Sumpteretc's Blog

What's on my mind at the moment

Month: February, 2009

Heroes, Ethics and Arminians

The word for the day is Цагаан Сар (Tsagaan Sar), which means “white moon” or “white month.” It’s the lunar new year celebration, which begins tomorrow and continues through Friday. This means I have the next couple days off of school. Unfortunately, it also means that everything is closed.

Instead of reporting on Mongolia tonight, I want to point out a few interesting statistics I found on The first article is entitled “Americans Pick Obama as Personal Hero; Jesus Comes Second.” Here’s a snippet.

Following Barack Obama, the next most popular personal heroes are Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Abraham Lincoln, John McCain, John F. Kennedy, Chesley Sullenberger, and Mother Teresa, respectively, to round out the top 10 people Americans say they admire and would call their hero.

In the top 20 list, God held the No. 11 spot while evangelist Billy Graham tied with former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for the 13th slot. . . .

Among other observations made by the poll’s conductors, six of the top ten heroes are dead (including Jesus Christ); the top 10 list includes five presidents; and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ranks higher in the 2009 list (No. 12) than her husband, former President Bill Clinton (No. 16).

I’m not sure what the most disturbing part of that poll is, so let’s move on to the second article. It was “Poll: Only 3 Percent of Teens See Clergy as Role Models.” This is a startling headline, but it only tells a small part of the story:

But the poll’s major finding is that although the overwhelming majority of teens (80 percent) believe they are ethically prepared to make moral business decisions, nearly 40 percent believe they need to “break the rules” in order to succeed.

More than one in four teenagers (27 percent) think behaving violently is sometimes, often or always acceptable, according to the poll. One in five teens (20 percent) reported to have personally behaved violently toward another person in the past year.

Furthermore, among those who say they are ethically prepared for business, nearly half (49 percent) say lying to parents and guardians is acceptable. More than three out of five teens (61 percent) say they have lied to their parents or guardian this past year.

I don’t usually give much credence to doomsday prophets, but these stats don’t seem to bode well for America’s ethical future.

One last link for all of my Calvinist or otherwise theologically-inclined brothers and sisters: Survey: Are You an Arminian and Don’t Even Know It?

Mongolian food wrap-up

Just a short note to wrap up our discussion of Mongolian food.

But first, the word for the day is буу (bo), which means “gun.” It came up because my teachers always ask me to share a news story, and I shared Dwain’s story of a drive-by shooting in Athens.

We haven’t eaten enough Mongolian food to really have an opinion on it, but most of what we’ve had has been good. We have stopped into a few tea shops or “eating-places” and just ordered randomly off of the menu. We’ve developed a good appreciation for tsuivan, which is a pile of noodles with hunks of fatty mutton in it. It’s greasy but tasty. I’ve ordered the “bishteks” before, which is basically Salisbury steak with a fried egg on top. Last night, we stopped at an eating-place to try their piroshkis, which are basically Russian empanadas. I loved them! We also tried a few buuz, which is the national food of Mongolia, I would say. It’s a few hunks of mutton wrapped in a pastry shell and steamed. It’s very edible although it will probably never be a favorite. Next week is the lunar new year in Mongolia, and most housewives are busy right now making hundreds of buuz for the visitors who will drop by their homes.

Our drink last night was probably one of the most common ones: milk tea. As I understand it, they boil a few tea leaves in salt water and then dump in a bunch of milk. The result is not very tea-like; it’s more like drinking hot, salty milk. That sounds pretty nasty, and it is a bit of an acquired taste but it’s not really too bad. The complaint I hear most often about Mongolian cuisine is the lack of variety. In the countryside, that would be a bigger problem, but here in Ulaanbaatar, there are lots of restaurants with many types of cuisines, so we’re not sweating it too badly at the present.

Where’s the Beef?

Naturally, Mongolians eat more than just white foods. After our introduction to all things dairy, we filed into another room to be introduced to all the parts of the sheep that you never wanted to see.


One of the teachers was cooking up a soup with lots of scrumptious innards, but he was kindly passing plates around so that we could sample each organ before it went into the stew.

