Sunday, January 27, 2013

Recovery – slow but sure.

Lots of beauty to be discovered in Mongolia

I’m better – mostly. This week involved a couple of trips to the hospital where I saw the Dr. that was treating me. On Thursday she gave me a clean bill of health, told me to continue my medications for 5 more days and no more return visits. Yeah! 

I don’t feel like I have all my energy back and not all my appetite. People are complimenting me on my weight loss and how I look - one small benefit from a miserable three weeks. 

Darlene was released from the hospital on Monday and has been basically housebound since then. She started a new medication on Tuesday and her health is improving rapidly. She is weak and doesn’t have all her strength back, not her appetite as well. I’m afraid she will have another week at least of recovery before she resumes some of her duties.  

We’ve had some caring gestures of concern and support from members and fellow senior couples. We are getting by OK but our Mongolian and a few other projects have slipped off the front burner.

It’s been a slow week but things started picking up for me about mid-week and now I am up to my eyeballs in responsibilities – plus taking care of Darlene – shopping, cleaning, cooking. 

English again. We cancelled our second week of English classes this week. This week I will teach solo beginning on Tuesday. Darlene and I will confer on lesson plans for the three days of classes this week.
Camel riding last summer
Senior trip. Each year the senior couples have one sight-seeing venture to bond with each other and to see some of the historical, cultural sights of Mongolia. I worked with last year’s tour guide, Jangar, to put together a proposal for this year’s trip. He will projects costs of the tour for each couple and we will submit the proposal to President Clark for his approval. 
Chinggis Khan statue - visited during last year's trip

President Clark ends his mission at the end of June and a new mission president will take over. His first responsibility will be to get to know the missionaries and a ton of other responsibilities. He won’t have time to concern himself with a senior trip and will want the senior couples around to familiarize himself with their duties also. 

Our proposal is for a senior trip in June. That way President Clark can choose to participate if he wants to.  More on this later. 

Marriage seminars. Because of deadlines and the return of my energy and focus, I was able to put together a prospective 10 class series on Marriage Enrichment workshops for members in UB. 
After 46 years - on the poster

We developed posters for each chapel and bulletin board patterned after the “Know Your Religion” series. 
In the beginning - on the publicity poster

I had the help of translators and a talented member who designed the posters. All ten sessions were outlined with their topics and dates. There is a lot of enthusiasm for this project as most the church education programs center around Young Singles and Institute classes.
Our co-presenter - Alimaa

Our first workshop is Feb. 2 and the second is on Feb. 23. The rest are spaced out to run through May up to June 1st. None are scheduled during the 20th Anniversary and reunion week scheduled in April. We will repeat the program this fall with live broadcasts to all chapels in Mongolia. 

Family History work. This coming Sunday will be an all Mongolia fast for Family History work in Mongolia.  We will have a fireside that evening on Family History work that will be broadcast country-wide. The Family History leadership in UB have pulled through and organized the fireside without our help – because of our health problems. They did a terrific job of putting together a great program.

The members are being asked to gather family history information during Tsagaan Car – the National Holiday that begins with the lunar new year. Everyone in the country gets three days off work and one day to rest up afterward in order to make visits to their families, starting with the oldest ones first. 

Tsagaan Car. Mongolians honor age and their parents and grandparents and this is their most important holiday of the year. They start cleaning their houses and making food preparations weeks in advance. Hopefully Darlene and myself will experience a few of these visits ourselves. There are a lot of rituals connected with these visits. That will be for another blog.

Missionary work is impossible during these three days. The missionaries are invited to visit members' homes also. The main days for visiting homes center around the second weekend in February this year. President Clark has scheduled a missionary talent show during one of these days to help the missionaries take their minds off their own families. 

