My dad’s travel journal part 8
Wednesday, August 25, 2010:
Back in Ulaanbaatar…Carol, awake by 6 AM…Richard, by 7:00. Chris usually was an early riser, but the rest of the family preferred to sleep in a bit. I think that Carol & I still were affected by our home schedules, though in Mongolia, we were about 13 hours out of whack. Carol took her shower, had devotions, and began some laundry. Since we had been gone for several days, we had plenty. When everyone was awake, we had a breakfast of fried eggs, toast, juice, etc. Carol and Tiff went to the store after that. They bought some Cipro (medicine for my stomach cramps) and some groceries. Remember…there is usually no vehicle at this household, so groceries must be toted, either on foot…or by hired vehicle…and that would be true for many people in other parts of the world. Thus, they seldom buy large quantities at any one time. We hung clothes on the little rack and at our open bedroom windows…on hangers. Some of the household chores are assigned to Elijah,…and he earns some cash for doing them properly. It is his job to clear the table after meals. The helper (housekeeper) is named Tseggi, or something like that. She does laundry, dishes, house-cleaning, childcare, etc. Because of her, the missionaries have time to attend language school, homeschool their children, go on an occasional date, etc.
After breakfast, I spent some time with the boys. I knew that our trip has left Chris & Tiff with many tasks to catch up on. I played with Elijah’s army set, and played the game, Candyland. I also called my Mom & Dad, in Arizona, and visited with them. Carol called Overland Park and talked with our daughter-in-law, Sarah, for a bit. We decided that we had better get busy wrapping the gifts that we brought with us to Mongolia. We spent a couple of hours at that task, sequestered in our bedroom, where the boys could not watch the proceedings.
Chris had locked our microbus up in a fenced enclosure near to the apts. He paid for that privilege almost every night. It wasn’t very expensive….and was a common practice there. We were going on another adventure, so after lunch, we all went to get it.
Actually, this was a combination of work/pleasure. Chris & Tiffany have been in Mongolia under a “student” visa. This will soon expire and they need another “reason” for living in that country. It seems that getting a job there and having some sort of “work permit” is the means to that end. Tiffany had put on a black dress and heels (looked very professional), and was going to an interview for a teaching position at a school for Americans who live in Mongolia. Having retrieved our car, we set out across the city. The helper was keeping Joel today, so we would need to have someone at home by 4 PM…the time that she needed to leave. We dropped Tiffany off at the gate to the school and took off for our adventure. Nearby was a mountain…and atop that mountain was a WWII memorial. We started up the road to the parking lot…and the car overheated…past the top of the red mark on the temp. gauge. We abandoned it and began walking. When you got to the parking lot, steps led up to the memorial…many, many, many steps. Carol had to stop at times because of pain in her chest (a condition that often gives me cause for concern). Chris & I were more able to make the climb, but both of us found our legs shaking and quivering about an hour later. Elijah, soon to be 6 years old, was the only one to seemingly not be affected by the climb. From the top, we could look all around us. We could see Tiff, at the school…off in the distance. She called or texted (can’t remember) to say that her interview was a failure…they no longer needed her to fill the position. She was hiking up the other side of the mountain. We could look down on a Buddha statue, and the city skyscape. The memorial was of interest and had several mosaic pictures denoting Mongolia’s involvement, but the view was maybe more exciting to me. Public drunkenness was fairly common; and we saw a man way up there that could hardly stand. Wondered how he got up there, unless he was sober at that time. We headed back down and got to a little store where we hoped to buy a drink or ice cream…just as it closed. We met Tiff and all loaded back into our vehicle. It had cooled down, so seemed okay to drive. Time was beginning to become an issue…someone needed to get clear across town by 4 PM. We suddenly pulled to the side of the street and Tiff jumped out to catch a city bus. We were kind of stunned as we drove off, leaving her on the curb with a bunch of Mongolians waiting for transportation. We soon came to realize that she was as comfortable with that process as we were with many of our daily activities. She would take buses or taxis across town and arrive hopefully before Tseggie needed to go home. (When that young girl baby-sits on a Friday night, so that Chris & Tiff can go on a date, she catches a bus at 10 PM and heads home by herself). We just aren’t very used to that!