Here, he is serving up some lovely slices of sheep stomach. Okay, in fairness we didn’t eat the stomach or the intestines. No, we ate the blood that was cooked inside the stomach and intestines. The liver tasted like, well, liver. The heart tasted pretty good at first; then it tasted like liver. I don’t think I’ll ever be a big sheep guts guy.

For the rest of the morning, students presented dishes from their (or random) countries. A couple of the Korean students made yummy little bacon wraps, and another Korean student made sweet filled pancakes. The Japanese student made something like hash browns on seaweed with bacon (I’m sure that wasn’t the actual title). The Americans didn’t work quite as hard. One student made barbecue beef sandwiches, another couple made ice cream floats, and we made refried beans. Pretty much everything was delicious.

Oh, I almost forgot. The word for the day is хонины мах (hoe-knee mach), which is literally “sheep’s meat,” AKA “mutton.”

Food of Many Nations day

Today’s Mongolian word is actually a phrase: Цаг хэд болж байна вэ? (Tsog head bolj ban way?) Literally, it means “Hour how many becoming is?” which naturally means “What time is it?”

I promised that I would blog a little about the food here. At this point, I am hardly an expert, since I have eaten very little Mongolian food. However, we did have a Foods of Many Nations day at language school the other day. I forgot to take a camera, but my friend Chris brought his, and he was kind enough to share some pictures with me.

  white foods

We started out by learning about white foods. One of the central elements of the Mongolian diet is dairy. We were amazed by the astounding variety of foods that are made from milk and milk products.


They helpfully made flow charts and arrows to show all of the various things that can be made from various dairy products. We got to taste a lot of them and they varied extremely in taste, although most of them were quite good.

This one was a cheese that had been aged for about a year. It had a sharp but good taste.

In my next post, I’ll share some pictures of the “meat” we sampled that day.

An e-mail from my dad

PINEWOOD DERBY (The wisdom of a child)

My son Gilbert was eight years old and had been in Cub Scouts only a short time. During one of his meetings he was handed a sheet of paper, a block of wood and four tires and told to return home and give all to “dad”.

That was not an easy task for Gilbert to do. Dad was not receptive to doing things with his son. But Gilbert tried. Dad read the paper and scoffed at the idea of making a pine wood derby car with his young, eager son. The
block of wood remained untouched as the weeks passed.

Finally, mom stepped in to see if I could figure this all out. The project began. Having no carpentry skills, I decided it would be best if I simply read the directions and let Gilbert do the work. And he did. I read aloud the measurements, the rules of what we could do and what we couldn’t do.

Within days his block of wood was turning into a pinewood derby car. A little lopsided, but looking great (at least through the eyes of mom). Gilbert had not seen any of the other kids’ cars and was feeling pretty proud of his “Blue Lightning”, the pride that comes with knowing you did something on your own.

Then the big night came. With his blue pinewood derby in his hand and pride in his heart we headed to the big race. Once there my little one’s pride turned to humility. Gilbert’s car was obviously the only car made entirely
on his own. All the other cars were a father-son partnership, with cool paint jobs and sleek body styles made for speed.

A few of the boys giggled as they looked at Gilbert’s lopsided, wobbly, unattractive vehicle. To add to the humility, Gilbert was the only boy without a man at his side. A couple of the boys who were from single parent homes at least had an uncle or grandfather by their side, Gilbert had “mom”.

As the race began it was done in elimination fashion. You kept racing as long as you were the winner. One by one the cars raced down the finely sanded ramp. Finally it was between Gilbert and the sleekest, fastest looking car there. As the last race was about to begin, my wide eyed, shy eight year old ask if they could stop the race for a minute, because he wanted to pray. The race stopped.

Gilbert went to his knees clutching his funny looking block of wood between his hands. With a wrinkled brow he set to converse with his Father. He prayed in earnest for a very long minute and a half. Then he stood, smile on his face and announced, ‘Okay, I am ready.”

As the crowd cheered, a boy named Tommy stood with his father as their car sped down the ramp. Gilbert stood with his Father within his heart and watched his block of wood wobble down the ramp with surprisingly great speed and rushed over the finish line a fraction of a second before Tommy’s car.

