Sumpteretc's Blog

What's on my mind at the moment

Category: Mongolia

My dad’s travel journal part 12

Sunday, August 29, 2010:
Happy Birthday, Sheryl…and Happy “real” Anniversary to Carol and me. Though it is the 29th in Ulaanbaatar, it is the evening of the 28th in the U.S. Carol & I would have been saying our vows about now. I got some pretty good sleep last night…perhaps as much as 10 hours. Chris & the boys were up when we ventured out around 8 AM (actually, when I went out…Carol had already been up and showered earlier). We just relaxed this morning,…did things like watching the kid show “Handy Manny”, ate some oatmeal, called my sister in Arizona,…and then dressed for church (though it would come much later in the day). A cool breeze was coming in the window and it was sunny outside. The high for the day should be in the mid-60 degree range. Since church doesn’t happen until 2 PM, the plan for the day is sightseeing. Elijah wanted to go out and look for pretty rocks to put into the aquarium, so I took him out and we searched nearby streets and playgrounds. We were in light-colored dress pants, so soon had dirt on us. When we got back home, it was time to head out for brunch…just a bit before 11 AM. We caught a ride from a passing car and went downtown to Naran Plaza (tall bldg), and up five floors, to New York New York, a wonderful restaurant. The food was American …and scrumptious! I had long whitefish fillets. Carol had a bacon sandwich. Ah…the taste of home! We had huge cans of Arizona Ice Tea. The boys could go outside and run on the terrace around the building. I went out to look around town a bit. We took another car back home at 12:45. We ate some of the leftover birthday cake and then prepared to leave for our walk to church. It seemed to be quite a ways there, though Chris, Tiff, and family are used to it. It is far enough that Joel got to ride in a stroller. I would have never found the church if you’d given me instructions…and couldn’t find it again today, if I tried. We went past some buildings that I recognized and others that we’d never seen before. We made many turns, and squeezed between two buildings that were maybe 18″ apart. While doing that, my mind turned to earthquakes. Ulaanbaatar lies on a major fault line. As we were walking, we passed neighborhoods filled with poor kids,… playing in their yards, but likely knowing nothing of the God who saves from sin. What a task…to figure out how to win them. Soon, we arrived at Eternal Light Wesleyan Church. The rented church sits in what we would call a ghetto back home, but is actually quite nice, and full of wonderful people. We arrived late, so service was in progress. Though we understood little of the words, as the congregation sang there was an obvious sense of worship. Hands were lifted, eyes closed, tears being wiped…lots of seeming joy. Chris sat between Carol & me and translated quietly from time to time. At one point, the congregation stood and extended both hands in the direction of each visitor…”hands of blessing”, and they sang to us. One lady came over and hugged us. Pretty neat way to make people feel wanted. A missionary from New Zealand was the preacher this afternoon. His name is Ewen. His topic was “Give us this day our daily bread”. Because of our presence there, he preached in English and had Pastor Otgonbayar translate it into Mongolian. I felt a little bad for the people, to have to listen to both languages…because of us. Ewen told us later that he’d repeated a phrase or two because he didn’t think the interpretation made his point adequately. Once a month, three of the Wesleyan congregations have a “joint” service, so there was a pretty full church on this particular morning. Balloons decorated the sanctuary…left over from the prior day’s wedding ceremony. The mix of old-young, male-female was better today than normal, because of the three groups. Usually, this particular church has a quite young congregation….many college-age…or thereabouts. After church, we gave some Christian trinkets, bookmarks, toys, etc to one of the Sunday School teachers so she could give them out to her students. We had also taken a bunch of teaching materials (picture pages, etc) to give to them….left over from a prior quarter’s literature at Herald & Banner Press. After church, we visited in the yard. We met Sarah, another missionary, who came from Washington state. She & husband, Chris, live near the church and have adopted at least 2 Mongolian children. They have 4 kids in their family. She was a wonderful lady to be around and to converse with, very warm & friendly. We took our leave of the place at around 4:30 or 5:00 PM and walked back toward home. Most of the way there, a homeless boy visited with Chris. He had been a thorn in their flesh at times, but was potentially a prospect for salvation. I thought to myself, who knows…perhaps a church leader someday? Tiff told us that for some reason, his enunciation of Mongolian words is better than most people, or at least…was easier for her & Chris to understand. We stopped at a park and let the boys play, before returning to the apartment. Tiff set out some leftover food, so we had soup, tacos, biscuits & gravy, birthday cake, etc. Then we played Wii games for awhile. Elijah decided to sell me a notebook full of his artwork for 1,500 tugrik (a little over $1). After the boys were in bed, Chris & Tiff got out a big sack of sheep’s anklebones. We used them to play several different Mongolian games. Now, we could better understand how they spend some of the time in their gers, or while watching their herds. Before playing the games, I called a friend in Arkansas, Dwight Spear, and had a chat with him. He and wife, Rawlene, had recently been on vacation…and I wanted to find out how things had gone for them.
One of the things that we have noticed is that many missions organizations in Mongolia overlap somewhat. World Vision, Samaritan’s Purse, Global Partners, and others are all at work here. Chris & Tiff have been involved in giving out Christmas shoebox gifts at their own church…provided by Samaritan’s Purse. Religions, other than Buddhism, are slow coming to this vast country. The Catholics have a large church in UB, but only one, and a small percentage of believers. The Mormons are very visible on the streets of UB and have built an impressive building there. However, they have already had some of their people deported because of their behavior. We saw one small Baptist church. Churches are NOT plentiful here. There is a huge need for missionaries who will learn the language, suffer the hardships of filth, inconvenience, and severe winters…and who will commit to years of service. Ewen told me today that it takes about 6 years before a person truly earns the trust of the people. At least, he felt that to be true with him and Pia. He told me that they had recently returned from western Mongolia, an area that had been devastated by an extremely harsh winter. Many of the people had lost their entire herds…destroying their livelihood. The govt. had been paying people to bury the animals.
A church in Switzerland (Pia’s home) had seen two PowerPoint slides depicting this situation. They immediately sent $15,000. Another church, or group of people, did a similar thing. Because of their compassion, food, etc. had been provided for 270 families over several months. Now, these people claim to know the name of Jesus and profess a faith in Him. Who knows the fruits of those gifts? There are several things that come to mind to me today as I think about the missions work here. I will write them down so that I will remember how to pray, and in hopes that those who read this journal, will also join in the prayers.
-Pray for Chris &Tiff’s visa situation. It appears that at least one of them must find
a means of “employment” in Mongolia. They went there on “student visas”, but at
the end of the two years of language school…those visas will expire. The status of
“church worker” is almost impossible to achieve, so they have to find another
reason for the govt. to allow them to be there. (Note: As I type up these journal
notes, I have an update. Since we have returned to the states, Tiff has secured a
teaching position at a school there. It appears that the visa application process has
been started. If she gets a visa, it will be possible for Chris to get a “companion
visa”. Pray that it will all be approved).
-Pray for a church that wants to purchase its own property. Currently, they pay
rent, and share a building used by others. They have their eyes on a piece of
property, with a building…available for $110,000 (U.S.). However, being a church
filled with young, college-age kids…they have few resources for purchasing it.
They hope to find others who are willing to help them with this dream.
-Pray for leadership/relationship issues within this church. Satan does battle every-
where. Chris & Tiff are trying to not get entangled in internal church struggles,
but, because of their position as Global Partner (Wesleyan) missionaries, it may
be necessary to take some uncomfortable steps. They feel that their mission is to
mentor new leaders for the church of Mongolia. When one leader stands in the
way…they must have godly wisdom as they deal with the situation.
-Pray for the safety of the missionaries. They live in an environment that most of
us would choose to avoid,…broken stairs, crumbling sidewalks, terrible roads,
open manholes, dangerous traffic, animosity toward Americans, disease from
tainted foods & water, etc.
-Pray for those missionaries who are trying to raise children in another country.
Just how much of the native language should they learn? How do they learn
English alongside that language? How should they educate their children? How
do you home school, work a job, and still be an effective missionary? How much
freedom do your give your little boys…to roam outside among the drunks, broken
glass, etc.? How do you entertain them during a church service in which they
don’t understand anything that is being spoken?
-Fast & pray that the light of the Gospel may penetrate the immense darkness of
Buddhism and Shamanism that has a grip on many of the Mongolian people.
Our God is willing and able to do abundantly more than we ask or think. It is His desire to save the people of Mongolia. Will we do our part to ensure that harvest?
Having written down much of this in the late evening on Sunday, I am about ready to get some sleep. It is around 43 degrees outside…fairly comfortable in the unheated apt.
I have finished my task. It is 11:40 PM….another day is done. Good night.

