Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Rachel gets her ger on

Despite being very dedicated to not going camping in Australia, I decided to take up an invitation to join a bunch of women from the international church on a countryside weekend break.

Here we are, setting out in the van. Note the pile of luggage squished in (we had to bring our own food and cooking utensils and gas stoves and water and and and...).
It took about 90 minutes in the van to get to a ger camp by the river. The family have a ger that they live in, plus a few for guests. Each ger sleeps five, so we had two. Here's one of them!

They let a lot of wind and dirt in around the bottom since they had set up summer gers for us, despite it getting down to freezing point the first night. Turns out that you can either get up every hour to put wood on the stove and be super hot all night, or you can let the fire go out and freeze. Actually it was mostly just me freezing the first night; turns out that a sleeping bag for the Australian summer is not recommended for Mongolia in the spring, even with a blanket on top. The second night I was lent a Canadian sleeping bag and that was so much warmer. Also we burnt dried dung that night, which lasts a lot longer than wood. Easy to collect when there are horses and cows meandering around leaving their flammable gifts behind!

There was a hill behind the camp that we climbed a few times to enjoy the view, plus a river around 200 metres away. On the Saturday we also went horse riding. Mostly my horse was led along by other riders, but I did do a little riding unsupervised, go me! Other activities included cooing over a litter of seven six-week-old puppies, playing with the cute granddaughter of the owners, card games, long walks, song-singing... and eating a huge amount of delicious food. Including the fluffiest pancakes of my life, accompanied by homemade apricot sauce.

There was also a massive silver statue of Chinggis Khaan near where we stayed. Just chilling on the side of a hill in the middle of nowhere. It was only erected fairly recently, but it's become a bit of a pilgrimage spot. One of the women said people bring offerings and such on special occasions. Definitely counts as another Genghis sighting!

I was surprised that being dirty for 48 hours didn't cause me more stress, as that's one of my least favourite things in general. I suppose when everything is covered in dust it feels natural. Still, it was quite hot on Sunday (yes, from freezing to hot, that's how it goes here) so I was most pleased that God responded in the positive to my prayer-pleas for the hot water to be running when we got home!

Have a few more photos.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Summer to Winter to Summer to Winter

That is a fair description of Mongolian spring. Case in point, yesterday it topped out at 28 or 29 degrees. I would generally call that hot. Today it has hovered around zero, and we had rain and now snow. Such variation is rapidly becoming unsurprising.

On Friday I went to the AGM of the Bible College. It was conducted 99% in Mongolian, so that was mostly over my head, but it was a good chance to just touch base briefly with the Principal, and also run into a student to whom I taught English two years ago. Most of such students are just about to graduate.

On Sunday at church we heard about many mission trips planned from our local church, both to other parts of the country over summer, and into nearby countries as well. The sense of gospel necessity and passion is strong here, in part because the gospel has so recently returned to this nation, and if people had not come and preached, there would be no church here at all.

Language continues to go relatively well. I tried to explain cricket to one of my teachers today. My Mongolian was not really up to that challenge, but I did help clarify some of the basic concepts of the game!

Monday, May 14, 2012

State of the Blog, 14th May 2012

Sorry for the decline in photos, we have just been taking less.

The weather turned cold again, down below zero and snow over the weekend. This is the Mongolian Spring, up and down and windy.

On Saturday we went out with some Koreans for Korean lunch. I've never eaten Korean before. Most of the conversation was in Korean as well, but since we were discussing a ministry project, one of our friends translated for us. It was a good lunch, and Rachel enjoys going out and eating new foods.

Rachel has to fly-out, fly-in to change visas, and so is off to get another visa this morning to leave the country. Hopefully it all runs smoothly.

Not too much else to report. I'm over-tired because of the early-waking and late nights. Language classes continue to go well. Things seem to be moving forward.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The day our local statue was important

Today it is Victory Day. Didn't know that? Neither did we, until we came across a crowd gathered around the statue of Georgy Zhukov (Russian who led the Soviet Mongolian army against the Japanese in Manchukuo) that's near our house (which is why our area is known as Jukov). There were memorial flower wreaths, food stands, and people singing live to recorded backing (outdoor karaoke!). Also there was very loud music and lots of army trucks around the wrestling palace (a location which can be explained another day). We figured it was something to do with Russia, and yes! Victory Day commemorates the official capitulation of Nazi Germany to the Soviet Union (and Georgy Zhukov was the official on the Soviet side). They just this minute let off a whole bunch of fireworks, which we watched from our kitchen window.

