Monday, September 30, 2013

Rest and relaxation, recuperation and recovery. More Hong Kong pictures

We didn’t realize how much the trip to Hong Kong took out of us until we got back to Mongolia. Arriving at Ulaanbaatar at 3:30 am on Tuesday can do that to you.  We slid into our normal routine on Tuesday afternoon teaching English.  
We did some food and material shopping on Wednesday and Thursday along with our evening English classes. I also found time to put the blog together. By Friday Darlene was wiped out and needed a day of sleep and rest.

Priesthood leader training for the East District. On Thursday evening, the UB Family History Center was in charge of a program for the East District Presidency, High Council and six Branch Presidencies. Darlene made a presentation while I taught English on my own that night. Divide and conquer. No pictures were taken at either location.  
I taught the class to tell Darlene that my teaching was a “hard act to follow.” After watching Darlene teach, I had a pretty "good handle" on what to do. Part of the lesson plan was teaching idioms. The class went well and I feel I could do that again when the situation requires us to be in two places at once. (Provided of course that she prepares the lesson plan).

Photography. On Saturday Darlene taught piano in the morning as usual while I spent time at a local photography shop getting prints made from our temple trip for all the members who went with us. Some of them had cameras but most depended on me for the group shots. I went out of my way to get close ups of each member during the week.
A special Sunday. Sunday was special in that six of us from the Sukhbaatar Branch had the opportunity to share our experiences and spiritual impressions from our temple trip in Sacrament meeting.  During the week we drew close to the members that went with us and shared some beautiful experiences together.

I will include a few more outtakes from our Hong Kong trip that didn’t make the two previous blogs.  There was a dearth of photographic opportunities this week, unless you consider pictures of us "catching up on our sleep" interesting.
Ferry boat on Victoria Harbor
             Our bride and groom from India

Hong Kong temple grounds

Scene from a clock shop

Stavorsky creations in showroom window
The gate by the monastery near the Big Buddha statue
What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Buddha sitting above the tree line
Policeman and bike fit right in at the Mid-Autumn Festival
Crowd at Mid-Autumn Festival
Overhead lights at Mid-Autumn Festival
 Preview of coming attractions. Next week promises to be better with a trip to Khovd (western Mongolia) and the Eagle Festival (Khazak eagle hunters show their stuff) coming up.  There will be plenty of church work and training scheduled so it promises to be a busy trip just like Hong Kong. Stay tuned.
I wonder how many kilometers it is to Khovd

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A trip to the Hong Kong temple.

Odgerel and Saranchimeg on their one year anniversary of their temple marriage
Temple work. Four times a year members from Mongolia travel as a group to the Hong Kong temple. Members qualify for one time temple patron funds to help them make the trip.

They contribute some of their own money and prepare themselves spiritually to make this trip. Part of the preparation is to do Family History work to do vicarious ordinance work for their deceased ancestors work in the temple.

Part of our calling as missionaries in Mongolia is to train Family History Consultants to assist members in doing this work prior to going to the temple. In some cases, we directly help members prepare their family names and genealogy as a part of getting ready for their temple trip.
Tracing Mongolian Family History

Many go with the purpose of doing temple work for their deceased spouses,  children, parents, and grandparents with whom they have personal relationships.
Painting in Dornod Province Museum 
"My mother awaits my return"
Young couples go to be married for time and eternity in a temple. Older couples who have been married for years go to have their marriages sealed for time and eternity in the temple.
The purpose of going to the temple is to weld families together through priesthood authority so they can be together in eternity. Parents bring their minor children to the temple so their children can be sealed to them. In the temple, this ordinance work is very spiritual and emotional. 

Mongolians love their ancestors and family history. It is natural for them to engage in temple work and feel the spirit in the temple. 

Senior couples accompany the trip. During their mission to Mongolia, most senior couples have an opportunity once on their mission to accompany a group in order to provide support and leadership to the group. We are asked to pay our own expenses (airfare, housing, food).
A scout troop in Hong Kong wanted to speak English and have their picture taken with us

 A Mongolian member is also invited to be a translator and leader for the group as they navigate through the airports, immigration, local transportation, and at the temple and patron housing in Hong Kong. This is a lot of responsibility as very few members speak Chinese or English nor have they travelled internationally before.

