Sunday, May 5, 2013

Where did spring go? Someone flipped a switch.

Terelj - a beautiful sight in summer
Where did spring go? Someone flipped a switch in Mongolia. It went from winter to summer in one day. Since about May 1st , the weather has turned warm but not uncomfortably so. No more coats, gloves, scarves and hats!  
Terelj in winter
We will experience two summers (pleasant), two autumns (short but quite pleasant), two winters (long and cold) and one spring (so brief it is hard to describe).

Spring has arrived at a renovated park at Sukhbaatar Square
Green grass is poking up through hard ground. The gardeners are out in earnest. The first mini-skirts of summer have appeared. We even saw some swirling dust replacing the smoke/smog of winter.  Either one or two springs ago, the spring weather (what little there is) had an unusual amount of blowing dust.
The countryside has its appeal
After school finals in mid-June, the “he, she, they are in the countryside ”  season begins. This means Mongolians return to their nomadic roots somewhere outside of Ulaanbaatar for a couple of weeks, a month or two or even the whole summer.
Police-escorted caravan during an International Democracy Conference
Someone who has been a fixture in your life suddenly disappears. How they handle their employment during this time is a bit of a mystery. A fortunate few have summer homes. Mongolians love their rural lifestyle despite all the energy, economic opportunity, jobs and excitement Ulaanbaatar offers. It may be the economic hub and brain of the country but the heart is definitely out in the countryside somewhere.
An all-Mongolia youth conference.  Despite the expense and logistics, the church leaders here have planned an all-Mongolia youth conference for the last week of June. Twenty one handcarts are being built and the youth will be crossing the steppes a la the Mormon handcart companies of the 1850s.
Mongolian steppes are a bit intimidating
The West Stake had a successful youth conference handcart trek a year ago. This year it is being expanded to include the youth from the whole country. I think the plan is to have an all-Mongolia youth conference every four years and this is the year.
Maybe not this year - another time it could happen
It was going to be a King Benjamin tower camp but Mongolian creativity pushed the conference into another realm.  Who knows, next year it might be the Sons of Helaman being prepared to invade China as an army of missionaries?  
Elders Odd, Boyd, Neuberger and Muldowney over for a Cinco de Mayo dinner on the seis de Mayo
Our routine such as it is. English teaching is our big constant anchor. It is rewarding but a lot of hard work with lesson planning, handouts, tests, props etc . The classes are going well.
Our English class working hard
We are settling into our group of 10-12 students who are regulars. The company that sponsors us keeps their employees really busy. A lot of them have work conflicts that interfere with their attending class.
Darlene has her Saturdays booked solid (except when we travel) teaching piano and training Family History Consultants.  One Saturday a month, the UB Family History Center has a training meeting and we are usually we have a role to play.
Darlene at a Sukhbaatar Branch Relief Society meeting on a Saturday - of course
Our Magic Jack phone is really handy for contacting the Family History 24 hour help line in Salt Lake City to straighten out problems we are finding with Family Tree and to iron out data entry problems with complicated Mongolian names and family relationships. Then the challenge is to communicate all this technical knowledge (Family Tree navigation using English Screens and how to handle the aforementioned complicated histories) to Mongolian Family History Center Directors and Consultants. Not easy!  
Sheer delight at seeing her information on Family Tree
 We will travel more for Family History training with the spring, summer and fall seasons. Two Sundays ago, we spoke (Darlene in Mongolian) in the Nailakh Branch, one hour east of UB.
Darlene, Buyannemekh and Dege at Nailakh Branch
This coming Saturday we are going to Darkhan and one weekend in June we will be going to Bulgan, a city one hour beyond Erdenet.  There is a chance we will go to Choibalsan at the end of May if we can get a negotiation meeting scheduled with the Dornod Provincial Archives for a records acquisition project.
Monkhbaatar invited the Stewarts and ourselves for dinner at his home. He is graduating from college this week.
Marriage classes. Our series of eight marriage seminars on Saturday nights are drawing to a close with the final class being held on May 18. The plan for next fall is to have a videotape production of 8 marriage enrichment topics being filmed over two or three sessions with 6 volunteer bilingual couples.
My role as the teacher/moderator will be minimized and what role I play in the training will have a Mongolian voice-over. We will use all of Alima’s TV production skills and Bat Orgil’s distance education learning models to generate a product that can be checked out and used by couples in Mongolia for the next several years. Alima is having my book translated into Mongolian so marriage education will be a part of the legacy Darlene and I will leave in Mongolia.
Mongolian/English, English only, Mongolian/Signer, English/Mongolian/Signer
We had an unusual session two weeks ago when the Institute teacher for the deaf didn’t show up and the deaf class joined our marriage class.

English was being translated into Mongolian and sign language. Mongolian was being translated into English and sign language.  Manduhai, one of the signers, had her language translated into Mongolian and English for the audience. It was a bit of a circus but I think our new students for the night got a lot out of the class.
Bumka and Egge demonstrating changing the floor in a conversation; Elder Noef  is an enthusiastic signer
History of the church in Mongolia. I was asked to help write up the history of the growth and progress of the Church in Mongolia in conjunction with the 20th Year Commemoration of the Church in Mongolia. Puje (Asian Area media representative for Mongolia) and I conducted a series of interviews during the celebration week.  
I turned in what I wrote. President Clark said to take our time, incorporate some quotes from the interviews and to conduct a few more Skype interviews with former mission presidents who couldn’t be here for celebration. We are planning to have this project done by July 1st before President Clark concludes his mission.

The Stewarts, Woods, Englands, Clarks (with halo) and Sister Farmer - Family Home Evening


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