to prepare a course on marriage enrichment for members here in Mongolia. This will be a major commitment of my time. I will share the details of what comes next in my next blog.   

Weather. The weather has finally turned cold. It is still mostly bright and sunny but the temperatures have dropped into the 30s and 40s. That in and of itself isn’t so bad but we got a taste of stiff, cold winds that drop the wind chill dramatically and make being outside unpleasant. This is just the beginning.

There is still no winter pollution yet from coal or wood burning fires from the Ger Districts. (These are felt homes fairly well insulated but heated by an indoor stove/fireplace with a chimney to carry the smoke out of the dwelling.
Chapel, Church offices and Mission Home in Ulaanbaatar.
Sister Farmer is standing by the entrance. This week we will get a new office on the fourth floor.
Living in a Ger. I would say about 1/3 of the city of 1,200,000 live in these homes – on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar. The vast majority of the others live in apartment houses. Living in an apartment is a major step up in lifestyle for Mongolians. There are very few private homes or at least we haven’t seen them.

There a lot of nostalgia and romance in the culture for the nomad and nomadic way of life. But the reality of living in a Ger is hard, especially for young and aspiring middle class families. No privacy – a one room dwelling – or sometimes two rooms if you count an outside kitchen.
A gray building on a gray day in October
The worst of it is no indoor plumbing. The bathroom facilities are outside and are difficult, to say the least, in the winter. The families who live in the countryside who make their living by herding animals are used to this and accept it – but it doesn’t make it easy.

Traffic. The traffic moves better since they restricted the cars that can drive in the City by the license plate numbers. But it is still a nightmare. Just less of a nightmare. When we walk to our English class (about a half hour walk), we would often beat the cars and buses driving along side of us to our destination.
Sunday afternoon traffic in front of the Chinggis Khan Hotel
It seems like there is a huge number of new apartment buildings being built but no visible consideration for parking or the additional vehicles that will be coming into the City.
Apartment buidling and school being built not far from our apartment building. They work on these building day and night. We especially notice the night part. Do you see any new parking?
The standard of living here is rising so more and more families have cars. What is lacking is planning for the traffic volume and additional parking that will be needed.
This is like L.A., Phoenix or Honolulu-type congestion without freeways to offer any relief. I have a great appreciation for the patience and skill of the drivers here as they negotiate in tight spaces and seem to avoid accidents by inches.
Children playing by the Selbe River
Driving here is not for the faint of heart. I am trying to avoid getting a driver’s license and driving if I can possibly do it.
Darlene's great, great grandfather who as a Mission President in Denmark brought many new converts to America
Family History. We are looking forward to the Harringtons’ visit to Mongolia (Family History Missionaries assigned to Hong Kong and a liaison for us with the Area Presidency) at the end of this week. We will travel to Darkhan and Erdenet with them and do more training with the Family History Consultants and Priesthood leaders. We will have one day where we show them the sights of UB.
Recent emigrants to Mongolia

We also have submitted an application for a Family History Center in the Choibalsan Branch and will be training there once the Center is approved and a computer and printer are purchased and shipped.
Choibalsan was named after an iron-fisted Mongolian Dictator in the 1930s who lead a Stalinist purge on intellectuals, Buddhist monasteries and descendants of Chinggis Khan. Over 30,000 people were murdered. Choibalsan protected the independence of Mongolia from China and cushioned Mongolia somewhat from Russia. The city in the far eastern part of Mongolia still bears his name. There is no great affection for the Russians but there is obvious disdain and animosity toward China. Notice the hammer and sickle emblem on the monument. The politics of Mongolia center around the Communist party and the Democrats. The Democracy party won the last big election in Mongolia on July 1st.  
Our meeting with Ulziibaatar, Director of the National Archives, has been postponed until early November. We are hopeful but patient as we anticipate being able to negotiate a successful records digitizing project here in Mongolia.
Hopefully Mongolian family records will soon be accessible online and at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City

A non-alcoholic toast to those who have gone before and gave us our heritage

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