Sunday, February 28, 2010

Day 4: Welcome to Mongolian Churches

We got up earlier today. It's hard, because we don't really know what time it is, it's all still dark outside when we wake. Breakfast is settling into a porridge routine.

Our first trip today was to a Mongolian church, "World Harvest Mission Church". We caught a taxi, which was interesting - UB isn't really massive, so taxis are fairly economical. There are official taxis, but there are also lots of unofficial taxis, or at least that's how it seems. So catching a taxi seems to involve flagging down a vehicle that looks like it might be taxi-like.

We were running a little late, but that turned out to be early! Mongolians don't necessarily run to time, as evidenced by our service starting 23 minutes later than supposed. The whole service was in Mongolian, so we understood very little. Singing was difficult too, though some tunes were very familiar (Lord I lift your name on high, among others). Seumas has a bit of a grasp of the alphabet, and tried to read a bit off the overhead. Visitors and newcomers are warmly welcomed - i.e. we all came up the front and a bunch of stuff was said we didn't understand and then lots of people came and shook our hands and hugged us. Rachel found it a bit confronting to be hugged by men she hadn't met(!) - Gender relations work a bit differently in this culture. It was really lovely though totally bewildering.

We walked home, and it was a bit cold (for us). We stopped into "Home Plaza", a nearby korean supermarket, which had lots of stuff. Even Red Bull. Most of the labels are incomprehensible, but the packaging usually gives you an idea, and sometimes there are some words in English. We bought some noodles, some pasta stuff, shampoo and conditioner, and some chocopie. (No Red Bull).

We were only home for an hour or two. Mongolians don't really do evening church. Afternoon church is the go instead. So we walked up the road to UBTC (the bible school), where an international church meets. It's about 50/50 Mongolians/Foreigners, but the church runs in English. Many Mongolians come to improve their English too. It was a real relief and comfort to be able to understand what was going on, sing in our own language, and hear a sermon on John 13. We met a few foreigners who gave us some good advice (though meeting a Canadian who sounded like he was immune to all cold wasn't the most encouraging!).

Now relaxing at home and preparing for some dinner.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Day 3 - Venturing Outside

After a wonderful nights sleep we felt pretty good and keen to venture out. At 9am David took us on a little walk to the bank to get money. It was about -21C and the breeze was pretty cutting when it blew. We got money no problem but Rachel's hands became numb and then very painful. It took some time in the apartment before they stopped hurting. This was a bit worrying as the Halls told a tale about never being the same again after getting very cold but after a few hours they seemed fine and Wendy found some mittens and glove liners to try.

After a breakfast of porridge and a few hours in the house we set out again (now above -10C we think). Our friend Erdinay (see last post re spelling disclaimers) drove us into the centre of UB and we went to two Christian souvenir stalls and a department store so the Halls could buy gifts for their families. Seumas bought a pair of felt slippers and Rachel got some felt inner soles for her boots. After a late lunch at a western cafe where everyone ate too much (Seumas ate salami!) we walked home.

Rachel was unable to use her hands while out due to them being in the mittens (which are too big) but felt much more comfortable. People had already been praying for her hands so it was great to find something that worked in the better weather. Please keep praying that we will find methods that work in the colder weather... and that will allow her to use her hands rather than having to have everything done for her!

Tired and full we rested for an hour and then it was time for dinner! No-one felt hungry but we had arranged to meet another Pioneers couple at an Indian restaurant so off we went. The food was extremely tasty and we managed to eat it up! But it was great to meet this family who live in the countryside: their two young daughters are lovely kids and have made us promise to come visit if we return to Mongolia!

So a busy day filled with food and discovering how to get around UB.

Tomorrow's plans: two church services and our first trip to the Bible college we'll be teaching at.

Day 2

Yes, we're in Mongolia.

The flight to Beijing was 11hrs, and fairly uneventful. Seumas did some sleeping (his special gift), Rachel not so much. 6hrs in Beijing International (not a very exciting place, but some comfortable chairs), and then a very short flight (1.5hrs) from Beijing to UB. As you fly into Mongolia you see plains and plains of brown turning into plains of white, the remnants of winter.

Mongolian immigration was our only slowing point, as the guard tried to work out whether Seumas' nine-year old passport photo really belonged to him. But all was well, and we came out to meet our host David, who was timely in arriving to meet us. Irdnay (no promises on spelling) was our driver, a young christian guy who does taxi-work and the like.

He introduced us to the wonders of mongolian driving. Cars are either right-hand-drive or left-hand-drive, depending on where they come from. Driving is right-side, as you might expect. traffic lights are, minimal, and everywhere else is a case of muscling your car through. it all seems to work though, but we're not feeling inspired to drive here.

UB has a lot of dirt, meandering tracks and pathways, and the buildings just have kind of blunt facades - you have no sense of the interior. soviet architecture reigns. We passed what looks like the new wrestling palace (=stadium), a ger (mongolian for yurt) stuck up on the second floor of an abandoned building block, and lots of school children walking home.

The Halls have a lovely little apartment, surprisingly warm (for the uninitiated), and we spent our first evening recuperating, enjoying some hot vegetable soup, receiving a lot of information on life here (all good, but it can be hard to remember it all), and a good night's rest.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Day -2

It's two days before we leave for Mongolia. We're hoping to be able to blog regularly while we're over there, giving you updates, some photos, and prayer points. I thought I'd write a preliminary post for those who have subscribed, so you know it's all working fine!

We're not as busy as some people seem to think. We've got most things sorted (money, passports, visas, etc), and really just need to pack! Packing isn't the most fun though, so that's our big task for the next day or so.

We talked on on Sunday night, via Skype, with the couple we're meeting over there and everything sounds in place from their end.

Our flight leaves on Thursday night, we have a few hours in Beijing airport on Friday morning, and should arrive in Mongolia Friday afternoon. Hear from us soon!