My dad’s travel journal part 11

Saturday, August 28, 2010:
Happy 40th wedding anniversary to Carol and me! We were married at the Overland Park Church of God (Holiness) on this date…40 years ago. However….
because of the time difference here in Mongolia, the actual hour of our wedding anniversary is still almost a full day away. Since we didn’t make any plans for a grand celebration…all is well. We have a bed & breakfast stay awaiting us back home…compliments of our children.
Sleep was good last night…softer bed, cool air, stomach improving, Carol’s throat is healing, etc….stayed in the sack until 7 AM. I guess Carol may have been up earlier, but I wasn’t awake enough to know. The Kansas City Chiefs game is just coming on the TV, via Slingbox…from Matthew’s house in Overland Park. Pre-season games don’t excite me much, but being on the other side of the world…I watch. At halftime, Philadelphia leads 10-7 (they lost!). They tell us that it is to be 91 degrees in Kansas City tomorrow. The high temperature here in Mongolia will be in the mid-60s. Breakfast this morning…homemade biscuits with sausage gravy…tasty! There is to be no paid helper today, so Carol is the dishwasher. She’s been trying to be helpful, but has been discouraged from doing too much as it takes away the helper’s chores. After the football game, Chris, Carol, and I headed for the street, where we could catch a microbus and go to the Black Market. Our driver wasn’t too bright and took some bad turns in heavy traffic. At one point, Chris said that we had been within 100 feet of the market, but the man kept driving and driving….for about 20 minutes or so. Eventually we arrived. A light ran had begun to fall and it continued to drizzle on us, and onto some of the merchandise. The market was an incredible place. There were hundreds of booths, or so it seemed, and, I think they sold everything that has ever been made. People pushed and shoved (usually in a nice way) in almost every aisle. Sometimes a vendor would drag a box of merchandise into the center of one of the crowded aisles, and make things even worse. Chris bought a block of cheese and some freshly butchered beef. I bought a furry Mongolian hat for 25,000 tugrik. People who didn’t want to pay the 50-tugrik (3 1/2 cents) fee to get into the market, were climbing over huge train container boxes, alongside some barbwire, and then down into the booths. Some of them were even carrying merchandise to sell. I couldn’t tell that anybody cared. Just seemed silly, though. After some time of wandering through the chaos, we took another micro in which to go home. It had over 20 people in it…a very tight fit. I think I had only one small portion of one rear cheek…on a seat. It wasn’t comfortable at all! After we got out of that situation, we walked to a nearby bakery to get a birthday cake for Joel. They didn’t have a great selection, so he ended up with one that looked more like an anniversary cake…two swans on it. Around 3:30 PM, we arrived back at the apartment and had a late lunch of homemade chicken tacos, salsa, etc. At 5 PM, Chris took Carol & me back out to shop for souvenirs. We put out our hand and a car stopped to pick us up. Before I had all my legs inside (one foot was still on the ground), the young female driver took off. I think she then realized it, and hesitated briefly while I continued entering the car. We shopped at a number (maybe 6-8) of souvenir stores…from the huge State Department Store (in a tall skyscraper)….to tiny basement shops. We went to “Martha & Mary’s” a couple of times. Chris visited with a British lady there who knew him. Their store purchased Mongolian crafted items and then helped the families of alcoholics, prisoners, etc. We bought a number of items, but one was an angel ornament made from the glass of a liquor bottle….from which the proceeds would go to families devastated by alcohol. We saw the results of the liquor trade outside, …in the form of a drunken man, lying on the sidewalk…oblivious to all the people stepping around him. At one intersection, as we waited to cross the street, we saw two cars, covered in writing. Chris identified them as “rally cars”. There was a road-race with drivers going across Mongolia in cars for which they had paid no more than $1,000. They had to try and survive the grueling journey on those terrible roads. We shopped until around 7:30 PM,…purchasing camels, purses, hats, small gers, and many other items for friends and family. We had lots to carry, so took another hired car home. This driver quizzed Chris about America, its wages, visas, etc. When we got to the apt., Tiffany was bathing the boys. Afterwards, we had birthday cake with Joel. He liked the taste, and didn’t seem to mind the grown-up decorations. It was then time for devotions and we headed for our rooms. Tiff had a headache and we were pretty tired. Chris continued to work at his computer, checking on geocaches, reading correspondence, putting comments on facebook, etc. I finished writing these notes by 9:00 PM. It seemed like it should be later. Another day done!

My dad’s travel journal part 10

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).

My dad’s travel journal part 9

Thursday, August 26, 2010:
For some reason, Carol was awake alot throughout Wednesday night. She was out of bed soon after 6 AM. This morning, there was a bit of frustration…the water was off, at least the “hot” water. Whether bathing or just heating your home, you are dependent upon the city’s system. Water is piped to you through loops of pipe. If they are delivering it to your faucet or your wall radiator, you’re okay. If not…you live with it! It soon arrived. We had pancakes, yogurt, juice, etc for breakfast. Once again, I settled up my “bills” with Chris. We went so many places, paid admission, took cabs and buses, ate out, etc…that he was constantly trying to keep track on the spending so we wouldn’t mess up his accounting system. As a missionary, you have your own personal money, but you also work from several accounts, i.e. “housing”, “salary”, “pension”, “insurance”, “vehicle”, etc.
Sometimes you have to keep it straight on your end so that you can help the “home office” keep it straight too. They are trying to keep track of your incoming money there, as well as your expenses. I wasn’t sure that we were getting Chris paid for everything that he was spending, but had plans to give them some extra money at the end of our stay, so hoped it would balance out okay. After wrapping another gift or two, we began packing for another overnight stay, away from the city. Today, we would head west…to another part of the Mongolian countryside. As we traveled, we saw some yaks, in the roadway, some camels alongside the road, cemeteries, an industrial part of town, etc. We learned that Mongolians are pretty superstitious and won’t spend much time in a cemetery. After some time, we arrived at the Chigghis Khan memorial (We say Ghenghis…they say Chingghis). This is a recently built attraction, way out in the “boonies” a long way from town. Not sure why they put it there, but it dominates the surrounding prairies. For miles, there is not much of anything,…then this hill rises up,…and a round building sits atop it. On the building’s roof is an immense stainless steel statue of their national hero, astride his horse. It is around 120 feet tall (as tall as a 15-story building). Five-hundred engineers were used in the planning and erecting of this great monument. There is to be beautiful landscaping around it…but it was not completed yet. We climbed stairs up to the entrance and Chris negotiated our admission price. While doing so, Elijah smashed a finger in the doorway. Suddenly, the staff was very concerned for him. Not sure, but perhaps that helped us get a better price. Mongolians get a cheaper ticket. They wanted to charge all 6 of us as Americans, but Chris argued that his family was from Ulaanbaatar. Inside, there was a huge Mongolian boot, made of leather. I think it must have been over 20 feet tall. We took pictures beside it. We did a bit more exploring in a basement museum and then some of us took the elevator and stairs up to the horse’s head. From there, you could look out over the mountains and plains that surrounded this monument, and get a close-up look at Ghenghis’s face, sword, etc. We also watched a movie about construction of the behemoth. Pretty amazing! On the second floor of the building, it was quite elegant. Crystal chandeliers hung above tables with lovely (though soiled) yellow tablecloths. Chris and Tiff decided that we’d have lunch there. There was no sign of any kitchen, and we still aren’t totally sure where they prepared the food, but we ordered, and they brought us lunch. I ate noodles and beef. Not sure what the others had. By now, Carol had developed a very sore throat. I looked and could see white spots on her tonsils. Again…no real feeling that medical help was nearby, so I encouraged her to eat salty broth. I think she was sick enough to try about anything. After lunch, we loaded back into the microbus and headed to some ger camps out in the