Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Visiting Erdenet

Trip to Erdenet

Erdenet roof lines and colors
MBM Hotel. Our trip to Erdenet started off in Darkhan thanks to three Service Center employees who stopped by the Young Single Adult conference near Shamaar by the banks of the Orkhan River, the longest river in Mongolia. We left our bedroll and a few other items at the camp for others to take back to Ulaanbaatar.

The best looking city in Mongolia

After our two hour ride over various shortcuts and washed out roads we finally hit pavement.  At the  MBM Hotel, we settled into a night of welcome relief from camping. The hot shower and modern conveniences were especially appreciated. The hotel was classy for a nominal price of $45 a night. In the morning we were served a complimentary “foreigner” breakfast of eggs, pancakes and ham. The Mongolians had their traditional rice and milk cereal.

Taxi ride. We had arranged for a taxi to take us to Erdenet – a two hour drive one way from Erdenet if you drove fast. We were overcharged but we took it as a learning experience. We can’t be smart all the time and in certain ways we were caught and had to pay double the normal rate.

Looking toward downtown Erdenet - cows rule

Our taxi driver drove fast and we arrived a little after noon. The drive was on a smooth paved highway much different than those surrounding UB. The views of the landscape were stunning but our driver was in such a hurry to make his money and return that we have no pictures. There will be a future opportunity.
Former church site - now the Gold Hotel

The Gold Hotel. In Erdenet, we met the senior couple, the Lamoreauxs, who serve there. We went out to eat to a Korean restaurant and then settled into our hotel, the Gold Hotel, almost the equivalent of the MBM in Darkhan but with better beds. The price was better, only $37 a night. We had a refrigerator and shopped at a nearby store for our food for the next two days.

The only drawback was the Karaoke Bar right under our room. The music and off key singing died down just before midnight. The second night they must have had some professional singers because the music was much better. We asked about this to another senior couple and he said that all the major hotels in Mongolia have Karaoke bars so it was unavoidable – except perhaps for the location of our room. 
Notice the Karaoke Bar sign at street level? We didn't.

We found out later that the Gold Hotel used to be the meeting place for the LDS Church in Erdenet twelve years ago when our daughter was there.  They now have a new chapel, the only church building in Erdenet.  When we got into the taxi all we had to say was “soom” (meaning church) and he knew right where to go.   
Beautiful building on the main street of Erdenet

Erdenet. Erdenet is the most modern City in Mongolia. It was built by the Russians in 1970s when they developed a copper mine in Erdenet. Most of the Russian mining employees are gone except for one or two apartment buildings filled with the remaining Russian employees.
Cultural Center in Erdenet

The main street is wide and the driving civilized. Crosswalks actually mean something and half of the drivers will actually stop. This makes things a little more complicated because the other half won’t. The sidewalks are wide and in good repair. Walking was unhurried, less congested and peaceful compared to UB.

There are skiing hills on two sides of Erdenet. The area reminded us of Rapid City SD with one part of town, the mine and power plant separated from the main residential and business area by a narrow gap. 
Sister Narantseteg and her new friends
Doing our duties. We met our main contact, Naratseteg and her translator, Erdenetseteg, at the church for three hours of productive training on the computer. Both sisters were delightful, friendly, and smart.

The next day we attended both branches and gave our talks in Sacrament meeting. We learned not to be chatty and to shorten up our talks because of the translation time. This was especially apparent when the Branch President in the first meeting started making a racket behind me when I wasn’t finishing on time. 
My new friends decorated my hair

The first Branch had about 50 in attendance – a low amount - and the second Branch had about 100. Normally the two Branches are equivalent.
Part of our training group

We had a good training experience. There were about 15 members who stayed after church for a two hour training on the computers. This training was a little ragged because we had so much difficulty signing members into new.familysearch.

The older members didn’t have e-mail addresses, so these had to be created. And then when we finally got all the forms filled in, several of the members received the “message” that there was already an account created with their membership record number.  Apparently someone had done it for them and they had no idea what was done.  We sent several help messages to new.familysearch and have since heard back on how to resolve their log in problems.

It was interesting to see how this was working out

We formed some great relationships and helped a few members overcome their difficulties. The Lamoreaux’s fed us and Erdenetseteg at their home after the meetings and training were concluded. 
Trainer in charge doing her thing
The train ride home. We caught a train that takes a 12 hour nighttime trip to go to UB. This time we shared our compartment with a young mother with two children age three and under. We offered a lower bunk to this little family while I slept on the top bunk.

Train ride home
It was enjoyable and we were able to learn a little Mongolian while helping her out in various ways. The little 3 year old boy threw up and Darlene helped the mother deal with it. At four in the morning she and her children got off and we were joined by two middle aged Mongolian men. They inherited the top bunks. One spoke in Russian and Darlene and he enjoyed some conversation.

Sister Oyun - our daughter's second companion in Erdenet celebrating her birthday at the YSA conference. She had just returned in April from Korea after living there for 8 years.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Young Single Adult Conference

Sunrise at our camp
How about our night sky?

The Young Singles Conference in Selenge has come and gone. The Family History talks and training have come and gone. We are back in Ulaanbaatar a bit worn out but quite satisfied with our big trips.

