Friday, August 27, 2010:
(At the Ger Camp)…I tried to stay in bed until after 6:15, but by 6:45 AM, I had showered (in cold water), brushed my teeth, and met Carol on the sidewalk to give her the toothpaste, etc. It was a chill morning, but we stood in the morning sun briefly and whispered. The sun was coming over the mountains in the east and the moon was still full to our west. I am guessing that the temperature was probably in the 40’s and I was in short sleeves. Slipping back quietly into the ger, I worked on my journal and Carol did her daily Bible reading. I wanted to note where we were staying, for future reference,… so noted it here. The place is called Ayanchin Four Seasons Lodge. It has a website, so if you are reading this and wish to see pictures…go there! It has a scrolling gallery at the top. If you go to their actual photo gallery, they just show you their expensive food. Go figure! By 7:00 o’clock, everyone was out of bed. While the others prepared for the day, Carol and I hiked up the mountainside. It was a great way to start a morning. The friendly camp dogs were still around and one of them tried to eat a cookie that Elijah had. Elijah said that it had “dog slobbers” on it, but that didn’t deter him from finishing it. Yuk! By 8 AM, we had loaded our stuff into our vehicle and headed back toward the city. As we traveled, Chris pointed out places that he had geocached. He had gotten on a bus, rode to the countryside, got out at a place that even made the Mongolian people wonder, hiked over a mountain, etc…all to find a little box with “treasures” in it…and a log to be signed. I think he then hitchhiked back to UB. His hobby has taken him many places. He has “discovered” hundreds of these “caches”. We sometimes shake our heads,…and thank the good Lord for mercies, as he tells these tales. It was breakfast time and we didn’t have food, so we stopped at a little roadside store and Tiffany bought some bread / pastries. We arrived back at the house between 9:00 and 9:30 AM.
I am going to digress a bit, as there is a side-story here, which I find interesting. The Eternal Light Wesleyan Church had recently purchased the microbus that we were using. Usually, the pastor controlled who used it. Chris & Tiff have not had a vehicle, so did not even have driver’s licenses. Because we were coming to visit, Chris went and secured a license for himself. During that process, he had to tell them what “driving school” he had attended. He just put down Durham School Services, and they accepted that. It is the school bus service that he worked for in Kansas City. When Chris enquired as to whether he could use the church vehicle during our stay, Pastor Otgonbayar (Отгонбаяр) graciously allowed it. The vehicle served us well, but it was not in excellent condition. While we were on the first trip to the countryside, a policeman at a checkpoint had pointed out to Chris that his headlight was hanging from the vehicle by its wires. We bought some wide, yellowed, “Scotch” (tape) and re-attached it. Later, the other one came partially loose. We got it horribly dirty on our travels. The windshield had so many bugs squashed on it that you could hardly see through it. When we went on our second trip…to the Genghis Khan monument and the tourist camp, Chris and Tiff knew that they needed to be back on Friday, Aug. 27th for an afernoon wedding. They also knew that they might have to sing and take pictures. However,…beyond that, information was sketchy. The wedding was to be at 3 PM. After we arrived at the ger camp, text messages and/or phone calls began coming. Chris’s phone wasn’t acting right, but he was able to determine that the couple needed the church vehicle to haul supplies to their wedding. Chris explained to them that we were in the countryside and that would be impractical for us to return the vehicle to them. After a bit of frustrating conversation, he told them to go rent a truck…and we would pay for it. They did so, and I think maybe we paid around $35.00.
What Chris and Tiff did not know was that the wedding time had been moved up…to morning! …But more about that later.
