Saturday, March 30, 2013

A visit to the dentist and our last English class

Mountains in western Mongolia
Goodbye to the Richardsons. We had Elder and Sister Richardson over on Sunday evening prior to their Monday morning departure for home in Utah. They have been a wonderful support to us during our mission and we will miss them. Our driving trip with them to Murun and Lake Hovskul was off the charts and a wonderful memory.

The Richardsons are on our left, the Groesbecks on our right

Today it snowed 2 inches. Big snowstorm for Ulaanbaatar. Who would have thought we would be fascinated by snow in Mongolia? 
View from our front window

A visit to the dentist. One Monday I came down with a toothache and by Tuesday morning after a poor night’s sleep, we made an appointment to an English-speaking dentist the senior couples have been using. She was in the hospital for her own health issues and her partner agreed to see me if I brought a translator.
Ulzicka works next door to us
Ulzicka came with me and helped with finding the office and all the translation work needed. The dentist worked for a solid hour cleaning and preparing my teeth for the work he would need to do to repair the problem. I was completely satisfied with his work and the professionalism involved.

The cost of the visit was $5. Really! I went back on Friday and again he worked for an hour doing a different procedure and the cost was $15. This next week I will have a crown fitted, made and installed for around $180. Similar work in Salt Lake just before our mission cost us $3,400 and the work didn’t last. 

We figure that if we have dental problems in the US after our mission, we could pay for two round trip tickets to Mongolia, have the dental work done here and come out about even.
Some of our students on an average day

English class. We gave our final exam on Wednesday and had our last class on Thursday. On Wednesday, Darlene fell getting out of the van. She bruised her hip, nothing more. The next day about two hours before class she suddenly couldn't walk on her right leg.  

She didn't want her to miss the last day of class. She tried out some crutches and decided to try to walk. She could and she was back to normal in the space of one hour.  

We speculate that when Dr. Stewart moved her leg around during his examination, it loosened a bone chip floating on her knee and the problem disappeared. Ulzicka called it the 18th miracle.

Eight out of the initial 20 finished the class. They were great motivated students. Sometimes their work responsibilities kept them from class but they were there when they could be.
Our first day of class

We had a readers’ theater for our final class which they thoroughly enjoyed. Our approach to conversational English and pronunciation was what they appreciated. Our camera battery was dead so they took pictures with their cell phone cameras. When we get the pictures of our last class from them, we will post them.

The students gave us some lovely traditional Mongolian gifts. Our contribution was chocolate chip cookies, banana bread and drinks for our final send off. They are invited attend our new class on April 16 when our daughters and daughter-in-law will visit the class. We start with a new round of students next Wednesday. We've grown attached to these students and will miss them.

Family History. We are getting ready for a visit to Erdenet next weekend. Darlene trained FH consultants during the week and did some planning for the Family History open house and display during the 20th Anniversary celebration coming up on April 19.
Elder Farmer and Alimaa

Marriage seminar. We held another marriage seminar this Saturday. Attendance has fallen off some but it is still substantial. The couples who attend are delightful, animated and have a great sense of humor. All the feedback we have been getting is positive.
Alimaa is a great help with the translating and as a co-presenter. She is working hard on translating my book into Mongolian. This week’s class focused on anger and anger management after reviewing the basics of communicating and problem-solving.  
Explaining the Khadag
The couples have a homework assignment to discuss how to be a team when it comes to money management, parenting and relating to relatives. All the materials we prepare for class are translated into Mongolian and put on the Internet.
Our marriage seminar attendees

Easter Choir performance. The week ended with a Easter Choir performance on Sunday evening. I took this picture at their rehearsal on Tuesday night. Church members love music and their choir. We had a full chapel and overflow. 

Prior to the concert, Battsey and her mother came to our apartment for a roast beef dinner. 
We had a roast in the crock pot waiting for us
Getting ready for Easter

This was the choir after their Easter performance. They did a fine concert.

Most but not all of the choir

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Saying aloha to dear friends - Mongolian music to our ears

Mongolian music captivates many

Leaving Mongolia for Hawaii, Idaho and Utah
 Aloha. The week started off with a fond farewell for some of our faithful friends and translators. 
Battsey has been a dear friend and valued partner

Battsey and Egge are headed to BYU-Hawaii while a third, Bathand, is moving with her husband to BYU-Idaho. 
We will miss you!!!

The Richardsons are ending their mission at the end of the week. They go home to Huntsville, Utah.

We celebrated with a Hawaiian themed party culminated by a hula ensemble of senior sisters dressed in muumuus. 

Senior sisters hula lessons finally pay off
Sister Wood brought a number of them on her mission for evening wear and had them available for the other sisters. We didn’t think to pack a muumuu for our mission. Who knew?