Horses visit us in the morning fog
Room for four - but if you want privacy - buy all four tickets
We caught a train Tuesday night about 9:30 pm. We stayed in a sleeping compartment meant for four people but since we bought all four tickets, we didn’t have to share our compartment with 2 strangers. We didn’t sleep too well but it was different and exciting.
The camp takes shape
1st priority - getting rid of the mosquitos
Now it is safe for cards

Keeping warm was a priority

We arrived about 5:00 am when the train made a special stop for us near our campground 18 miles south of the Russian border. As we set up our tent, we noticed the swarm of mosquitos attacking us. How could we not help but notice? The Mongolians knew just what to do. They set little fires with crusted cow manure – cow chips – and that effectively drove the mosquitos away.
Mosquitos liked the stagnant water

There were close to 200 young singles on this conference – about 75 young men and 125 young women. There were several married couples who had active roles in the conference – presenters, cooks, drivers, entertainers and two senior couples (Hunts and Farmers). 

Oktyabri with Sister Hunt
The setting was by a big swift river but we were buffered from the river by trees and tributaries. The ground was flat and we shared it with goats, horses, cattle and sheep though none entered out camp.
Some of our visitors
Our tent was small. Sister Farmer and myself practiced the art of Mongolian contortionists in our tent as we tried to dress and undress for sleep and weather conditions.
Our tent with musical stage in background

The night sky was magnificent with stars shining and glistening everywhere. Only in the sparsely settled Dakotas or Montana can you see the heavens like this.
Notice the Big Dipper on the horizon
Camp cook with his wares
We have several stews, meat dishes, milk and milk cereals and bread as the main meals. The lineup of stoves was impressive.
Breakfast is brewing
Imagine planning a menu for 230 people and keeping them happy and well fed. They pulled it off. We also had two sheep that figured into the menu.
"Any idea what is for dinner?"
Getting to the heart of the matter - the Stake President leads by example - a traditional and compassionate way of killing the sheep

Meal preparation crew
Waiting in line for breakfast

The program spread over two days consisted of small group discussion by genders of expectations for a future mate, exchanging that information, information on how to have successful dates, how to make a good impression, speed dating or introductions, a panel discussion with five married couples, my presentation on how to know who to marry, rotation between 5 group discussion groups on various topics concerning relationships (I led one of the groups while Darlene was in a tent recuperating from an allergic reaction to milk) and two musical programs each evening.

Young women's discussion group

Bishop Enhkbold and President Odgerel crooning Russian love songs
 A rather fierce rainstorm delayed the supper hour and the music about two hours but the recovery time was swift. A sound stage, lighting, and electrical equipment materialized to our amazement. The young adults shared their talents along with the Stake President (Odgerel) and Bishop Enhkbold who crooned Russian love songs. 

Pres. Odgerel is a dynamic force in so many ways. He is a powerful speaker and leader and relates to the youth and young adults on so many levels.

Pres. Odgerel leading a discussion
He perceived the need for a conference on the topic of dating and marriage and set up a planning committee. Sister Farmer and I contributed our ideas on having a married couples panel and same gender group discussions and feedback. 
Panel of married couples

A young BYU Hawaii graduate in psychology named Alima, who is making a name for herself in Mongolia by giving televised advice on relationships, spoke to the young women.
Alima and myself comparing notes

Munkhbaatar and Elder Farmer talking to the group
She and I teamed up to give the expert advice to the young singles. She contributed the idea of speed dating and making good impression. She led the speed dating exercise which took most of one afternoon. The young people warmed up to the activity and were obviously enjoying themselves to the point where we didn’t know how to stop it until the two rotating concentric circles had made a complete rotation. You can see this exercise on U-Tube at the following link... Facebook. Mongolian LDS institute. Look for a video clip on the left.

So what is your definition of love?
So tell me your name again

Davaadorj wasn't so shy

The whole program delighted the young adults and gave them vital information on how to approach dating and courtship. The impact was positive and well-received even by the most shy participants.

How to choose the right mate? Here's the deal.

Drying out their sleeping bag after a rainstorm
Pres. Odgerel hopes and expects as least 10 marriages to come from this conference. He said they would be the “Farmer Couples” though he was the one who conceived the program and had the energy and vision to carry it out.  I will post my two presentations on my website, www.valfarmer.com.   

Oktyabri singing a duet with a Mongolian Idol winner, Ankhaa

Oktyabri singing duet with Ankhaa - Bishop Enhkbold is accompanying
On Thursday night we had a chance to leave the conference early and begin our trip to Erdenet. The Mongolian Church Service Center employees had been installing Internet Services in the nearby Selenge Branch. They stopped by the YSA conference out of curiosity. We were offered a ride to Darkhan that night where we could stay in a hotel.
Don't I look cute in my deel?
Our part in the conference was over. Darlene was suffering the after effects of an upset stomach.  It was a wonderful blessing to get that 2 hour ride to Darkhan.
We hope this conference will produce future members like him.
The next day we began phase two of our trip – speaking and training on Family History work in Erdenet. It is worthy of a blog of its own.
The setting was right for romance

Or fun?