Archery competition
Mongolian missionaries can call home twice a year, just like our American Missionaries do at Christmas and Mother’s Day. The days they call are during Tsagaan Car and Nadaam – the summer holidays that feature Mongolian sports and ceremony – wrestling, archery, and horseracing. These are the days they are most homesick for their families. 
Mongolian wrestling during Nadaam
Three daughters are visiting Mongolia in April! I am joining the 20th year anniversary planning committee tomorrow and will learn a lot more details of all the excitement and special events that are being planned. We are delighted and excited as can be. 
During deel parade during Nadaam


Sunday, January 20, 2013

A screeching halt

Our new home away from home
The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. This was the week I was to resume my duties but as I returned to health, Darlene collapsed. We cancelled our week’s classes and on Thursday morning Darlene was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia.

Outpatient care for me, hospital care for Darlene. I ran a fever, a bad cough and was fatigued and exhausted for two and a half weeks. I was treated as an outpatient. Dr. Stewart had lined me up with an internist at a private Korean-owned hospital. The physicians and staff are all Mongolian.

Chest x-rays and blood work showed that I had pneumonia in both lungs. The targeted medications worked and my symptoms gradually went away.

The hospital was modern and met our US standards of care. Part of Dr. Stewart work in Mongolia is to investigate all health resources and ascertain their quality before making educated referrals. He watches over all the missionaries in Mongolia including the senior couples. Here is a picture of me receiving my diagnosis of pneumonia.

Getting a crash course in radiology
That was on a Monday. By Thursday, Darlene was a mess and came with me for a dual appointment. She was also diagnosed with pneumonia but her exhaustion and level of functioning was to the point where she needed to be hospitalized. 

She needed what the hospital could do for her. It took a while before she began to perk up. She has watched movies, preferred food brought into her instead of the hospital meals, got up and walked, studied Mongolian and has had numerous visitors.

The first member of a senior couple to be hospitalized in Mongolia in recent years
Visitors. People have been very sweet with their food and company. The members and senior couples have bent over backwards to express their concern and bring her food and treats. She’s had jumbalaya, lemon-flavored chicken, cake, chocolates, chips, Asian pears, tuna fish sandwiches, bottles of fruit, and special fruit drinks to supplement the hospital diet. We expect that she will be coming home tomorrow. She will have to take it easy at least for another week.

Everything on hold. We had to postpone our trip to Choibalsan because of these developments and also our dinner with the family of the Chairman of the 3 Telecommunication companies that sponsor us in Mongolia for English teaching. Our classes for this upcoming week are also postponed. We hope to be in full swing by February. What man proposes, God disposes.

Some of our daughters will visit us in Mongolia! We heard some exciting news that two of our daughters are coming to Mongolia on April 12 and will be staying for over a week. A third daughter is contemplating making the trip. Tawny served her mission here and will be attending the 20th anniversary reunion of missionary work in Mongolia.

Tawny and her husband Brian visited Mongolia in 2007

There are a lot of exciting plans as missionaries and Mission Presidents from different eras will be coming to celebrate and revisit their mission field. I will be attending the planning committee that is putting the reunion together.

Shopping for specialty foods.  I did some major shopping (from a list) with the other senior couples on Friday. We started out by going to the Mongolian version of Costco. It was great! By now, we’ve learned to pay top dollar for some products you’ll never see otherwise.

We are frugal for the most part and know how to shop for bargains at the local markets. However, we learned the hard way that if you really want a particular item and you see it, you buy it - because you may not see it again for a long, long time. It was a fun time for me without “adult” supervision.

Meals out, meals brought to me.  On Friday night I was invited to go with Dr. Stewart and his wife and the new couple, the Englands from Oakley, Utah. They will be the new employment and Perpetual Education Fund couple for Mongolia. He was a former adoption attorney along the Wasatch front in Utah. A Mongolian translator for the Doctor, Eggy, came along.   

We went to the City Nomads restaurant, a top of the line restaurant that features Mongolian dishes and entertainment for the tourists in the summer. 

The Englands, the Stewarts and myself - Eggy took the picture
The more intrepid of us (I do not include me in that category) ordered horsemeat and sheep’s head. I include a picture for your enjoyment and amazement. I sampled every dish and I was satisfied with what I ordered, Thai goulash. Darlene was glad she wasn’t along.
Sheep's head served in a skull - don't look too closely or you'll get indigestion
Some sweet sisters from the church brought me a meal on Saturday after first bringing food to Darlene. It was tasty. The Gardners invited me along with the Englands for a Sunday evening meal. The Gardners live one floor above us. Nothing too exotic except the dessert was Russian Chocolate Ice Cream. It was exquisite.