mountains. They had stayed in one before and enjoyed the experience. Chris chose a camp that had a nice lodge, several gers, some cabins, a wonderful playground, and a good shower house/restroom. The price was a bit high, but nothing excessive. I have noted that it was around $14 per person. We were assigned the ger closest to the bathhouse…not a bad plan. You have to understand that this is a “tourist” camp. Both visitors from other countries, and Mongolians from nearby cities come here for a weekend of “camping”, similar to what we do in the U.S. We had 4 beds (twin-size), a dresser, a wood/coal stove in the center,….and an electric power bar connected to a little chandelier. They had provided bedding, toothbrushes, etc. There was a linoleum floor and a padlock on the door. We checked it out, visited the playground, played with some dogs (one knocked Joel down), and then loaded back into the car for a visit to “Turtle Rock”. This is a huge rock formation, more like a small mountain. We climbed on it, scooted through a narrow opening that was barely big enough to get through, greeted some Japanese tourists, and just relaxed. All around us were mountains. The elevation was probably around a mile high. When we returned to the ground, we watched tourists getting camel and horse rides, and some people shooting arrows from a bow. Elijah played in a little cave and collected pieces of charcoal (burned wood) into a discarded bottle. Many people visited this place and we saw Koreans (Japanese?), Mongolians, a group from Argentina, etc. There were two very old Mongolian ladies there, in native dress. Often, we saw people who had not changed from the centuries-old way of attiring themselves. I really enjoyed seeing them. We discovered that these two ladies were sisters. A number of people wanted to have pictures taken with them, and they were very gracious about it. The Argentineans spoke only Spanish, and it was interesting to see a young Mongolian woman acting as the interpreter as they talked to these elderly ladies. She could speak both Spanish and Mongolian. I wondered at how she had acquired those skills. It seemed unusual. After buying some snacks at a nearby store,…which they had to go get someone to open for us, we observed some of the activities mentioned above…and then headed back to our ger. Arriving there, we decided to patronize the restaurant in the lodge. It was a very nice place, with a chef in a tall, white hat….and menu prices to explain it all. We were in a bit of shock, and decided to maybe do some sharing of meals. We purchase a hamburger and a chicken dinner…and split them 6 ways. For $14, you got 3 drumsticks, salad, and rice. The chicken was tough and dried out. Probably that was the only really unpleasantness that we experienced while there. Earlier in the afternoon, Chris, Elijah, and I had climbed a nearby mountain,… up to a gazebo there, and found a geocache under the floor. We took a couple of items and replaced them with an American quarter, etc. Chris was the first person to find this cache, so there was a bonus prize in it for a “first to find”. He got to take away a 5,000 rupee bill. He took with him a “travel bug”. It will go into another cache somewhere, and will be tracked as it makes its way around the world.
After supper, we decided to climb another nearby mountain. Whenever I see a mountain, I want to climb it. People with me usually hear me say that alot. What I am discovering is that it is much harder to do so than it is to talk about it…particularly as I near 60 years of age. We set out though and were soon climbing over one of the very rare fences in Mongolia so that we could get to the other side of the mountain. Over there, we looked down into a beautiful valley, with other tourist camps, small farms, etc. It was nearing sunset…and just an exhilarating experience to me. We kept noticing what appeared to be groves of newly planted trees. To this day, we don’t know for sure how they got there, but Chris suggested a possibility. Korean Airlines makes an effort to see that 50,000 trees are planted in Mongolia each year. We think that perhaps they have paid these people to put new trees on their properties…and to care for them. Evening was beginning to arrive and we headed back to camp. Our gers were just tiny little things off in the distance. Elijah ran ahead of us and arrived back at camp long before us. It is so wonderful to be in a safe place where your kids can have this kind of experience. When I was a child, I lived in Wyoming, so much of Mongolia reminded me of the good experiences that I had then.
It was now becoming very, very chilly. We got out the jackets and put them on. Carol and Joel headed for the ger. He was a very tired boy. Not only did the playground have equipment for the kids, but it had a double swing and a glider bench for the adults. Chris & I sat and watched the moon as it seemed to “leap” over a nearby mountain peak. One minute it was hidden…moments later it was headed “north” (or whatever direction “up” is). It was quite a show. I was expecting to see an awesome “star show” on this night because it was clear, cold, and far away from the city. However, I was a bit disappointed because the lodge kept floodlights burning, and the moon was nearly full. At 8:45, Chris had gone to the ger and I think some of them were playing a card game. I sat on the deck of the lodge in order to have enough light to write these notes. Elijah seemed to never run out of energy, so he entertained himself by running to and fro, and playing out some imaginary scenario. I am awed by the amazing creation of God all around me and I speak briefly of it to Elijah. A bit of wood smoke hangs in the air. Perhaps someone has the stove lighted in their ger. My camera battery had finally died here, earlier in the evening. It was expected,…but sad! Chris loaned his to me…and continued to do so for the rest of our trip. It only had 5 mega pixels, but took quite good pictures. It is unusual for one of my kids to have something with less technology than me. I tried to be very careful with it, because we had learned that some people from their church wanted him to be their wedding photographer the next day. As night fell, Elijah went inside too. I stood out on the mountainside and looked at the faint glow that outlined the mountains (where the sun had gone around that part of the earth). The stars were in the sky now. I had been able to show Elijah the North Star and the Big Dipper before he went in. I wondered at it being so visible…here…12,000 miles from home, but remembered that I was still in the Northern Hemisphere….about the same latitude as Canada. Perhaps, you can’t see it from the Southern Hemisphere…I don’t know. After Elijah went in, I stood in the immense quietness and prayed. I can’t say that God seemed exceptionally close at that moment, but I believe that He was hearing me. I prayed for me, for Mongolia, for its people, its spiritual darkness,…for Chris & Tiff and the boys….and for my family, back home. I can still feel what I felt that night. It will rest in my memory. It was nearing 10 PM….the end of another long day…so I headed for the ger…and bed.
……You might think the story ended there. Well, sort of. But the night’s events were something to be recorded here too. Believe me…they will reside in my memory for many years. Elijah slept with me, in my twin bed. Though not terribly cold, it was cool. The beds had a sheet on the bottom, and a very thick and wonderful comforter on top. It kind of folded in around you, but with two people in the bed, that particular activity became a bit difficult. I think that perhaps one person could have folded it underneath him / her. You have heard it said that when you make your bed, you have to lie in it. Well, I did! But , if I had actually made it, I would have made it softer. The bed was slightly harder than rock! I turned over and over and over and over. I tried to be quiet because 4 adults were in the same room…all trying to sleep. I felt like a chicken on a rotisserie. The next day, I asked Tiff if she heard me turning and she admitted that she had. At one point, I considered just going out to the playground and sitting up all night, but eventually abandoned that idea. At some point in the night, I decided that the comforter would do more good under me than on top of me. There was still a thin, camel wool blanket that I could cover up with. With that action taken, life suddenly became much better, and I slept. Around 5:30 AM, there was a gentle knock on the door. I had latched it. Chris unlocked it and a man came into the room and started a fire in our stove. That was kind of neat! I heard Chris get up one time after that and add some wood to it, but by the time we all got up for the day, it had gone out. I guess it knocked the chill of the early morning. Carol claims that she also did not sleep much, but I jerked on her covers several times…trying to stop her loud snoring,…so I am not much of a “believer”. We had expressed a desire to spend a night in a ger…and now…we had done it!
….And now, my story for today…is done!