Gilbert leaped into the air with a loud “Thank You” as the crowd roared in approval. The Scout Master came up to Gilbert with microphone in hand and asked the obvious question, “So you prayed to win, huh, Gilbert?”

To which my young son answered, “Oh, no sir. That wouldn’t be fair to ask God to help you beat someone else. I just asked Him to make it so I wouldn’t cry when I lost.”

Children seem to have a wisdom far beyond us. Gilbert didn’t ask God to win the race, he didn’t ask God to fix the outcome. Gilbert asked God to give him strength in the outcome. When Gilbert first saw the other cars he didn’t
cry out to God, “No fair, they had a father’s help!”. No, he went to his Father for strength. Perhaps we spend too much of our prayer time asking God to rig the race, to make us number one, or too much time asking God to remove us from the struggle, when we should be seeking God’s strength to get through the struggle. “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

Gilbert’s simple prayer spoke volumes to those present that night. He never doubted that God would indeed answer his request. He didn’t pray to win, thus hurt someone else, he prayed that God supply the grace to lose with dignity. Gilbert, by his stopping the race to speak to his Father also showed the crowd that he wasn’t there without a “dad”, but His Father was most definitely there with him. Yes, Gilbert walked away a winner that night, with his Father at his side.

May we all learn to pray this way.

— Author Unknown

Home Improvement Nightmare

Okay, finally time to blog.

Laura suggested that I teach you a Mongolian word each day. I’m not sure about the demand for that, but let’s start with a pair of similar sounding words. The word for paper is цаас (tsaas) and the word for snow is цас (tsas). As you can imagine, it’s easy to mix these two up, but it’s not as tragic as some other easily mixed-up words, but that’s a discussion for another blog.

Heather sent me a list of possible blog topics. The first one is about Mongolian food. Tomorrow, our language school is offering some cooking lessons, so I’ll wait until after that to comment on food.

I do plan to tackle Heather’s list, but I’m going to blog tonight about some difficulties we are having with our apartment. As many of you know, we are currently living in someone else’s apartment while we work on remodeling ours. In preparation for the remodeling project, we visited the homes of a few other missionaries who have recently had work done. We got a couple of recommendations for a contractor named Bayarmaa. We met Bayarmaa and decided to hire her for the project. She came to our apartment, measured the bathroom, asked what we wanted to do, and made arrangements to meet us in “100 Houses,” the hardware street of Ulaanbaatar on Wednesday.

I had school on Wednesday morning, so Tiffany went to 100 Houses, accompanied by a girl from our church who speaks English fairly well. That girl decided we should also bring the pastor’s husband to bargain for us. So, Tiffany and these two from our church drove to 100 Houses and met Bayarmaa’s husband. Some discussion then ensued in Mongolian, while Tiffany looked on bewildered. Apparently, our church friends told the contractor’s husband that he was charging too much, to which he replied, “Find someone else then,” and walked off. Tiffany was not involved in the decision at all.

Tiff and the church folks then went tile shopping and bought tile, cement, grout, etc. I joined them to carry the tile up to our apartment. Then Tiffany went home and I accompanied the two back to 100 Houses and a few other places to buy a bathroom door, shower head and sink. I was basically along for the ride. We walked in and out of stores, and I just looked on in confusion. Apparently, we were looking for items that weren’t made in China. We must have finally found some, because we did buy some things. Even when I was asked for input, I usually didn’t know what I was looking at. “Which of these 5 used Russian sinks do you want?” Once, the pastor’s husband asked me to choose between two sets of bolts and wall anchors. I don’t even know what they were for.

My great concern now is, “Who is going to do the work?” I am, more or less, useless when it comes to home improvement projects, and I don’t think the best way for me to learn tiling is to completely retile my bathroom. So, for the past week, the tile has been sitting in our empty apartment. The church people say they want to help. I hope they know a lot more than I do.


Here’s a visual representation of which words are used most often on this blog. I’m too dumb to make it big enough to read, so just click on the image.