Monday, April 8, 2013

This week has its ups and one big down

Is it real or is it a carpet?
The almost perfect trip to Erdenet.  We traveled by a big bus (40 passengers) to Erdenet on Friday. We got the last two seats available on the bus about 5 minutes before it was to leave.
It was a quick five hour trip going and a long six hour ordeal returning. The countryside looked brown covered with large patches of snow and ice that hadn’t melted off. Mongolia looked a lot better last summer with green grass everywhere.
If you are looking for carpet, you came to the right place

In Erdenet, we had a successful all day Saturday training with members and the Family History consultants. It was satisfying to feel the enthusiasm and dedication members have for this work. The night ended by ourselves, Narantsetseg and our translator, Dege, going out for a delicious meal at Koreatown, a local favorite in Erdenet. 
Chinggis Khan and the flags
Sandwiched in between the end of our training and dinner was a quick trip to the Erdenet Carpet factory and showroom. This is one of the ten biggest companies in Mongolia. They export woolen carpets and products around the world. We made a quick decision to buy a carpet and take it back to our apartment in Ulaanbaatar.
Chinggis Khan on his throne

We attended the two branches of the church in Erdenet and spoke (Darlene in Mongolian) in both testimony meetings. The members were warm and welcoming to us. About 60 members attended each branch on Sunday.

Is there any thing else in stock?
 A rude ending and a definite downer to our weekend. On the trip home, a 10 mile stretch of road had iced over and trucks were off the road and some were blocking traffic. There was a strong wind blowing and the temps. were near freezing. The driver and his associate put on chains and then navigated through this treacherous stretch. It was “icey and dicey” but our driver and his partner proved equal to the task.
Mongolian pattern
In Mongolia, buses are the kings of the road. They pass three or four vehicles at a time when the opportunity looks good and even sometimes when it becomes another driver's problem. 

In Ulaanbaatar as I went to claim our luggage from the lower compartment of the bus, a crowd of taxi drivers soliciting customers, passengers seeking their luggage and as it turned out, thieves, gathered around me and in front of me as the luggage compartments were being opened. I marveled at how aggressive the passengers were in crowding in to get their belongings. The crowd grew bigger and bigger and I felt myself being pushed and shoved by people on all sides of me.

Something a little more traditional

Later when we were finally situated in the taxi we had hired, I reached to feel my camera that had been in my suit coat pocket that was inside another coat. It was gone. A pickpocket had been in the crowd and gotten to me. We commiserated on our taxi ride home.
When we arrived at our apartment, we opened up the computer bag I was carrying and, lo and behold, my computer was gone also. The thieves had zipped open my bag, extracted the computer and had zipped my bag back up – all of this while I was holding the bag by the handle. The second loss wasn’t as easy to assimilate.

A sitting duck. In retrospect, my white hair, my foreign identity, and my formal dress gave me away as a sitting duck. There must have been at least three people in on this racket, pushing at me from all sides distracting me. 

One thief got the camera and the other got the computer - a clever and sophisticated crime. One member described Mongolian thieves as very talented. No kidding!
I spent part of the next day, along with an interpreter reporting this to the police and more interviews are scheduled. Darlene and I comforted ourselves by watching conference (at midnight and 4:00 am) and refocusing our perspective on how insignificant our losses were in the grand scheme of things.

Recently both of us felt inspired recently to back up all our pictures and important writings. With our daughters and daughter-in-law coming next week, they will bring a replacement computer and camera. Also the Richardsons donated their personal computer to us for Family History work prior to their leaving. All our losses were covered before we even experienced the loss or could be covered almost immediately.
What’s missing are the photographs of our FH training and of our Koreatown dinner. I had previously downloaded pictures of our visit to the carpet factory to send to our soon-to-be traveling daughters and daughter-in-law. I had also downloaded a few other pictures during the week.
Missionary and her investigator at the Easter choir performance

In the grand scheme of things, our experience will become a part of cautionary tales and mission lore to be shared with future senior missionaries. Who knows, maybe the police will recruit me to be a part of a future sting operation – I’ve already proven myself to be the perfect candidate.
Down but up. My second trip to the dentist resulted in being fitted for a crown. The final appointment will be next week. Sitting in a dentist’s chair being worked on for more than an hour is a downer but contemplating all the money I am saving by having the work done in Mongolia definitely lifted my spirit. I am just as enthusiastic about the quality of the work that is being done.

Was this before or after the appointment?
Up, up and away. Our English class grew by another 4 students. We are in the mid-20 range for students – bigger than ideal. We like the motivation of the students and helping them learning English. There are rewards to teaching but the work load in terms of lesson planning is demanding.

Sukhbaatar Branch Primary
Our teaching – er – Darlene’s teaching gets better and better with each successive class. My presence is for comic relief and for reinforcing points made by a natural teacher to whom I was lucky enough to marry.
"We are definitely loveable."

Looking up  - Primary at the Sukhbaatar Branch. The primary pianist, who happens to be my wife, made herself useful by taking pictures of the children with her I-Pad. This way she will learn their names. The children were fascinated. I made myself less of a nuisance by trying to take some candid pictures during class.
It looks a little intimidating, maybe I'll just rest a bit
 Looking up by looking back. We are putting a Family History display together for the 20th anniversary of the church in Mongolia for a week from this coming Friday. Members were invited to submit pictures of their ancestors and also pictures from their visits to the temple.
Big family at the temple including a missionary who got permission to go with her family
We had these pictures enlarged and they will be one of the focal points of the open house that will be held. There is a lot more to the 4 hour open house that day but featuring the photographs will create interest.

Newest Mongolian couple married in the Hong Kong temple

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