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.

My dad’s travel journal part 7

Tuesday, August 24, 2010:
The day started for us at around 7 AM. Carol was out of bed ahead of me today. Montezuma’s revenge has gotten both of us. Actually, 3 out of the 4 adults were afflicted. We don’t know which meal got us, but there must have been some bad food somewhere. Carol seems to be suffering more than I am this morning. Chris had to get up before the rest of us and head back to Ikh Tamir to pick up the two girls from the Ulaanbaatar church…the ones who had been conducting a Bible camp in the provinces. Since we had the church vehicle and were available to provide transportation for the girls, he thought it to be a wise idea. Otherwise they’d have to crowd into some public bus for the long ride home. He expected to pick them up and be back in Tsetserleg by 8:00 AM to join us for breakfast. Tiff got a text message from him saying that they had prepared breakfast there, so he would be delayed. Tiff, the boys, and I went down to the restaurant to eat. Carol slept…attempting to get relief from her illness. In an effort to keep my food down, I ate dry toast, some eggs, and drank hot tea. I took Carol a piece of dry toast. After breakfast, I took the boys out for a walk while Tiff went in search of medicine for us. In Mongolia, many stores do not open before 9:00 or 10:00 AM, so she came back empty-handed. She was feeling somewhat sick too,…a surprise to her, as she hasn’t had much of a problem with the food in Mongolia during her 1 1/2 year stay. While I was out with the boys, we saw 4 pigs, some buses, 6 dogs, many people, etc. I stay amazed at the ability of these people to be immaculately dressed, and to stay clean, with dirt everywhere. The ladies wear stockings and high heels. You will see them cleaning the dust off their shoes if they stop somewhere and have time to do so. At around 9:00 o’clock, Chris, Gantuya, and Mugundboler arrived. The girls went to a store, while Chris ate some breakfast. Not sure if it was his second meal…or if he had declined earlier. I went into the ger in front of our hotel and bought a purse shaped like a sheep, made of wool…for a granddaughter. Tiff helped me try to bargain with the proprietor, but that isn’t always successful in Mongolia. I paid him his asking price of 15,000 tugrik….a bit high, but only about $10.50 U.S. By 9:30, we were all in the microbus and ready to head back to the city. The girls had the very back seat. As before, the roads were rough…but this time we knew to expect that. We watched for one particular blemish in the pavement that was about the size of a car. Chris saw it in time to avoid it. The girls could hear something making an unusual noise at one point, so we stopped and found that we’d bounced the spare tire holder loose from its wire holder. It was soon re-secured, and we resumed our trip. We stopped once for a bathroom break, at a small roadside village. Elijah and I headed across the road to a huge dirt pile. As we walked, we scared off a flock of some sort of scavenger birds. We went behind the pile, amongst a bunch of rotting animal parts, bones, and flies…hoping to have enough privacy for a “leak”. While fully engaged in the task, I turned and saw these two college-age girls off to my right…headed for a pit-toilet. Whether or not I gave them a show…I don’t know, but since they live in Mongolia, I assume they are used to it. Chris went to another pit toilet on our left. Both were just a wall of wood, with a metal roof…giving a tiny bit of privacy from the road. Back in the parking lot, we encouraged Carol to use one of them. She was not impressed by the experience. Their were many flies and the odor was not pleasant. Before we boarded our vehicle, we saw a lady and some kids trying to hitch a ride. It wasn’t long before a truck picked them up. This is a common sight here. You only hope that they are safe. We saw a truck, similar to a pickup, but different…with an open bed full of sheep. Wondered if they are ever tempted to jump.
People tried to wave us into their stores or restaurants, but we soon took off and headed down the road. As the road got better, Chris’s foot got heavier. There were times when we were traveling at 120 kilometers per hour (75 mph). I worried a bit because of the unexpectedness of bad patches that could suddenly appear in the road, but God was with us and we traveled safely. I had warned Chris about letting a diesel engine run out of fuel. Unlike a gasoline engine, it takes a lot of mechanic work to prime a diesel engine that has been starved for fuel. I only knew that it could be bad…didn’t know how to actually do the priming. We did okay, until late afternoon. Chris was stretching the fuel to its limits. Suddenly, he told me that the fuel warning light had come on. We were still about 15 miles from the next town. He began coasting when possible and driving slower for better fuel economy. I don’t know if he was worrying, but I was doing plenty of it for him. We finally saw a gas station and coasted up to a pump…where the vehicle engine immediately died. Another customer had arrived just before us. No attendant was visible and we were not sure that the station was open for business. The girls climbed out and finally someone found the attendant, asleep inside the building. He put fuel into our vehicle and we held our breath (I did, sort of) while Chris re-started the engine. It started without a problem. Boy, was I ever thankful for that. Around 4:30 PM, we entered the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar. We had been on the road for 7 hours. It was now “rush hour”, and traffic was a mess. Everyone just crowded into whatever lane that they wanted to be in, even if you were there before. Sometimes vehicles just missed colliding by inches. We dropped both girls off near to their homes. This was actually our first venture back into the city…we hadn’t spent much time there before going to the countryside. People were everywhere…waiting for buses, crossing the street between cars, etc. Often, you can’t turn the direction that you need to because traffic police control the intersections and the flow of cars. You sometimes have to go way out of your way…or at least plan far ahead, in order to be in the lane that will allow you to turn where you need to. It frustrates Chris, but he is pretty efficient in this mess. It only took us until about 5:00 PM to reach the apartment (home…sweet…home). We had a lot of luggage and other stuff to unload. I guess I planned thing right, because I stood by the vehicle and guarded stuff while everyone else made trips up and down the stairs. Actually, I felt guilty…but not much!
By 6 o’clock, the boys had found their toys, laundry had been started, dinner was being prepared, and computer updates had been installed. I am working on these notes and Elijah is about to sing me a song in his fantasy language. Supper consisted of chicken soup and boiled eggs. Tiff and I went to the store afterwards and came back with ice cream novelties for everyone…for dessert. It was nighttime in Mongolia, but morning back at home in Kansas City. So…I got on the phone and called my co-workers at Herald & Banner Press…and our daughter, Christina. Because we were very tired, we didn’t last very long….bedtime came soon after 9:00 PM. We listened to the boys having devotions, settled our debts with Chris, and headed for the sack. One final note: I mentioned doing the laundry. Let me tell you about living in this apartment. A benefit of living in a country such as this…you can sometimes afford to hire a “helper”…a housekeeper. Tiff has a girl come in and help her with household tasks. They are able to influence that person about spiritual things. Their previous housekeeper found Jesus…and has already died and gone on into eternity. Hopefully, their influence will help this girl, too. But…I was trying to tell you about the laundry. There is only room in the apartment for a washing machine…and that is in the bathroom. When clothes come out of it, they ALL go on a folding rack for drying. One load has to wait for the other to dry. Mongolia is a dry climate, so that is an advantage, but those of us who have an electric dryer are a bit impatient with this process.
All of the drinking water that is consumed comes from a filtering system. You pour water into it…wait…then dispense it below. That is a day in / day out part of life. Buying from the market is another story entirely. That will wait for another day’s journal. Bye, for now.
For those of you following these emails, this may be the end for tonight. I’ve been at this for about 12 hours and I’m sick of it. Do hope that you’ve enjoyed reading this. The remainder of our activities will take place within the city and on a one-day trip to the countryside…east of the city. Our previous journey was to a province in the west. Adios for now!