Finally I go to church. I attended church on Sunday at Sukhbaatar Branch. I missed being there. The members are so warm and loving. They asked about my health and expressed concern for Sister Farmer.

This boy gave the sweetest, heartfelt prayer - he is rambunctious, loud but spiritual - kind of like Mongolia
The primary put on the program with a 9 year old boy pictured above giving the opening prayer in Sacrament meeting and another nine year old girl gave a talk on modesty. These kids are precocious in their spiritual development. 

We also had three outstanding talks on Family History. The members here never cease to amaze me.  

Our special Sukhbaatar members at Branch Christmas party

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Tag team health flip-flop.

No let up from winter
I am in the process of recovery from pneumonia while Darlene seems to have finally succumbed to another variety of pneumonia. Now she is flat on her back and I the one carrying on with our mutual responsibilities.
Summer is coming - herdsman with his horses
The weather has moderated a little. Most days the highs are in the minus teens and, by contrast, seems much better that the negative 20s and 30s we experienced in December. 
Shaman performing among Reindeer people
Teaching the boss. On Thursday, I was well enough to join Darlene is teaching our new executive pupil, Jadambaa. We will teach him a private lesson Tuesdays and Thursday afternoons from 3:30 – 4:30 pm prior to our regular 5:00 pm English classes on those days. We also teach on Wednesdays so not every day is the same.

TelecoMongolia building where we teach three times a week
Jadambaa was an hour late for our meeting this past Thursday. It seems he was in a meeting with the Prime Minister and couldn’t break away sooner. We will be better prepared with our Mongolian dictionaries in case he is ever late again (likely). Jadambaa wants to enroll in a 2 year course in International Relations at George Washington University and his English needs to be on a par with the rest of the elites from around the world who participate.

Parliament building in summer
He has invited us to a Korean dinner at his home on January 21. We assume that both of us will be 100% by then. We will meet his wife and 7 and 3 year old children that night. I will try to have pictures of our new student. 
Parliament building in winter

Byamba, our son’s friend, will be joining our English class next week and be with us 3 days a week for the next three months.

Our new English class
Darlene wore herself out. After class on Thursday, she collapsed and went to bed. She has been down and out ever since.

I went to a Korean Hospital (private) with Dr. Stewart, our mission Dr., and our translator, Mohkjargal on Friday afternoon. I had a chest X-ray and I have double pneumonia in both lungs. Dr. Stewart and the translator helped me negotiate the system, meet with an Internist, pay for the Chest X-ray, medicines and hospital charges. As far as I can tell, the total bill is under $50.00.  I return on Monday for a follow up appointment and some blood work.

It was a good exposure to the medical system and how it works in Mongolia. The Doctors here are underpaid compared to the United States.

Monthly Family History training meeting on Saturday. I worked with the UB Family History leadership to help put on training on Saturday from 11:00 – 3:00 pm. The training went well.
Our January Family History Consultant training meeting
Normally Darlene would have been front and center for all of this but I took her place. It seems likely I will be teaching Jadambaa and the regular English classes by myself this week unless Darlene makes a sudden recovery. We both ran temperatures today and stayed home from church as a result.

Next weekend we are scheduled to fly to Choibalsan. We will see if we can make it or will have postpone our trip for a week. 

We will have visitors! Our fifth daughter, Tawny, will be coming for the 20th Reunion of the anniversary of the Mongolian Mission from April 13 - 21. All former missionaries and Mission Presidents are invited. We will share more about the schedule of this big week in a future blog. It looks quite likely that our our oldest daughter may join her on this trip. 

They will have room in their suitcases coming home for souvenirs. Make your desires known so we will know what to shop for in the meantime. 

Our Ger Nativity
Possible Senior trip this year to the Gobi Desert