Thursday, June 28, 2012

Oh, Mongolia!

Today I will teach you my two most useful phrases in Mongolian:
Khaamaagui, and zugeer zugeer. (Apologies for transliteration, Mongolian doesn't transliterate well).

khaamaagui means something like "It doesn't matter", while zugeer zugeer means something like "it's okay, no worries". These are two most useful phrases because things here just happen differently, slowly, inexplicably, and a good dose of ambiguity tolerance goes a long way.

I know some people think that because we haven't put up a blog post we must be dead, or busy, or something, but really we are just a little boring. A high percentage of our time is spent first in going to language classes (which are going well), and then in day to day activities. Neither of which makes for particularly fascinating reading.

Our month of no hot water should soon be over. We are still trying to organise to get a hot water system into our apartment though, because the fact of having hot water in the building is no guarantee of actually having hot water at any particular time.

Today is Election day in Mongolia. Hopefully it will all go smoothly. There was a bit of trouble after the last election, so we are praying for calm and peace this time around. It has been interesting to observe Mongolian electioneering. They even send us text messages with political slogans.

Technically it's summer, but there was some very unseasonal snow in another part of the country the other day. We have had a bit of rain, which can make getting around difficult - there isn't really a drainage system in this city.

We are hoping to have a small english-language bible group meet in our home on Friday evenings for a while. Nobody came last week, but this week we should have some takers; this is a group that Rachel was going along to, run by someone else, but they are away for summer. Actually, a lot of Mongolians go away for summer, so one never really knows who is around.

That's us, getting on well enough.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Rainy Days and horse-riding adventure.

There's a newsletter that will be out in a day or two, with some nice pics. It's been raining for a couple of days, quite a bit today, on and off yesterday. This isn't that typical so the locals are happy. Being children of the sunkissed land, not so fun for us.

Last Sunday we went along to some Mongolian ballet. It was a performance of Swan Lake. Very impressive. They had an alternate happy ending, which apparently is more common in Russia/China/Mongolia? That particular day I was quite sick, which is a shame because I would have enjoyed it more if I wasn't. Anyway, that Sunday was the worst of it, but I have had a long tail of a cold all week, which means I have not been doing a great deal of study. I did read three novels, and that was greatly enjoyable.

Yesterday was Children's Day, a public holiday here in Mongolia. We went outside the city with some friends, both from our team, and from some church friends of our team friends. We went to this holiday spot east of the city, along a river, and half of our group were going to stay the night in some gers there. We headed out about 10am, and it took a good two hours to get there. Quite a bit of traffic getting out of the city.

Gers can be pretty warm when you have a stove going on inside of them. Part of the day's plan involved horse-riding. So after lunch (I'm pretty sure I don't like Korean food much more than Mongolian. I don't know why anybody eats meat except out of necessity), most of us went up to this place to get some horses. When we got there the horses were not there, and so it was going to be a 30min wait while they went off and rounded up some horses for us. This is just how things are. So there were a few horses there and they gave the kids some rides while we waited. Then they brought a troupe of horses over the hill and we all mounted up and rode off.

Things about Mongolian horses: much smaller than 'western' horses; you hold the reins in one hand, not two; the ones they give to tourists tend not to listen to you, only to the Mongolian guides; saddles are also not western - ours were padded, but traditional Mongolian saddles are just wooden; nobody has heard of helmets.

So my horse was pretty obedient in terms of which way to go, not so obedient to me in terms of speed. That's okay, having not ridden except for maybe once in childhood, I was pretty content to take it easy. It would get up to a trot, and I was comfortable with that. For a brief spurt it galloped, and that was something I wasn't yet comfortable with, but I could learn to cope with more horse-riding in my life.

It was pretty nice to be out of the city, we crossed a river and rode through some light woods and across some fields, in the shadow of some mountains, and that was a lovely taste of real Mongolian countryside. After about an hour or hour and half we turned back a bit and stopped at one of the guides' gers. We enjoyed some milk-tea and snacks, and then rode back. They offered me a faster horse but I think for a first time out I was content with the one I had; it also had a mane to match my hair.

The afternoon saw some napping and some dinner and singing and praying, and an operatic performance (one of the Korean ladies is an Italian trained opera singer), and then we were back in a minibus heading back to UB; we got home around 10:30, 11pm. pretty tired, and of course our hot water is off for the next month.

Today has been a rainy day too. We had plans to go out and buy a couple of things, but the rain just damped our mood. Our Area Leader is in town though and we went out and had a tasty lunch with him, and that made a cheery diversion for the day.

Okay, I will add a few horse-riding pictures in a day or two when I get hold of them.