My dad’s travel journal part 6

Just communicated with Chris via yahoo messenger (9/18/10…7:45 PM)…he said that it wasn’t one million cattle that died last winter…it was between 7 and 8 million. I also found out that the name of the girl who took us to the Ikh Tamir church was
Gantuya. You may not want to know that later, but it will be important to me. Thus, I’m inserting it here in my notes).
Monday, August 23, 2010:
Bad morning! Woke up at 6:30 AM a bad headache. None of them are good, but when I get a bad one…it really is! Took some pain pills and headed for the shower. Got back and found Carol expressing her thankfulness for the better accommodations. We look out our window and see 4 gers, the nightclub, a mountain with a temple on its side, another hotel that looks good, but has a reputation for quickly deteriorating, and a cat trying to pounce on a bird. At 8:00 AM, we head downstairs for some food. One of us got American pancakes, but since they ran out of butter, the rest of us will be served crepes. Normally there is butter and jelly for the pancakes…seldom is there syrup. We also have hot tea and coffee. I decide to top the meal off with a cinnamon roll that I have been eyeing, in the bakery case. It cost 900 tugrik…about 63 cents, if I’m not mistaken. Elijah cleared our table…took all of the dishes over to the cashier’s counter. I paid him 50 tugrik for his efforts. The lady at the counter gave him and Joel heart-shaped gingerbread cookies. We were back in our rooms by 9 o’clock. Soon we set out for a morning walk. It was sunny and nice. We walked up a hill to the Tsetserleg Historical Museum. It is said to be one of the better ones in the country. It is very ancient…we actually watched some of the woodcarvings falling off the building…very sad! They don’t seem to understand the need to preserve this stuff the way our curators do. Inside the buildings, there were lots of historical paintings, artifacts, games, etc…..even a model of a ger…and the way it was carried on a cart when disassembled. We toured 2 buildings and learned a lot. Next, we walked through some ruins of a building next to the museum…and older part of the city. Again, it was an ugly, trashy mess. After that, we headed up the side of a mountain. Elijah, Chris, and I went up a jillion steps…all the way to the Buddha statue…and an old unused temple. People were climbing up there to worship. We saw one very elderly lady who had made the trip. Others would burn incense, touch the blue scraps of cloth, turn the prayer wheels. Pigeons had no such loyalty. They would sit on Buddha’s head and defecate. After descending back down to the village, we went into a department store,…small, but crammed with stuff. We bought tissues, powdered milk, etc. When we got back to the hotel, the owner of the Fairfield Inn had returned from a journey. We talked with him about his history, his labors, etc. He is British, has been in Mongolia for 14 years. He had pastored initially, but moved to the hotel as his means of ministry during the recent years. It seemed that he felt that his time in Mongolia was nearing an end. One wonders who will take up the task that he will be abandoning. Hopefully, he has been able to leave a trail of trained local Christians to continue spreading the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It was now lunchtime, so we headed back downstairs. I don’t remember what Carol had this time, but I ordered roast beef and Yorkshire pudding. I didn’t know what it was, but eating in a British-run hotel…it seemed appropriate. I think, now, that the pudding is gravy. At around 1:30 PM, we loaded into the micro and drove to the tire shop. We had finally looked at our spare tire and discovered that it was flat. Unbeknown to us, it didn’t hold air, so we would have been in a fix had we needed it later. I think the charge for airing it up was around 50-60 cents. On the driveway out front of the shop was the welding apparatus. The cable’s insulation was broken in many places and the wire was showing through. Certainly wouldn’t have passed an OSHA inspection in the U.S., but it was doing its job there. It had been taped several times, so maybe they were trying to be safe. We had asked several people about a hot springs that was advertised as being one of the better attractions in the area. We learned that it was a nice destination, but were warned twice about “the bridge”. It was on our route, and supposedly was broken up, missing flooring pieces, etc. It would require careful watching, driving near the edge, etc. but if careful, we’d survive the crossing. Base upon that report…we were somewhat apprehensive, though none of us admitted it aloud. We left town on the right road…of that we were fairly sure. It was terribly rough and dusty…as usual. Then, it began to split. Fortunately, a GPS and good guessing kept us on track…for a while. At one point, we wondered which road to take…and made an incorrect choice. We ended up miles out in the pasturelands, off the road, and basically kind of lost. Chris decided to return to the earlier junction and try the other route. He finally stopped at a ger, asked for further directions,…and found that we were on the right track. Soon we were going up the side of a mountain and our car was overheating. Deep ruts threatened to turn us over. At one point, we had to cross a river. Tiff got out and waded into it to test the bottom, find out how deep it was, and determine the best route. The bridge that we dreaded was in very bad shape, but not nearly the threat that we had envisioned. It had side-rails and the river below was very shallow. Had we gone over the edge, it wouldn’t have been fun, but the drop was not dramatic. We collectively breathed a sigh of relief upon seeing it. Chris did have to do some fancy dodging to get across, but made it okay. It was around 3:30 PM and many, many kilometers later when we arrived at the Duut Resort. We were directed to the shower/changing rooms and then back out to the pools. They were rock-lined and filled with hot water. They sat at the base of a mountain. We soaked, relaxed, swam, and luxuriated in this heavenly place. Birds soared overhead. It was so peaceful! There were actually two pools, side by side, with a lattice fence between. Women swam in the smaller pool. We shared the pools with people from more than one European country, but our only conversation was with a man from Germany. Around 5:30, we left the resort to head home. There was some concern now because it appeared that a storm was moving in. If it did, we might be in real trouble on our return trip across the miles of dirt paths. On our way to the micro, we greeted the German and his wife at their tourist ger and they invited us to look inside. It was pretty neat. There was a vinyl floor, 3 beds, stove, etc. Our trip back to town was quicker and less tense. Chris still worried about the vehicle turning over on the slopes, and we stopped once to see if we could see what was making clunking sounds….didn’t find a problem. Once we had a few miles behind us, Chris suggested to Elijah that he’d be willing to hide a geo-cache if others didn’t feel that it was a bad idea. Tiffany rose to the bait, and made his day. Actually, she knew how much he wanted to do this. I was always ready for a mountain climb, so we jumped out, promising to be back quickly. Soon, the micro was just a small thing off in the distance. Elijah had come along and he and I found more animal bones. In defense of Chris, he really did try to place the cache quickly and head back to the car. I put an American dollar bill in the cache. The ladies had gotten out to stretch their legs. We were a bit concerned about finding food upon our return, as our hotel restaurant would no longer be serving. In Tsetserleg, we stopped at a restaurant across from the govt. building. This one wasn’t exceptionally nice, but not terrible. There were white chargers on every table, so we actually ate kinda fancy. Carol had a stroganoff dish, with meat, potatoes, carrots, rice, cabbage, etc. I had something that Tiff had suggested. It was noodles, beef, etc…a huge, mounded plate of food. More than anything, I was happy to get a drink. It was easy to get dehydrated here. I drank a juice that was made from white grapes and aloe. Pretty tasty! Carol had a drink with orange, peach, and other juices. We bought an extra bottle to take with us. At some point in our day, we had stopped for fuel and a boy came to our window trying to sell us some berries. At the restaurant, another boy came up to us with his hand out…potentially begging for any money that we might give him. We ignored his requests, not knowing whether or not he was truly needy. Minutes later, we were back at our hotel….worn out!
The clientele had changed. Rather than European backpackers, there seemed to be a number of Hispanics. A team of World Vision workers would be there that week, but we were unsure if this was them…or just some other guests. While Carol began cleaning up, I took our “hot pot” down to the front desk. It was a nightly ritual for them to provide us with water for tea or coffee. I had also made a trip to see Chris, in order to catch up again on the money he had spent on our behalf. I think, counting hotel, fees, food, fuel, tolls, etc….that maybe I have spent nearly 300,000 tugrik so far. That would maybe amount to around $210. Later in the vacation, I would attempt to offset some of their family’s personal costs too, since they were taking a vacation because of us. Well, at 9:15 PM, it is time to start thinking about recharging our personal batteries. What a day! This country is so immense, so beautiful, yet full of trash, dirt, and ugliness. The Gospel flame has been lighted, but struggles to spread among the great spiritual darkness. Everything here is rundown and shabby. The Communists left these people with little sense of personal responsibility…and yet…they are a wonderful people. Buddhism and Shamanism have helped them not a bit….the emptiness remains. May God bless Mongolia!