Our group didn’t have any young children or teenagers. Seven women, one man, ourselves, and one translator travelled together. Another young couple, Odgerel and Saranchimeg, went to Hong Kong by train and met us there.  Of the group of 13, six were from our local congregation and we knew them ahead of the trip. This was unusual as there are 22 LDS congregations in Mongolia.
We also knew Puje, our translator, from day one of our mission. We had traveled together to Murun, Erdenet, and Youth Conference together.  We had also worked with a member from Choibalsan to get her ready for her temple trip.
Ganaa and Puje
That left only five members we didn’t know prior to this trip. We rapidly made their acquaintance and formed relationships with them. Most temple groups have been larger and children are often a part of the travelling company.

Patron housing.  The men and women are in separate sleeping quarters. I shared sleeping quarters and a bathroom with our two brothers from Mongolia and three from Thailand.

The sisters were divided in two rooms and Darlene had the challenging experience of sleeping in a top bunk. Not exactly the Hilton! There were keys issued for each room and rules for cooking and using the refrigerator.
A mall was located about four blocks from patron housing where members could do some grocery shopping. Most of our group preferred to make their own meals. We had a Wi-Fi connection for the three of us that brought computers.

Temple experiences. A young couple from India had come to be married in the temple. They had been legally married just five days prior to their trip. They joined our getting acquainted meeting at patron housing.
We bonded with them. We agreed that it would be wonderful if we could be a part of their temple marriage.  An older couple in our group, Batarch and Davaasuren, would also have their temple marriage in the same sealing session.

After the session, the bride from India emerged from the temple in a lovely wedding dress and the couple celebrated with their new wedding party of Mongolians. 
From left to right: Ariuna, Batarch, Davaasuren, Choluunsukh, Buyandelger, Ganaa, Dolmaa, Prash, Alex and Suvd-Erdene

Alex, Prash, Davaasuren, and Batarch
I became the wedding photographer enjoyed posing them and the group for special pictures.  What a blessing for them and for us.

The other temple experiences I won’t describe other than the group members were prayerful and deeply spiritual. 

Several times we were in tears as each members did their own personal temple work for family members.  On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, we attended the temple pretty much full time with an afternoon lunch break. 

Our group felt the worldwide nature of the church as we interacted with members from India, Thailand, China, Qatar and temple missionaries from China, Hawaii and mainland US all working together in loving harmony. 
Bro. Chan, his wife and daughter spent all day Friday with us
On Friday the temple was closed because of the Mid-Autumn Festival and the group went touring courtesy of Bro. Chan.  
Tasting Big Macs and French Fries for the first time
 At the Peak, he led us to the point where Hong Kong was dedicated for the preaching of the gospel on July 14, 1949.
The date is inscribed on a rock behind the group.
On Saturday we spent a half day at the temple before the temple closed for the afternoon. Sunday morning the group attended a church service and then we had our own sharing time about the spiritual experiences of the week.
LDS chapel across from the temple - patron housing is on the left

On Saturday afternoon, one of our members got lost during a mall visit and we sent a young couple back to find her. Our member had offered a prayer and within a minute of her prayer she was found.
Typhoon 8 warning (just below hurricane level). The worst storm in 34 years was predicted to hit Hong Kong Sunday and Monday.  We braced ourselves for the unknown.

Though the storm didn’t materialize as predicted, it did delay our airplane flight back to Mongolia by 7 ½ hours causing us to arrive in Ulaanbaatar at 3:30am on Tuesday morning.
Breakfast on the day of departure - a long, long day
The flight delay actually helped us as we had a medical emergency on Sunday causing one of our members to be hospitalized for 24 hours. 

Because of the typhoon warning, the physician in charge of discharging our member wasn’t permitted to travel into the hospital until the Typhoon 8 warning had been lifted.  The discharge didn’t happen until 3:30 pm Sunday afternoon – about the time our original flight was scheduled to leave. 