Also today I bought my plane tickets for my trip to Beijing in June, where I shall God-willing pick up my Mongolian student visa at the Mongolian embassy. I've allowed a week, so hopefully that won't need to be extended... though I have been keen to visit Beijing, so I suspect if a delay does occur I'll manage to find a silver lining.

Bought some extra cutlery, some oven trays (hard to find here), some plastic containers and other kitchen items from the Canadians. Plus a food processor! I almost bought their mix master too, but then it seemed from the food processor instruction manual that it would whip egg whites, so I figured one appliance would do, it's already a little bit of a luxury!

Correction on the name of my vegetable seller; Mega, not Megi. After some confusion about my change, I tried to tell her that I found Mongolian money 'interesting', but I must have the consonants in that word around the wrong way, because she had no idea what I was trying to say. Oh well! Perhaps I will start preparing conversational sentences in advance of visiting... Also I keep saying goodbye instead of thank you. They both start with 'b'...

Thank you!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

More random observations about Mongolian life

Someone set up a large-ish inflatable pool in a nearby square, for the kids. Also some kind of train-ride. A sign of summer to be sure.

Crossing the road in Ulaanbaatar could fairly be described as a game of Frogger crossed with Chicken. Essentially you will need to move between notional 'lanes' of traffic to avoid cars, as will as inch forward into the path of oncoming cars with enough confidence and an occasional glance or stare to convince them not to run you over. It helps to have the mass of a herd, so waiting until you have a few other people to interrupt traffic works. I recommend standing on the lee-ward side of fellow pedestrians for an extra feeling of security.

Mongolian language classes continue to go well. I don't get out enough and utilise it. I'm sure that more hours spent in the language would speed up comprehension and acquisition, but that is the price of the choice to do other things (doctoral studies, to be exact). Still, I am learning new structures and words everyday, and seem to be going at a reasonable pace.

Grass appears

A couple of days ago I noted that there were little tufts of green grass poking around in places. I just walked to the local indoor market, and on the way realised that the dusty squares of dirt around our building all have patchy bits of 4cm long green grass! They pretty much appeared over night. I would say the dirt to grass ratio is till 25:1, but I'm amazed that it got so long so quick! Go little grass, go!

I do a little grocery shop most mornings. Sadly, lots of stores don't open til the afternoon, which doesn't suit me because of our class schedule, so I think I'm going to have to go back again later to see if either of the stores that sell muesli feel like selling. I decided to ask my regular vegetable lady what her name was; it's Megi. She asked me what my name was, guessed that I was Australian, and then asked me a question that I couldn't figure out. It may have been when we came to Mongolia, or why we're here, or how long we're staying... the key word in the sentence was one I didn't know. Oh well. Also had a little chat with the grain seller who knows English; her name is Sara, and she knows French too. In fact, next week she will be a tour guide for 17 French tourists! That explains why her shop isn't open often either.

Tonight we are hoping to go to visit some Canadians who are returning home. She wants to start getting rid of some of her kitchenware, and I want to acquire more, so it should be mutually beneficial! Actually, when we left we donated a lot of our kitchen items to some Canadians who had just moved to Australia, so there you go!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Mongolian Spring

Last week we were wearing coats to class and lamenting that we hadn't had hot water for a few days, whle over the weekend it has been high 20s and consistently warmer than home. Much as I love our mission-partners in Australia, it has been amusing to read their emails and comments about how cold it is here since lately it is so warm!

This is the Mongolian Spring, where it oscillates from summery to snow, when it gets particularly windy (and a little bit of snow is the best way to keep dust down!), and when feeling inexplicably tired also gets blamed on "it's Spring."

The length of day here just surpassed what would be the longest day of the year in Sydney, which is quite a bit of sunlight. This, plus a Mongolian propensity to carry construction work late into the night hasn't done wonders for sleeping.

Rachel has been a little sick with a sore throat, but it seems to be on the mend.

Our main business at the moment continues to be language learning. I think sometimes I feel like we are not-so-much missionaries because at the moment the focus is on language and culture, but I know and believe this is vital for longevity and long term efficacy here. As well, language is going quite well! I jotted down a few layman's thoughts on the Mongolian language on another of my many blogs.

Here's something found in a supermarket that gave me a chuckle:

We took our Mongolian language Bible along to church this morning. The sermon was on Acts 8:26ff, about Philip and the Ethiopian. It's encouraging to recognise words in the passage, words in the sermon, and more and more words in the songs. We also heard the testimony of some people with real problems and the Lord's goodness to them.