My dad’s travel journal part 5

Sunday, August 22, 2010:
Not sure how Chris & Tiff slept as they were again sharing beds with their boys. But, then again, Carol & I were sharing a twin bed too. The beds were softer than the previous night, so I think we were all better rested. We got up around 7:30 AM…showered, read the Bible, packed our stuff…and I paid Chris for the expenses he had incurred on our behalf so far on this trip. Breakfast was again in the basement at the hotel’s restaurant/bakery. This place catered to tourists, so the menu was much more European/American. Today, we had pancakes, eggs, toast, etc. At 9:30 AM, we got our car from the enclosure at the side of the hotel. This hotel had a man on security duty and he was always available to unlock the gates whenever we needed to get to our vehicle. He often waited in the front yard of the hotel for just such an event. There was also a ger in the front yard. The proprietor sold goods made of wool. On this particular morning, the hotel receptionist was being friendly with Elijah. She was teasing him, by blocking his pathway on the stairs. You might think that odd…but it was cool. They treated us like their friends. Church was going to be at Ikh Tamir, about 1/2 hour drive from our hotel. As we drove, we saw people carrying water from a supply point. It was then that Tiff told us about average water usage, per person, in Mongolia. We also found out that a ger costs about $1,000 US to purchase…not much for us, but a huge sum for them. We arrived in Ikh Tamir fairly soon and had a lot of time on our hands. That was intentional. Chris & Tiff began trying to find a large rock formation that has become a tourist attraction and one that is important to the Mongolian people. They have a tradition that it was cast to the earth by one of their heroes. It is not a small rock. It is probably 100 feet in circumference and maybe 40 feet tall (just guessing). There is a lot of graffiti on it, but also some ancient Tibetan inscriptions. It has blue cloth hanging from it in several places. One of the things that I failed to mention is the Buddhist shrines, found everywhere, and known as “ovoo”s.Alongside the road in hundreds of places, there will be a pile of stones, usually with strips of bright blue fabric attached. It is a part of their worship. People will stop their cars, walk around the stones in a clockwise fashion, leave an offering, say a prayer…and go on. They attach the practice to good luck in their lives. The reason I have told you about these monuments is that this large rock that we were looking for…has many blue cloths attached and is venerated by these people for the same reason. Okay…back to our search: We drove around, asked questions a couple of times, and then headed in the general direction of the rock. However, before long, our trip led us across pastureland and to a small river. We saw where cars had been crossing, but were unsure of the depth and whether or not it had a muddy bottom. Many of the cars in Mongolia, particularly in the countryside…are either Russian Jeeps or have 4-wheel drive. Ours was without either of those qualifications for river crossings. We searched the riverbanks for a better spot and then observed two smaller cars making the trip through the river. Deciding that we might make it, Chris got behind the wheel and took off. Thankfully, we came out on the other side without killing the engine. At the large rock, we walked around it and looked at some of the inscriptions. Some Mongolian boys came up on horseback and allowed Joel to pat their horses. We unwittingly walked around the rock counter-clockwise…probably giving the Mongolians there some reason to dislike us ignorant Americans. We did this on about 3 occasions, never meaning to offend, but just naturally going to our right…like we do in our home country. Each time, we realized our error…after the fact. When we had our fill of looking at the rock, we reboarded our micro and headed back toward town. After going back through the river, we sought for a place to have a picnic lunch. Finding a promising location, we waded back across a narrow stretch of water, carrying our food, stove, blanket, etc. In one of those rare groves of trees, we set up camp. A blanket went on the ground for Joel to nap on, after we cleared away a ton of rocks. They were everywhere! Chris helped Joel get to sleep. Tiffany set up a stove and began preparing a spaghetti lunch for us. Carol had met with Montezuma, treated him wrong, and he was now taking revenge….if you know what I mean. She headed…in desperation….for some not too distant trees…and “communed with nature” there. She was NOT a happy camper! I think maybe she even liked it so much that she made a second trip. She is not reading as I write this and won’t be amused when she does. Hey,…it’s what happened! Elijah wanted to explore, so we took him on a long walk. We picked up sticks and played war. We did sword-fighting, etc. We saw empty cases that had contained vodka bottles out in the fields. It was one more evidence of the tremendous plague that alcohol has brought to this country. It is everywhere! I saw a cow skull with a yellow flower growing up through an opening in the front of it. What a beautiful picture…was my immediate thought. Life and death, side by side….or life…existing, in spite of death. Probably lots of messages in that scene. We went back to camp and sat on the blanket for lunch. The spaghetti had stuck together, so was kind of clumpy, but tasty and nourishing. We were grateful. Along with it, we had homemade rolls. While eating, a herd of sheep, goats, and yaks came right by us, shepherded by a man on horseback. He got them to where he wanted them and then disappeared. After eating, Carol watched Joel while we broke camp. Tiff & I, and later, Chris, took the dishes to the river to rinse them off. Then Tiff soaped and rinsed them back at our picnic site. We were amused to see what Elijah was doing while all of this was going on. He was off in the distance, stick in hand, herding the flock of sheep & goats. He had them at a run. We called him off…assuming that the owner wouldn’t be real happy about the results. As it was now getting closer to church time, we loaded up in the van and headed to town. At a bank, we phoned a girl and she soon came walking up to where we were. She got into our vehicle and directed us down the road a bit. We pulled up to a board fence with two solid metal gates. When they opened, we drove into what we were to discover to be …the church compound. As is the case so often, the church building was surrounded by 2-foot tall weeds. Someone had planted flowers near the door as a symbol of caring. The girl that we had picked up was from Ulaanbaatar. She had traveled to Ikh Tamir for a week of Bible camp. She is one of the leaders at the Eternal Light church in UB. Unfortunately, I can’t remember her name right now…and didn’t write it down. She was very impressive in her Christian maturity. This church was very rustic…run down…by American standards. Inside though, it was clean and well-kept. The sanctuary was small, but adequate…had comfortable chairs. We learned later that this tiny Wesleyan Church was the only one in town (of any denomination). In Tsetserleg, the provincial capitol (where the Fairfield Inn was located) there are only 4 churches. It is hard to believe how few protestant churches there are in Mongolia. Those in the countryside plead for someone to come and minister to them. Even their own people, who go to the city to train for the ministry….seldom wish to return to their home towns. In talking about some of this, we learned that Eternal Light (the Wesleyan Church in UB) was one of the first protestant churches in Mongolia. It wasn’t Wesleyan then, but it has that kind of historical background. When the Soviets, left about 15 years ago, they left behind a spiritual vacuum, a country of atheists…or sometimes Buddhists…though they were oppressed. This little church that we were visiting in Ikh Tamir, has been there since 1994. The service started around 2 PM and lasted past 3:30. The singing was beautiful; though in Mongolian (Chris quietly interpreted for us from time to time). The pastor is a woman, whose husband was away in UB. Most of the congregation was female. There were two men…one of them played the keyboard. Another Bible School graduate from UB gave the morning’s message. Her name was Mugunboler, or something like that. She was very pretty, and an amazing speaker. Though I couldn’t understand anything that Chris didn’t translate for me, I was impressed by her passion, her clarity, and the subject matter (when I understood it). She covered the subjects of salvation, sanctification, sin, etc. She held up a pencil while talking and used it as an object lesson. She talked about keeping the point sharp (spiritually). She said that an artist still loved his pencil when it was just a short nub, because he had used it up, and had many good memories of their relationship as he was using it to create beautiful images. After the sermon, it was testimony time. Three ladies gave fairly lengthy testimonies. One of them was giving thanks for the protection God had given her as she had returned home that week. An unexpected, early snowstorm had blanketed the area, but she was kept safe in her travels. When the service was dismissed, a lady brought out small bowls and a metal pitcher filled with tiny black currants (berries). We each were given a bowl, and we ate with our fingers…staining them nicely. We had taken some small toys along, with Christian quotes on them (from the Herald & Banner Bookstore),… to give to the children. Only one small girl was at church that morning, so we gave her a couple of items. (Actually, Chris had told us that we might just show up at some family’s ger and ask to stay overnight with them. If so, we needed gifts to give to them in return for their hospitality. When it was apparent that we were not going to do this, he suggested that we could pass the toys on to the church kids). One of the blessings of this trip was to see another part of my Christian family…people of Mongolian ethnicity…worshipping the same Heavenly Father…though 12,000 miles from my home. It was also a blessing to be able to leave some tangible help for them by way of offering. An amount that would be almost nothing to me…would be of immense blessing to them. They gave us little handmade envelopes; we inserted our offerings, and then placed them in a can on the pulpit. (To those of you who are reading this journal…keep your ears open…there may be an opportunity for you to help them too. The church in UB does not have a place of its own…they rent. They have their eyes on some property and a building, but will never be able to raise the $110,000 that it will take to purchase it. Perhaps someday, Chris will let you know that your help is needed. If you are able to pitch in at that time, it will be a huge blessing to these people, even if your gift is small). I digress! After the service,…one of the church ladies wanted us to all come to her restaurant. She would open it up for us and feed us dumplings. We crowded into the micro and headed there. They brought out a platter with 23 big meat-filled dumplings, milk tea (in a bowl), and egg salad. It tasted fine…though Carol would not necessarily agree with me on that. Around 4:30, maybe 5:00 PM, we said our goodbyes and headed back to Tsetserleg and the Fairfield Inn. Tonight, the hotel would have more availability, so Carol and I would have a private room. We moved our suitcases and then all headed out for another walk around town. We found a store that had ice cream cups and sandwiches…took them over to some benches at the government building and began to enjoy them. A very precocious boy, maybe 10-12 years of age joined us. He visited with Chris & Tiff (in Mongolian), and then checked out Chris’s wedding ring, and then admired Tiff’s diamond. He also wanted to see my camera…and asked for some money for ice cream. We weren’t sure of his motives. He was very sharp, and very personable. I would expect him to someday be very successful…unless his abilities are used in a bad way. We later ran into him at another park…and wondered if that was totally accidental. On our way back to the hotel, we walked up to a temple area that I’d expressed interest in seeing and took pictures of the local elementary school with its Soviet-style hammer and sickle emblem blazoned on the wall. Though the country is democratic, the Communist Party is still very active. Another curiosity to me is the use of the Nazi symbol throughout the country. The Mongolians helped Russia to defeat the Germans, so are not sympathizers with Naziism. I will quote from an article that I recently read: In Mongolia, the swastika symbolizes peace, firm, forever and long life. In addition the swastika-type of symbol is a traditional symbol with four arms that revolve around the pole star (altan hadaas) like the four seasons. The symbol has been used in both hinduism and buddhism for thousands of years. The Mongolian nomads are wearing buddhist symbols.It has absolutely nothing to do with Naziism or white power. With the spread of Buddhism, the Buddhist swastika reached Tibet and China. The use of the swastika by the indigenous Bön faith of Tibet, as well as syncretic religions, such as Cao Dai of Vietnam and Falun Gong of China, it is thought to be borrowed from Buddhism as well. It remains widely used in Eastern religions and Dharmic Religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.The swastika has been and still is an important symbol in Mongolian culture, meaning eternity. It may be found in many places including monasteries. I guess we had made another stop earlier. In yesterday’s account, I mentioned seeing a park that impressed Tiffany. Today, we explored it. There were several pieces of playground equipment, a small forest of trees, some statuary (in bad repair), and a ger that probably belonged to the caretaker. There was a circular gate at either end that was barely large enough to let a body through. We questioned why you would have such a thing. One would not expect crowd control to be an issue here. Around 8 PM, we had enough adventure under our belt…and headed for our hotel. By 9:30 we were ready to shut out our very dim lights and head for bed. Carol & I could look out our window and see the flashing lights of the nearby Neptune Club…another den of iniquity attempting to fill the void in these people’s lives. Just beyond it was a mountainside, and a tall statue of Buddha. How great the need! Well….I gotta go to bed…..what a full day! Whew!