… Back to our afternoon activities now. After Tiff got out, we drove to a nice department store. Actually, it was a mall inside one tall building….with many stores inside. We purchased a 5-liter jug of bottled water…for our car’s radiator. We also got us some water, a pineapple soda, and a Kit Kat candy bar…one of Elijah’s favorites. We had been checking the car’s overflow tank…and it was full, but the radiator didn’t have much water and it didn’t seem to be circulating properly. After giving the vehicle a drink, we drove to the nearby Winter Palace. It was where some of the kings of Mongolia stayed for part of the year. I think some of the buildings were from 1912. Since they wanted $7 for the privilege of using my camera there…I declined to do so. It was a really interesting place…with chairs that the royalty rode in, their bedrooms, fur coats made from 150 wolves, etc. I bought one of Mongolia’s very unusual hats for 8,000 tugrik. They had a cash register at the gift shop, but had to lift it up and do something underneath it in order to open the drawer. We had a bit of trouble getting someone to take our money. That happens frequently there. In some countries, you are harassed constantly by vendors trying to get you to buy their stuff. In Mongolia, they are there to serve you, but generally, only if you make the first move. They don’t seem to have any sense of “customer service”, in the way that we do in America. That wasn’t always true, but generally they are not “pushy” in that way. We went out of the museum portion of the palace and into a park nearby that had a temple. As we entered that courtyard, a man handed me a laminated piece of paper. In English, it explained that his ger had burned and all manner of tragedy had befallen him and his family. He wanted to sell us some postcards for $1 each. It was another of those situations where I would have given him much more if I could have determined that his story was true, but there was no way to know if he was scamming us or had real need. His printed paper just looked too contrived. Next, we went a few doors away…to Cashmere World. This was a wonderful store…probably more like one that we’d have on the Country Club Plaza. There were all types of clothing, blankets, etc made from camel wool, angora wool, etc. Most of it was beyond my budget, but I wished that I could have brought home some of the wonderful blankets. It was nearing suppertime, and Chris had communicated by phone with Tiffany. We would drive across town to a restaurant. She and Joel would catch a taxi or bus and meet us. While waiting for her, we looked in some stores. This turned out to be a really nice restaurant…one they had tried before. It had a kid’s play area and a wonderful ambience. They seated us…and began laying nice tablecloths over the existing one…then pulling the old one out from under it…so we would never view the table surface. Seemed thoughtful! A few minutes later, they determined that we weren’t the party that they had reserved this table for…so moved us to another room. Felt a bit degraded, but it was okay. We had more American fare here: Pizza, a huge plate of fruits, salad, a chicken dish, a huge cheeseburger (tasted odd), and ice for our drinks (a real rarity). I chose 7-Up in hopes of appeasing my still angry stomach. There was way too much food for us to consume, so they brought us styrofoam carryout trays….one of Chris’s petpeeves. The trays have printed on them “made in Mongolia”…as if they are proud of the fact. However, they are so small that almost nothing fits into them and you need about 10 of them to do any good. Maybe, I exaggerate a bit…but they were small! After supper, we visited several of the downtown UB stores. One had your returned goods. They get their merchandise from Walmart & Target returns. Sometimes you can get good stuff there. One store had lots of candy…and even a big glass window in the floor with a candy display below it. Cool! Traffic was still nerve-wracking. There seemed to be thousands of people on the sidewalks tonight, shopping, eating out, etc. You’d almost think you were in New York City…except you are very aware that it’s not true. We eventually headed for home, stopping first at a nearby store, that we knew by the name of Sora. It had quite a bit of American stuff, though its sister store (nearby) carried local items. We got some Dr. Pepper for Carol, some gift- wrap, and Flavor-Ice popsicles. After parking our car in the secure, fenced area, we walked to the apartment. It was a beautiful night…perfect weather…tons of kids out playing in the parks. When you saw the fun that they were having, you kind of overlooked the blight of the glass-littered lots that you normally saw in the daylight hours. These were God’s children (though they may not have known it)…with the same emotions and desires that we have. They wanted to be loved and appreciated, wanted to have friends, and hopefully would grow up in a country more friendly to Christianity that it has ever been before. While Chris led the boys in their devotions, I worked on this day’s journal notes. About 9:35 PM, I was caught up. Busy days lay ahead. My stomach was only having slight cramps now. I think we all were looking forward to a restful night. I did one other activity before retiring. Elijah has a notebook in which he is collecting little one-page stories entitled “A Day in my Life” (or something like that). I had promised him that I’d write about some of my memories…so took care of that little responsibility. As, always, I looked out of the window at the city of Ulaanbaatar. I can’t really describe the feeling in my heart…but there always seemed to be a bit of “hurt” as I observed the lights of the hundreds of buildings. Before I left, I concluded that whether in Mongolia or in America, it is only our duty to obey God and to brighten the corner that we find ourselves in. If you try to take on the hurts of the whole world, you will be very frustrated. But, if we make ourselves available…God will work through us. As a parent of a missionary, I was overwhelmed by the task that our kids had taken on…but I realized that God had prepared them for the task and was continuing to enable them and provide for them as they faithfully stood their post. With that in mind,…I could sleep.