 A little bit of Hawaii in Mongolia

Sister Wood also came up with the table decorations. Downright clever! The guests of honor said their “thank you’s”, reflected on their leaving Mongolia and what they are leaving behind.

The islands actually had dirt on them
Military day. Monday was military day. It wasn’t a work holiday. There was a musical program at the Wrestling Palace – a block away from the church. I bought two tickets for Darlene and myself and told the Stewarts about it. They bought two tickets.  They were told the seats were relatively close to ours.

The worst seats in the house
The Stewarts (look for white hair) across a roped off aisle from us

We must have been recognized as “stupid foreigners” by our meager Mongolian vocabulary because we were sold the worst seats in the auditorium. The Stewarts' seats were only marginally better and across a barrier from us – relatively close to be sure but you had to walk around the entire arena to get there. We both relocated our seats to what we thought was an unsold section of seats with a reasonable view.

A charming duet
The program was supposed to have started at 7:00 pm. We thought we were home safe in our new seats but the program didn’t start until after 7:30 pm. Only about half the arena was filled by 7:00 pm but by 7:30 it was filling up rapidly. (Is there something about advertised starting times we are missing in Mongolian culture?

Ex-wrestler's second career
The occupants of our seats showed up about 7:40 pm after the show was underway. We found new seats - though not nearly as bad as our original ones.

We enjoyed the program for a long time but our culturally short attentions spans got the best of us
The program consisted of some the best male vocalists in Mongolia with a sprinkling of duets and slapstick comedy. The Mongolians love music and are quite musical – despite the guttural spoken language. The big booming bass and tenor voices filled the auditorium. We were OK for the first two hours of the program – thoroughly enjoyable.

There was a patriotic number that we thought was the final number. Then the “Fat Guy” sang. We thought it was over. Then they had a male vocalist who kept giving encore numbers – he must have sung 6 songs in a row. The end! Wrong!

He sang and sang some more

The program went on and on and on. Nobody was leaving. No intermission. By 10:30 pm we were worn out while the Mongolians remained transfixed by the music. Our silver heads announced that we foreigners obviously didn’t have the stamina or musical appreciation of what was happening. 

As far as we could determine, the program was still going strong at 11:00 pm – since our apartments were in the neighborhood. We had a cultural experience and then some.

Hong Kong temple trip. A group of 20 Mongolian saints were going to the temple from March 22 to March 30. The Gardners and Munkhjargal accompanied the group. We are the next couple slated to go to Hong Kong in September when a new group will attend the temple.  
Getting families ready for the temple
Darlene worked extra hard getting families ready to go with family names. It was a very busy week. Entering Mongolian names on Family Tree isn’t a job for the faint of heart. Darlene depends on Family Search support from the US to help unravel the many snafus that occur. Our Magic Jack phone system was not working for the week but when working it makes it possible to tap into their 24/7 service.

English teaching. We gave a test to the prospective students for our new English class that will start April 2. Thirty employees took the test and we think the cut off will be at 24 to start the class. How many will finish is anybody’s guess. We will finish with our current group on March 27.

Shopping at the Zak. We did some major food shopping this week. On Friday we walked about 2 km. to the outdoor Black Market to buy material for a jacket for Darlene. It started to snow – our first snow storm we saw during daylight hours all winter.

Fabric shopping with an overwhelming selection
By the time we arrived, the venders were protecting their merchandise by packing up and going home. It was impossible to shop under those conditions. It must not snow much in Mongolia because the venders weren’t prepared. Bitter cold doesn’t faze them but snow flakes ground everything to a screeching halt. We found a fabric store on the way home and purchased what we went looking for.

Marriage seminar.  We held our fourth marriage seminar is a series of 8 we will present. We have a group of about 40 -50 people who regularly attend. We have a good time with the couples – even across the language barrier.

Alima and her finance announce their engagement and then let me coach them through an issue between them in front of a crowd. Gutsy!
This week we started off the presentation with the announcement of our co-presenter Alima’s engagement to her fiancĂ© Batbayer. They also served as a demonstration couple for the speaker-listener technique for resolving conflict. It was a lot of fun as they dealt with her habit of making him wait for her and his reaction to it. A lot of couples identified with the issue. Despite the translation obstacles, it worked well with lots of good humor to boot. 

Training the missionaries. Another spin-off from the marriage seminars was that I was asked to teach the missionaries from one of the UB zones conflict resolution techniques they could use between their companionships. On Tuesday I trained half of the zone and on Wednesday the other half. 

I demonstrated the speaker/listener technique with Elder Neuberger and Elder Robbins the first day and Elder Lloyd and Elder Sims the second day. 

