Monday, October 1, 2012

Our trip to Darkhan

A monument to miners outside of Darkhan
Darkhan is Mongolia's 3rd largest city of about 80,000 located 225 km straight north of UB. It is on the 49th parallel, the same latitude as the US/Canadian border.  Actually there are two cities sitting side by side, Old Darkhan and New Darkhan. The city was built by the Russians in 1961 to exploit the mines and has mostly Soviet style architecture.
Mongolian language. This week started off with Darlene and I speaking in two local Ulaanbaatar church meetings on Sunday. Darlene prepared part of her talk in Mongolian and rehearsed it ahead of time. The reception was positive and she decided to do her whole talk in Mongolian the following week in Darkhan. She had it translated and then rehearsed it some more, getting critiques and encouragement from a translator we hired to help us.

Rosa provided last minute advice at New Darkhan branch

When the priesthood leaders in Darkhan heard that she would be speaking in Mongolian, they laughed. They said that no senior couple had ever done that.  That made her even more determined to do it and a lot of her week was spent practicing some pretty complicated vocabulary and pronunciation.
 Marta-Old Darkhan branch translator

Actually it may be a good way to learn Mongolian as she increased her vocabulary, became familiar with the various Mongolian suffixes and practiced pronunciation.  Then she had to use what she had learned.
The colorful roof tops of Mongolia

Do you wonder where the colorful roofs come from? - We don't anymore.
When she gave her talk the audiences were attentive, smiling and quiet. Later some members said they understood better than 80% of her talk. The thought that she had a gift.  Darlene assured them it was only hard work with a good translator.  
Choice of colors - if you like bright and bold

The translators in Darkhan were also complimentary. It can only get better. She had the English just above the Mongolian dialogue in smaller print and the Mongolian words in dark letters. She learned what she was saying as she was saying it so the flow of the words coming out of her mouth was fairly natural.

Construction in UB on the way to Bus Station

Trip to Darkhan. Our trip to Darkhan had an auspicious beginning. After our Saturday morning English class, we made arrangements for our driver Baatar to take us to the main bus station of west side of Ulaanbaatar. The traffic was horrendous (as usual) and we were close enough to the bus station to walk the rest of the way.

Colorful playground in UB

As we were walking with our luggage and training materials, we discovered that the main bus station had moved and we were not even close.

If your looking for water storage, have we got a deal for you - if you like blue.

Batbold (who had joined Baatar that day for some reason) found someone who would be willing to drive us to Darkhan for not quite double (still reasonable) what the bus ticket would be.

We piled into a private vehicle which became our taxi and made it to Darkhan in 3 hours – much sooner than had we taken the bus. In Mongolia, you never know when plans will change.
Winter is coming - but in the meantime....
The concept maybe....

When we arrived we had enough time to go out to eat at a Mongolian grill – US style except for the length of time in service. Check out the sign. We liked this restaurant.

Now we are cooking!!!

Our training meeting? We had arranged for “hands on” computer training in Family History with the Family History Consultants and Priesthood leaders only and it was announced as such. Despite that announcement, about 25 members showed up. That was OK because there weren’t enough computers and the new computer wasn’t quite operational.
Improvisation time in Darkhan

Darlene and I gave talks and discussion that lasted at least an hour and we spent the next 2 hours answering questions from the group. Finally the meeting ended and still the questions continued. The interest was intense. In Mongolia, you never know….
Chapel in "old" Darkhan

Sunday in Darkhan. After church the next day we attended church meetings in New Darkhan and Old Darkhan and then prepared to hold a second training session at 3:00 pm. Suddenly we lost electricity at about 2:15 pm and faced the dilemma of not having the Internet for our training. We cancelled our meeting and rescheduled it for 6:00 pm with hopes we would have the electricity back on.
Chapel in "new" Darkhan

As luck would have it, about 2:45 pm the electricity came back on and we phoned everyone to come to our meeting. This time we did have all the key players there and we had a 2 ½ hour training session for about 10 members. Everyone was laughing and enjoying themselves though some of the sign in procedures into new.FamilySearch had glitches.
Finally some hands on training

We got 5 new members signed in besides our regular consultants. We were impressed with the quality of the members called to be Consultants. The overall Director for the Family History Centers in the Darkhan District speaks enough English, is computer savvy and showed real leadership.
Onjie lived two years in Rapid City, SD

Coincidentally she had spent two years in Rapid City, South Dakota and knew a lot of the same people we knew. We had a wonderful meal waiting for us at the Briggs (a senior couple assigned to Darkhan) that evening.
The Briggs from Springville UT were great hosts in Darkhan

A coincidence. The next morning we caught a meeker (a minibus with 10 passengers – sometimes more) to Ulaanbaatar. A Mongolian Army top sergeant took an interest in us. He was self-taught in English while serving as an observer in Sierra Leon. He had also spent a year in Afghanistan.
Tyler with Mongolian commander on left

We showed him a picture of our son Tyler with the Mongolian troops in Kabul. He was amazed. He couldn’t believe it. He recognized several soldiers in the photo, especially his commander. We learned Mongolian and he learned English in our 3 hour trip back to the capital. He was going to UB to serve as a boxing judge and also going for throat singing lessons at the National Song and Dance Cultural Center. He took our phone number and wants to follow up with us while he is UB.
Listening and helping during a English conversation time

English, English and more English. Our Wednesday night English class grew from 27 to about 35 students. It was a high energy and fun class to teach.
English class at the church on Wednesday nights
Our other English classes at TelecoMongolia have settled into a routine of the same 13 students coming every time.
Our class at TelecoMongolia
Before that we kept on adding new students and watched other students drop out. As a result we had a couple of classes that were rough around the edges. This is also a fun class but it takes a lot of planning and preparation.
Cow greeting us after our training session in Darkhan  

A great country, great people, a great Mission!


  1. We happened upon your blog while we were searching for some other things, but I truly enjoyed learning a bit about your mission. We are presently serving in Honduras. Isn't the work great! May the Lord continue to be with you and bless you and your family while you are about this service. Wayne and LaRae John

  2. Nice to hear about your trip and training in Darkhan. Great job on your talk mom! It gets easier, little by little. Glad you are meeting such wonderful people and finding interesting connections. Enjoy the fall!