The weather delay actually helped us all travel back as a group rather than be faced with leaving a member in China. We had a Plan B lined up with the temple president but it wasn’t nearly as good as Plan A – going home together.  
It was a long, long day and we were happy to be back in Mongolia.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The wonders of Hong Kong

There is so much that happened during our temple trip to Hong Kong. We traveled with a group of 8 Mongolian saints and Puje, our trip interpreter. Another couple came by train from Mongolia so altogether there were 13 of us.

Hong Kong is a great city to visit because of its interlocking and super efficient subway and bus system. Once you learn how it operates, you can go anywhere and see everything there is to see. It can be crowded at time (packed to the brim like a Mongolian bus) but most of the time it is quite pleasant.
There are parts of Hong Kong that are this serene
There is so much that happened during our temple trip to Hong Kong. The story of our visit to the temple and group activities will be in another blog. This blog will show some personal sight-seeing we did while we were in Hong Kong. 
Hong Kong's beautiful bridges

Mid-Autumn Festival. On Thursday night, Puje - our friend and translator, and ourselves went shopping and then to the Mid-Autumn Festival at Victoria Park. The Mid-Autumn Festival and holiday is celebrated during the first full moon of September. This year it fell on Sept. 19 during our scheduled week at the temple.

Lanterns to be released later
This was held at Victoria Park and consisted of lights, lanterns, stage performances, a dragon dance, and fireworks.
Wall of lanterns

It was mostly people, make that People with a capital P milling around looking at the sights. We decided to forego the fireworks and the dragon dance to avoid the crush of humanity  taking the metro afterward. 

Now you know why we left early

Saturday with the Harringtons. We also were invited by the Harringtons, Family History Missionaries in Hong Kong offering support to the Asia Area senior couples in Family History, to do some touring on Saturday afternoon and evening.

We went to see Big Buddha and the Walk of Wisdom followed by the symphony of lights and laser show on the Hong Kong waterfront and skyline. We also sandwiched in a great Chinese dinner.

Darlene along wisdom's path
Trees split in half with carved sayings and wisdom inscribed 

Buddhist monk offering wisdom

The Hong Kong skyscrapers on both sides of Victoria Harbor between Hong Kong Island and the Kowloon Peninsula are lit up and are synchronized with four pieces of music lasting for 22 minutes total each evening.

It is skyscraper performance art. Hong Kong and Manhattan are rated the top two skylines in the world.
Hong Kong Skyline at night
A group tour. Bro. Chan, a local member in Hong Kong, and his family have voluntarily hosted Mongolian temple patron groups for Hong Kong tours for the past 10 years. Groups come four times a year. This is a remarkable act of love and service to Mongolians, most of whom will be making their first and last trip outside of Mongolia. 
Bro. Chan on the left with our tour group
Since Friday was a national holiday when the temple was closed (Mid-Autumn Festival) the Chans took us on a tour of The Peak, a dramatic overlook of Hong Kong, a walk along the Avenue of the Stars by the shoreline of Kowloon looking across at the skyline of Hong Kong Island,
Bruce Lee

a ferry boat ride across Victoria Harbor, a Chinese restaurant, and the famous light and laser show of the Hong Kong Skyline set to music. 
Sailor landing a ferry
A famous Chinese cartoon character along the Avenue of the Stars
The evening ended with a Chinese dinner and the light and laser show at night. We personally missed the dinner and light show on Friday because of something else that needed our attention.

Some of the scenes of Hong Kong going and coming from these events also captured our attention.
View from the Peak on a hazy day

40 story apartment buildings along the harbor

A symbol of Hong Kong

Hong Kong is an ultra-modern city with lots of wealth, a huge contrast with Mongolia which is still developing. 
Clock tower - another symbol of Hong Kong
We enjoyed our exposure to Hong Kong but we were ready to go back to the familiar surroundings of Ulaanbaatar with its bad traffic and fewer people.

The last day we were in Hong Kong, a Typhoon 8 storm warning was issued snarling air traffic in and out of the airport. Though the storm mostly missed us, we were delayed seven hours and finally departed at 10:30 pm on a 4 hour flight to Ulaanbaatar. It was good to be back.

Ulaanbaatar from the air