My handouts were translated into Mongolian and I had good translators for both meetings. This way the  Mongolian missionaries present and those participating by Skype could benefit from the training. It worked out well.

Research. I am on Alima’s committee for her dissertation research. We worked on her main experimental design early in the afternoon. She will be giving a standardized personality test to three subgroups of Mongolians – those with traditional Mongolian nomadic backgrounds, those who were educated and lived under socialist governmental rule, and those who were educated and grew into adulthood after the advent of democracy.

Adaptive rural nomads enjoy their lifestyle

Mongolia has a sharp governmental transition period which divides the population rather neatly by backgrounds compared to other countries. Politics, economics, and personality are linked in a way that makes this research quite interesting. 

I will be learning about the basic personality types of Mongolians and the implications for interactions with each other and foreigners. This will have ramifications for counseling as well.
Most city dwelling Mongolians are just one or two generations removed from their nomadic roots

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A bit of everything and then some.

A family welcomes their missionary daughter after the completion of her mission

We had a week with a lot of variety to it. We accomplished a lot yet the week had a relaxing and uplifting quality to it. Darlene works hard every day but on Saturdays she works especially hard. She teaches piano and trains Family History Consultants. 
A yard with used cranes for sale on the way to the mental hospital
This Saturday we had an adult session of District Conference at 4:00 pm. Friday feels like a preparation day because our English teaching is finished for the week.

Transfer meeting. Perhaps the transfer meeting on Thursday night was the highlight. Eight new missionaries from Mongolia returned from the Phillipine MTC to join the six American missionaries who arrived on March 4th.   
Mongolia's newest missionaries (front row) and their trainers behind them
We taught the new missionaries how to invite new converts to become involved with Family History after their baptisms.

The Richardsons giving their farewell remarks - the incoming and outgoing missionaries are seated on the stand
They spoke at a packed house fireside program. The departing missionaries also shared their testimonies. Elder and Sister Richardson said their farewells to Mongolia though they still have another week to go. 

Richardsons farewell dinner at Los Bandidos
The transfer and releases of missionaries will be every 12 weeks when the Provo and Phillipine MTC coordinate to send us new missionaries. There will be an internal transfer every 6 weeks.

Elder Woodward goes home in June

By next February this mission will be up to full capacity of foreign missionaries (20 Elders and 10 Sisters). The number of Mongolian missionaries depends on the number of young people called from Mongolia to the Mongolia Ulaanbaatar Mission.

A real head scratcher of a test
English class. We had all 10 students show up for an exam last Wednesday. We have a fun class and will miss them when our class with them ends at the end of March. 
Mongolians are serious test takers
Our next class starts April 2nd. We invited this group to come back on April 16 to meet our 3 daughters and our daughter-in-law who will be visiting Mongolia.  

Dr. Stewart, Elder England, and myself with our hosts
A visit to a mental and addiction recovery hospital.  I was able to go with Elder Stewart, Elder England and Ulzicka (translator) to the main psychiatric and addictions hospital. We were hosted well and given a tour of the facility by an English speaking doctor. 
The history of psychiatry and mental health in Mongolia
Dr. Stewart forms working relationships with the medical community all around UB. I gained an appreciation for what the mental health and addiction professionals are doing here with limited resources.

They have a ger village of 10 gers affiliated with the hospital where mental patients live 5 to a ger under supervision. They implement a halfway house concept where patients are taught survival skills (money management, cooking, shopping, personal hygiene, work habits etc.) to help them reintegrate back in society. We didn’t have time to tour that aspect of their program. 
Art therapy room
We did visit a unit that had art therapy, gardening, a sewing room, a beauty shop, handicrafts, cooking, music therapy, a library and an exercise room. The place was spotless as are all Mongolian hospitals.  
Narantuya's photograph on display
A visit to Narantuya’s family.  Before District Conference today, we visited the home of a member who passed away a week ago.  Her funeral was on Friday and they have had lots of company the past few days. Her name was Narantuya. She died at age 29, leaving a husband, a nine year daughter and a two year old son. 
Sister Stewart and Darlene with Narantuya's almost three year old son, Ekh Achlan. He was playing with an electronic "angry birds" game.

The Branch Relief Society President was doing a needs assessment on what the family might need. She invited the Sister missionaries - Sisters Javzanpagma and Mathews, ourselves, Dr. and Sister Stewart and Elder Wood (our driver) to come along.
Time to go - Sister Javzanpagma is on the left

The family's outdoor rest room
If you want more information and additional pictures about this family, go to 

Ekhjin, Narantuya, Bathuu, and Ekh Achlan taken three weeks ago

The sands of the Gobi desert
It was a touching and meaningful way to spend the Sabbath.