I had a safe trip to Mongolia with no layovers. When I arrived I found out that Spencer, who was going to meet me, was laid over in Seoul. I didn’t have any address or phone numbers for anyone here. I wandered around until someone said, "Are you David"? They were there to drop someone off and to meet Spencer. They didn’t know about his delay. They brought me into town and got me settled into the apartment of Simon, who is on home leave. No one knew my schedule because the woman who was making it up was in the countryside. The first day, through trial and error, I found the bank, grocery and Internet cafe. I needed that day and the next to download anyway.
The capital, Ulaanbaatar, has grown with Gher communities surrounding it. I saw many SUV’s and Korean cars. There is less trash and more stores, with many of the stores having an English sign on them. Now you can buy anything from salmon (at $14 a pound) to star fruit and Bartlett pears. Of course you pay for them through the nose.
I was doing a program for Gher Kids and was offered fermented mares milk. I was surprised how it looked just like milk, not lumpy or anything. It was sharp and tangy, like milk-flavored beer. I just tried a little and gave the glass back, saying that my stomach probably could not take a whole glass of it. I am eating lots of mutton, goat and who knows what. They do eat horse and camel here. Sometimes it is best to not ask. Just say the Missionary prayer...."Lord, I got it down, you keep it down."
Bird Flu was found in two places here in Mongolia and chicken was off the market for a short time. Now, American imported chicken is sold. One area is closed off because of Anthrax. This is a place where I am glad I have had my shots. Of course for those two I am not covered, so prayers help.
I am working in the capital and the countryside within a couple hours drive from here. I am storytelling and teaching string figures to go along with them at orphanages, homeless shelters, elderly ministry, youth churches, Sunday Schools, Churches both in Mongolian and English, the soccer ministry, Joint Christian Services annual conference, a cafe ministry, home school coop for missionaries, on the street and on the train. I also have a couple of missionaries who want some private time to learn the figures so they can use them. All are learning string figures and teaching them to others. Often I give people an extra string, so they can go and share with someone else.
I went to the countryside for the Joint Christian Services annual conference and slept in a Gher. It was cold and I was glad to have my winter parka. August is fall here, so there is frost on the ground. They lit a fire inside the Gher at about 9:00 p.m. and then came back in at 2:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. to rekindle it. It sure felt good, but it is a long walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night in such cold weather. They had showers for us but you had to count on three things. One…were they unlocked. Two…did one of them work. Three…was there any hot water. All three things were in alignment two different times for my four days there.
A team from England came to work with the children, so I got to sit with the adults in their programs. It was very interesting. I did have lots of free time to teach the children string games and their stories. Then the adults wanted to learn some that I had not taught to their children. The kids and adults are having a great time with strings. I even had the staff doing them. Some of the other guests would stop and I would give them a string. They know the Cat’s Cradle game very well and also a couple of other tricks.
On my way home from the conference, the bus caught fire and smoke was billowing inside the back of the bus. Everyone evacuated in a hurry and unloaded the luggage from underneath as the driver and his helper were throwing sand and gravel on the motor. Then they asked for our water bottles because there was no fire extinguisher. They were able to put out the fire. We had to wait two hours for a replacement bus to pick us up. It is a blessing that cell phones are prevalent and work here. All ended well, but I am tired.
At the end of the month I am going by sleeper train to Erdenet to work with some of the groups there. I’ll leave in the evening and get there the next morning. It is in the north of the country so my parka will be useful there too.
I’ve already scheduled October 2006 for a return visit to Mongolia. I will go to rural boarding schools in the countryside, teach a school, drive four hours to the next, sleep, teach at that school, drive four hours to the next, etc. I’ll visit five schools each week for a month.