Upon arrival back at the apartment, Carol and Tiff began laundry, prepared some oatmeal for breakfast, etc. Joel fell and busted his lip…double bad, because today was his 2nd birthday. Because of the craziness, he would be somewhat ignored, so this was just adding insult to injury. Since the car was going to the wedding, and since it is unlawful to drive a dirty car in Ulaanbaatar, Chris and I set out to find a car wash. I had offered to take a bucket of water down to the parking lot and hand-wash it, but he doesn’t have a bucket. He also knew things that I didn’t. We looked at several places that said that they were car washes, but I saw no sign of anything that I recognized as such. Soon, he turned into an opening in a board fence and pulled up besides some tanks. To me, it looked as if we had entered an American salvage yard that had no vehicles. A lady came up the hill and conversed with him and we soon exited the vehicle. She had quoted us a price of 6,000 tugrik for the job (about $4.20). She moved a piece of wood to expose a hidden electrical outlet, plugged in a small compressor, and began pressure washing our micro. Another gal showed up in rubber boots, and with a rag and bucket. Together, they worked for quite awhile, until every square inch of the vehicle, including the tires, had been cleaned….inside and out. They were working on ground that was just bare dirt, so you can imagine what it looked like after the process. They lay towels or rugs by each door, for us to wipe our feet on before entering the vehicle. Chris used his…and then picked me up over by the gate. As we left there at about 10:50 AM, Chris got a phone call from Tiff, telling him that the wedding was at 11 AM. He flew home and threw on a suit. Tiff was already hurriedly dressing. In minutes, they were out the door. We kept the kids. In less than an hour, Chris came back into the apartment to get something that was needed. The wedding had not begun yet. It maybe started at around 12:30 PM, but only the early stages. I think they were there until later in the afternoon. Chris really was the photographer (with no experience…and just a 5 mega pixel camera), but there were so many people taking pictures that he could hardly get in position to take them himself. Tiff sang a song during a tribute portion of the reception. Many people spoke. While all of this was occurring, Carol washed, ironed, served us soup, etc. I took the boys outside for walks, looked at an encyclopedic book with them, tried to catch flies in a bottle,…with Elijah, etc. I soon became tired (remember my last night), so napped until 3:30 PM and then got up and wrote these notes. The weather turned back toward summer today…probably in the upper 80-degree range. There is a breeze, so it is tolerable. I just heard that we are going out somewhere nice tonight, so I need to take a bath. Chris had to give the microbus back to the church folk, as they will need it for Sunday, so we will be taking buses and taxis now. Joel finally gets some recognition. Before going out, we’ll have him open his gifts. He got a ton of toys: trains, trucks, books, clothing, etc. I think he will be entertained for a while. Tseggie arrived to be the babysitter for the evening hours. She will play with the boys, feed, and entertain them. We went outside, stood by the road, held out our hand with the palm down, and awaited a ride from a passing car. We would pay them…they may or may not be a licensed taxi. We went downtown to the Mongolian Cultural Center for a show. After purchasing tickets, we went back outside and across the street, and to a shop known as the World Market. It sold American products of every sort…but you paid dearly for them. We saw a bag of small chocolate candy bars (bite-size)…150 of them…for $30. Other items were equally pricey. When we initially arrived at the Cultural Center, there was a large contingent of policemen standing outside. We were to learn that they were immigration officials/border patrols…coming to the show. If you wanted to learn about Mongolian culture, this was the place. For a couple of hours or so, we were entertained by singers, dancers, musicians, and contortionists…in Mongolian costumes. The did “throat-singing”, played the horse-head fiddle, supported their body weight by biting down on a piece of metal and then turning upside down, etc. If you haven’t heard throat-singing, look it up on Google and listen to some of it. It is an incredibly difficult form of singing, and unique. You probably have never heard it in the U.S.. Slightly different subject now…most restrooms, in the public buildings of Mongolia are usually pretty decent. Nearly every toilet flushes by pulling or pushing on a handle in the top of the lid, but that’s no problem. What is a bit disconcerting is that sometimes the signs just say “restrooms”, and you have to enter before seeing doors that say “Man” or “Woman”. At the cultural center, you came out of these stalls and into a communal area where both genders washed their hands, groomed in the mirrors, etc. The only problem with that was that the men’s section had no doors. As they came in, went out, or washed their hands, the women could observe you doing your thing at the urinals. They think nothing of it! Chris & Tiff had in mind to take us to a really nice Indian restaurant after the show. We took a taxi to the place, but found that a busload of 70 people had just come in and been seated. There would be a lengthy wait before we could get a table. Another taxi took us to Sukhbaatar Square…the plaza that we had visited on our first day. What we had not been aware of was that there was a skyscraper there with fancy shops inside, i.e. Armani, Hugo Boss, Louie Vitton, etc. Apparently, someone in Mongolia is wealthy. We went upstairs to a really nice restaurant, and Chris asked for a window table, looking out over the government plaza. It was now after 8 PM. We had enchiladas, nachos, etc. They brought me some kind of a fancy food dish by mistake. They had misunderstood my order. I would have kept it, but it was 22,900 tugrik…over $16.00. After a relaxing meal, we went to a coffee shop in the same building and had two coffee drinks and a trio of ice creams. We went out to flag a taxi. The driver had a single girl get out in order to make room for the 4 of us…I guess we were better “fares”. When we got to our destination (home), he tried to charge us way over the going rate. Chris just handed him what he knew to be the proper amount, and we got out. He drove off. Tseggie was to leave at 10 PM. We arrived ten minutes before that. I mentioned before that she goes alone, through dark streets, and on public buses. She is maybe 25 years old…lost her mom about the time that Chris and Tiff arrived in Mongolia. I worry about her a bit. Tonight, I am doing journaling at 10:55.
Hopefully, I’m going to sleep well.
(One more note: At some point this evening, we walked for several blocks. I think it may
have been right after the cultural show. Our walk took us past a monument to the
Beatles. Even here, in Mongolia…they are famous! We also stopped in at the Sony store
to see if maybe I could afford a spare battery-charger for my camera. At $50, and with
only a few days left, I decided against it).