My dad’s travel journal part 4

Saturday, August 21, 2010:
Well, I already told you about the hard night…even before it happened (in these notes). Even the pillows were hard. The parts of us that stayed under the covers stayed reasonably warm. Because we were resisting the urge to take care of nature’s processes, we were uncomfortable in other ways as well. This morning there is a slight trickle of water, so I shaved and brushed my teeth the hard way. Tiff says that the water does accumulate and run faster…but apparently, I did not have enough patience. We were up by 6 AM and could hear the others tossing and turning in their beds. The doors squeak everywhere you go, so there was no way to sneak out quietly and let people sleep. The air was slightly chilly, but I was surviving in a t-shirt. By 7:30, the sun was shining brightly outdoors. Breakfast was in the basement (nice restaurant…with rather gaudy wallpaper). I think the place is actually a karaoke bar at night, so had black lights, etc. Karaoke is a common form of entertainment in the villages and cities. Our plates of food were quite attractive. There was a huge mountain of eggs, rice, and peppers on each plate. The eggs were finely crumbled…don’t think I’ve ever had them that way before. After breakfast, we retrieved our car from the garage, loaded up, and headed out. I think it was in the upper 30’s by then…maybe warmer…but plenty chilly. The sun felt good though. While we were waiting for the car, we noticed the water system. It appeared that the wind turned a windmill type blade (though a horizontal one), and that powered a pump. Water flowed through a small pipe to the roof of the hotel. Not sure if it quits working when the wind is not blowing or whether they turn it off at night. Either way…we sure learned about the importance of water during our stay. Our morning adventure took us to the monastery in Karakorum…known as Erdene Zuu. Buddhism is one of the predominant religions in Mongolia and has been for centuries. Part of the spiritual darkness that we observed while there results from these people’s belief in superstitions perpetuated by the Buddhists. This monastery is still active, but much of it is preserved because of its history. It dates back hundreds of years. The Manchurians damaged the original town of Karakorum when it was a capitol city. Then Stalin came along in recent times and tried to destroy all religion. He failed to destroy much of this monastery. We paid to get in and then paid 5,000 tugrik (about $4.00) so we could take pictures. This scenario was repeated at almost every museum…but I soon tired of the extra charge, so didn’t take pictures. Our admission fee included the services of a very pretty, very well-spoken Mongolian girl who served as our tour guide. She explained about the paintings and statues that dated back several centuries. I listened to her, and hurt on her behalf. I am fairly sure that she believes in Buddhism. They had lots of protector gods to which they pray and give gifts. Some of them look hideous, like demons…have skulls atop their heads, and one is eating a child. The temples are exceedingly ornate, with wood carvings that stun the imagination. Such skill…put to such a harmful use. Most Mongolians follow the teachings of the Yellow Buddha. What? You didn’t know there was more than one? Neither did I. They talked a lot about the Dali Lama and other lamas. I guess I should have made the connection, but I hadn’t. Didn’t even know that he was Buddhist. There was to be a service that we could have attended at 11 AM, but we decided against it. Though I have sometimes belittled those who fear objects used for false worship, I began to see how you would not like to welcome any part of the demon world into your life and home. One day while we were picnicking, Elijah was offered an object used in Buddhist worship. I would have suggested that he accept it graciously and take it home, but Chris told him “No”. Elijah has a pretty clear understanding that anything having to do with idolatry is wrong. I had to re-think what I believe, somewhat. As tourists, we did go into the Buddhist temple prior to their service in order to have a look-around. The monks were burning incense, laughing at something, etc. We saw people turning prayer wheels and presenting offerings of incense and money. Joel turned the prayer wheels backwards…Chris said, “undoing the prayers of those people”. The Mongolian people will walk past a row of maybe 30 copper cylinders, each having a prayer etched on it. By turning each of them, they are supposedly praying that prayer. This is a sacred part of the ritual of Buddhism. How sad that they never reach God with this exercise. After tiring of looking at all of the things in the monastery grounds (we are talking about a huge complex…not sure how many acres), we went out the back gate and walked to a huge carved turtle that had some historical significance to this site. Again, we found tables full of Mongolian antique souvenirs. Chris had told me earlier that a person trying to take antique souvenirs back into the states might have some issues related to their values, when going through customs. There is also a question as to whether they are authentic antiques or not. I took a chance on a brass Genghis Khan on a horse. Paid 25,000 tugrik for him (about $18.50). As we walked back toward the monastery, we passed a herd of sheep and goats. One of them was wearing a large shroud around his mid-section. After some observation, I decided that it was serving as a type of chastity belt, preventing him from fathering little sheep/goats. After we left the monastery, (maybe after lunch) Carol and Tiff went back to the gift shop. Not sure what Tiff went for, but Carol came back with a Snicker’s candy bar. We headed to a row of shops across the street, but stopped where a man had a large eagle. For somewhere between $3 and $5, he allowed me to hold it up in the air for a photo. For that price, he didn’t provide the photo, but we had cameras…so no problem. Chris & Tiff directed us to a tiny little restaurant at the end of the shops. There was barely enough tables in there for two families. The food was Mongolian. I had a dumpling soup that Carol turned up her nose at because of the fatty beef and greasy broth. She had a particularly common meat pie. We all shared a large bottle of juice. We often purchased bottled water and an array of fruit juices because they were inexpensive, plentiful, and safe for consumption. Our afternoon journey would take us to the village of Tsetserleg…about 70 kilometers away. Little did we know how rough that road would be. It was worse than anything we’d experienced before. Most of our day was spent on detour routes, through the fields at the edge of the paved road. There were hundreds of large and deep potholes…some seeming to almost turn over freight-laden trucks. We saw one SUV climb a slope and immediately begin spilling oil behind him on the roadway. He actually made it to the next town, but we wonder about the condition of his engine by then, because we saw a constant drip from his car as he went down the roadway. We were worn out from the stress of trying to sit upright and Chris was bedraggled from constantly trying to find the best way to avoid catastrophe. Along the way, we came to a very pretty and fast-moving river. We pulled off to enjoy it, and several of us took a “nature break” behind a bridge pier. Occasionally, during our trip, we’d see people publicly relieving themselves along the roadway. There was nothing else available in the way of restrooms. If a bus full of people went by and watched you…so be it! Mosquitoes became a bit of a problem along the riverbanks, so we soon climbed back into our vehicle and munched on some apples. We had drinking water along with us, but needed to not be wasteful of it, so the moisture from the apples was welcome relief. For those of you who are squeamish, we got used to drinking warm water from the same jug (community slobbers). Better than nothing’! For a short time after our stop at the river, we had a bit of nice paved road. Then, it got so bad that we almost couldn’t find a way to go further. We were only 15 miles from our destination. There are constantly people along the roads, needing mechanical assistance…but you can’t possibly be of assistance to them. We stopped once and four boys told us that they had problems with their “accumulator”. As we drove away, we assumed that they were talking about their alternator, but weren’t sure. Most towns had a tire repair shop and welder…two vital services in such a forbidden territory. Before I make this seem like a God-forsaken place, let me be quick to assure you of its beauty. The mountains and plains were awesome! Unlike some times there, they had been receiving adequate rainfall and everything was green. However, I was so impressed when I saw a tree that I had to take a picture. They have almost no trees in much of the country. There is logging around some of the mountain areas and you do see many buildings built from wood…but it must come at a great cost. I still fail to understand how the people who live in gers during the harsh winter survive. For endless miles, there is nothing. I know that they can collect dried dung for their fires, but they have nowhere to store it. We read that they use 2 or 3 tons of coal a year, but how it gets to them and where they put it…is a mystery to me. I never saw any.
I mentioned water collection before. Time and again, we’d see people with little two-wheeled carts hauling water containers. They might go for a long distance, fill up their container, and then make the trek home. Often this person is a child. We were told that the average Mongolian uses about 2.3 or 2.6 liters of water a day. That’s for everything (!) …baths, washing dishes, food prep, etc, etc. That’s a 2-liter bottle to us Americans. Can you imagine? I think we saw about a million sheep, goats, yaks, horses, and camels while there. Today we got to see yaks, maybe for the first time. This country produces a lot of wool and cashmere. It is how some of these people live. Each family seems to have about 50-100 animals in a herd near their house. Occasionally you have to stop for animals in the roadway…either crossing, going down the road, or just standing there.
Around 5 PM, we arrived in Tsetserleg. We looked around until we found the Fairfield Inn. I know what you are thinking…a nice hotel! Well…sort of. Actually, it was the best we stayed in. By our standards, you might not have been impressed by everything there, but compared to what we’d experienced…it was heaven! Their hotels just don’t look like ours…more boxy…less spread out. This one is run by a British couple. It has become their “ministry” in Mongolia. They hire Mongolians, win them to the Lord, and then provide a wonderful hotel experience while mentoring these new Christians in their faith. They also provide a haven for Christian organizations that need a place to meet for conferences, etc. In addition to that, they are open to the public, so attract tourists from around the world. Chris and Tiff got to visit with several people they either knew…or had heard of, people who are touching Mongolia for Jesus.
We did not have reservations, so Chris went in to see if we could get rooms. They only had one room left (only 9 in the hotel) for that night and it had 3 beds. We took it…and it was quite nice. New carpet, so we had to take our shoes off at the door and wear sandals that they provided. We started to go out on an exploratory trip at 5:45, but found out that the restaurant closed at 6 PM, so went back in to eat. This time….burgers, steak sandwich, hot dogs, lasagna, etc. What a treat! We took off walking after supper and headed for the downtown area. Remember…these are small villages, so the downtown isn’t something grand. However, we kind of fell in love with this particular town. It had its dirt and squalor, but seemed to be a place where one could live and raise a family. As we neared the town center, we could hear a loudspeaker. When we got in sight of the govt. building, we could see a small crowd gathering. We soon found out that the national circus had come to town and would be performing some acts on the buildings portico…for free! We enjoyed clowns, acrobats, gymnasts, and a contortionist. Elijah was the only one who had his own agenda for the evening. He played by himself, some distance away, and we couldn’t seem to get him interested in the activities. He is very imaginative and sometimes pretends to be in some kind of fantasy world. He can speak the language of that land, even sing songs in it. I don’t begin to understand that, but his daddy reads C.S. Lewis, so go figure! (smile). After the circus performance, many of the townspeople moved to an area of the square that had a fountain. It had only been there for a month or so. It was computerized and had accompanying music. People milled about and watched it, while enjoying each other’s company. Again, Joel got the attention from some of the locals. The evening was now drawing to a close. I’m not sure if we went back by way of the park this evening, …or not. While in that town, we discovered a park that was about a block long. Here again, you will see the difference in perspective. Tiff thought it was wonderful…wished she had a place like that to take the boys. We saw an overgrown, weedy, playground, with damaged statues, broken glass, and a forbidding fence. It all depends upon what you have. Reminds me of the verse that says much is required of them that have a lot. We are blessed beyond anything that we can imagine…yet we complain! While we didn’t go to Mongolia for the purpose of learning “life-lessons”, I hope that we came back with a changed vision of who we are and what we should be doing. It was around 8:30 PM when we finally began taking baths and preparing for bed. The showers have instant water heaters, the hallways have carpet, there is a lounge to relax and read in, hot tea is provided in the evenings, the hall has flowers growing…..Wow! Church isn’t until 2 PM tomorrow…so we hope to get a good, long night’s sleep. At 9:45 PM, I caught up on my journaling. Good night!

My dad’s travel journal part 3

Friday, August 20, 2010:
We traveled about 399 kilometers today (about 248 miles). In America, that would be a long trip, but basically easy. There is nothing at all easy about a trip like that in Mongolia. Tiffany is a seasoned Mongolia missionary. She prepared many liters of drinking water and supplies that we would need to survive a trip of several days duration. Chris had secured the church’s microbus for our use and seemed to have a “trust” in it that I didn’t always share. However, I will say at this point that the mercy and protection that God provides is always sufficient for our needs. We traveled over precarious roads, took many chances, didn’t have a spare tire that would hold air, didn’t understand that the diesel engine had a separate idle control lever, banged our head on broken hand-holds, saw many drivers with mechanical failures, …and still had a safe and prosperous trip. Because we were bouncing continuously, my notes took on a different form. I quickly would jot down what I was seeing…in sentence form….didn’t have the ability to write legible paragraphs. So…this day’s journal notes may tell a story in a more disjointed fashion.
One of the most interesting things that one will see in Mongolia is the “ger”. You also may have heard it referred to as a “yurt”. This is the type of home that thousands of Mongolians have lived in for centuries. Even in the modern city, many of them live in a ger. Some of them have moved into a frame house, but go to their ger in the winter, as it is cheaper to heat. It is a circular “tent” constructed of wooden lattice walls, covered in wool, and a ceiling framework much like a wooden wagon wheel, covered in wool. It is heated by a stove in the center and has furniture around the outside. Mongolians have been nomadic people, following good pastureland for their sheep, goats, etc., …thus moving 3-4 times per year. Mongolia has thousands of miles of open range…mostly owned by the govt….with few fences. A nomad family will just “squat” wherever they need to be and then move on when they need to in order to feed their flocks. Many miles separate their homes. The thing that surprised us and caused us some mirth was the effect of modern technology on these people. They used to walk everywhere, use horses or camels for transport…and still do that in many cases. However, you may now see a ger with a solar panel, satellite dish, motorcycle, and maybe an SUV. They still may not have indoor plumbing (probably don’t), still have to gather dung or burn coal for fuel, probably wash their clothes in a river, and are miles from anything we’d call civilization. We would see young children at lakes or rivers, filling water bottles to carry back to their gers.
We bought diesel for our vehicle at 2:22 PM. Not sure why, but many of the vehicles are diesel powered. The gas stations are not self-serve. They don’t do much other than pump your fuel…but you never do it for yourself. The price per liter was 1390 tugrik…making it more than $1 (US) for a liter. I think this computes to somewhere around $3.50-$4.00 per gallon…depending upon the value of the american dollar against the tugrik.
At 2:40, we approached an area of the country that has long sand dunes. It has become a very touristy spot…several of the locals earn their living there. As we pulled into the parking area, our microbus was immediately surrounded by camels. Their owners made them kneel, and each of them wanted us to ride their camel. We had seen it demonstrated several times before, but again, we were impressed with the language skills that Chris & Tiff have developed. They conversed with these Mongolian people in their own tongue. It was gibberish to us…but, time and again, the Mongolian people were impressed by these white people who had taken the time to learn their language. We found that it would cost us 5,000 tugrik for a 30 minute ride (about $3.80). Chris & Joel rode one camel and I rode another. Elijah and the ladies decided to just stay on the ground and explore the sand dunes. Our camel drivers led us out across the dunes. My camel was very obstinate. It wanted to eat the uppermost limbs from almost every small tree that we came to. The young female driver jerked on the reins and talked to it a lot, but it was very, very determined. So….Chris & Joel had a much quicker trip than I. I don’t know if there are better saddles than the one on my camel, but it was painful. There is no way that I could stay up there and ride all day…and then ever walk again! My driver had hopes of getting my camel to run, so she instructed me on how to grab the hump in front of me with both hands. My camel had no intention of running, so the advice was of no value. While we were riding, Elijah was collecting animal bones. Another interesting, and sometimes distressing thing about Mongolia is that there are animal bones everywhere. We found them on the mountainsides, on the plains, in the dunes, etc. Sometimes you could collect leg bones, jaws (with teeth), skulls, etc. They were often bleached by the sun…and thus pretty sanitary. Occasionally, they’d still have fur and tissue attached. Mongolia lost approx. one million cattle during the last hard winter. Some people lost their entire herds, their only means of livelihood. As we left the sand dunes, Elijah had to make some tough choices…he had many, many bone,…he could only take a couple with him on our journey. Though it was a struggle of awesome proportions, he made he choice and we were soon on our way again.
I will stop here to tell you about the roads. The road to the “countryside” is mostly paved. However, you will never see a “weigh station” for the trucks and they may be stacked 15 feet high with freight. That may not be the only factor that affects the roadways, but it no doubt, takes a toll on them. Perhaps the construction methods are not the best…and maybe some of these roads are old. Whatever the reason, they have become very broken and dangerous. There are large potholes that might break your axle or destroy your tires. So…….many of them are currently being repaired. In the U.S., we put up a bunch of barricades and provide detour routes. In Mongolia, they pile several loads of dirt on the road as a barricade. You leave the roadway and drive through the grass alongside it. After several months of that, with some rain thrown in,…and you have a rutted, pock-marked, rugged path to drive on. When one path gets bad enough…drivers just start a new one. You may have 4 or 5 options to drive on (on either side of the road). One may look good for awhile, but soon you are wishing that you had chosen a different one. When you think you have reached the end of the construction zone, you drive back up onto the paved roadway…sometimes taking a chance of dragging your oil pan or other parts of your car.
Today, we were traveling for many hours. Alongside the road, out on the plain some distance from the car, we saw a ditch that had been excavated …probably to bury some type of cable. It was about 3 feet deep. We stopped to hunt for a geo-cache…a hobby of Chris’s. This particular cache was maybe ¼-½ mile from the roadway. We jumped over the ditch and went to a stone outcropping where the cache was hidden. There was a large falcon nest nearby it, but no birds. I discovered one of the joys of Mongolia as we walked. As a boy, I lived in Wyoming. We had a tall grass there that we called “spear grass”. You could pull a handful of shoots out of the top of the plant and they would resemble little spears (complete with tiny spearheads). If you throw them at someone, they will imbed themselves in their clothing, and sometimes stick their skin. Immense fun! Mongolia has tens of thousands of these plants…and I had a blast teaching my grandsons about them. As a matter of fact, I probably just became downright annoying. After finding the geocache, taking an item from it and adding our own…and logging that we’d been there, we headed back to the car. Most of us had found a private place to take care of our bathroom needs. Carol had decided to wait for a better opportunity. I began to tell her that we were in Mongolia and that opportunities would not arise very often, and sometimes would be less acceptable than the present options. So, she begrudgingly climbed down into the ditch and did her business. She had on white sport shoes (sneakers) and they met with a bit of a dilemna as we pulled her up from her improvised bathroom. Dirt fell into her shoes and ground itself into their clean sides. She took it well!
My notes seem to be missing a few things, and my photographs tell me that other things happened on this particular day. I’m not sure if I’m confused or not. I think that our lunch on this day was alongside the road. Around 1 PM, we pulled to the side of the road to hunt for another geocache. This time, Chris and I climbed all over a big rock formation, moved aside spider webs, but were unsuccessful in locating it. While we were up there, Tiff cooked our lunch,out on the prairie, over a one-burner stove with a little gas canister. Actually, she heated water…but when we returned we each had a large bowl of Ramen noodles…very tasty and filling. We had purchased a sack with many varieties of cookies in it, so that became our dessert. We were once again struck by the idea that you make the best of your situation. If there is not a fast-food restaurant nearby, you come prepared. As I recall, wet towels or spray hand-sanitizer helps to get some of the bugs killed before you use your hands to eat.
While we were in Mongolia (late August), the weather was very pleasant. Some days I thought it was absolutely perfect. It probably ranged from the upper 30’s or lower 40’s on some of the coldest nights…to nearly 90 degrees on the sunniest days (at least in the upper 80’s). On this particular day, we enjoyed most of the day, but by the time we arrived in Kharkorin, our destination, it was very windy and chilly…so much so that we put on jackets. We arrived there at around 4:45 PM. This village was the original capitol city of Mongolia, though the original city is just a small bunch of ruins, difficult to find.
Though Chris & Tiff had never been to this part of Mongolia, they knew about it and had read much about it in the book, “Lonely Planet-Mongolia”. Tiff was a good navigator, though there were seldom any signs or any directions to guide you. We arrived at a hotel that they had selected. (At this point, I want to note something very important. Carol & I were often shocked by our surroundings. We are spoiled! We live in a nice house, in a nice country,…have everything we need, and most of the things we want. Chris & Tiff are “gifted” by God to adapt to whatever culture they are placed into. That very fact makes them effective missionaries). Having said that…back to my story. This hotel was the most ratty one I’d ever even considered staying in! At least that is what my first glance decided. It looked like a large, square, two-story house. It was run down. The yard was full of 2 foot tall weeds, the parking lot was dirt. It was cold & windy outside. What we weren’t aware of yet was that there was no heat in the rooms. We were shown to our room…4 twin size beds in a room that was probably 10 feet wide and maybe 20 feet long. The wallpaper and carpet was old. The lighting was dim. A single bathroom in the hall outside would be shared with other guests. As time went by, we discovered that the shower, which maybe worked…was an extra charge. The toilet had a broken seat, and the toilet paper was a bit of stuff that looked like brown crepe paper…unrolled from a larger roll so that we’d be conservative with how much we used. Later that evening, we were to discover that the water wasn’t working during the night, so we couldn’t flush. Thus, some of us chose to restrain nature’s normal functions until another time. That is NOT a good plan! In Mongolia, it is good to put your car in a secure area….so Chris rented a garage space for about $1.50. They lock it and maybe retain the key. I think we paid about $30 for the room…not too bad considering that we had 6 people. Okay…enough whining!
After moving into our room, we set out to explore a bit. Tiffany had read about a particularly interesting park. It is a bit difficult to explain here, but I’ll try…because it IS something that we saw. Some background information: There is a very large, very ancient monastery in Khorkorin. The monks supposedly used to look up to the mountains nearby and see a valley that very much resembled to them…a woman’s private parts. Being celibate, that caused them to have trouble with lust. In an effort to turn their minds and eyes away from that valley, someone constructed a statue of a phallus nearby. They could see that from the monastery, and somehow that helped (go figure). This has become a hugely popular tourist attraction. People sometimes come there for good luck with their pregnancy…or for better health for their kidneys. The road to the park was so eroded and precarious that we feared that it might collapse and overturn our vehicle. When we arrived, we saw that there were tables (flea market) full of antiques for sale. We looked at them and watched as Mongolian people were observing Joel. Often, they took an interest in this cute little American boy. Elijah was sometimes observed by them, but I think the Mongolians were taken by the younger American. Frequently they would bring a Mongolian toddler over to interact with Joel. Lots of smiles and laughs would result from that. When you are trying to reach a people for Christ, you use whatever means are given to you. Other than looking at the strange statue and shopping for antiques, there was not much to do at the park, so we soon headed back…by a safer road this time. We stopped at a playground and let the boys be entertained for a few minutes. Again, the decay that happened to Mongolia as the Soviets left…was very evident. Only a few of the pieces of playground equipment were not broken. A shelter house had been filled with trash. Coming back into the village, Tiffany directed us to a restaurant formerly known as the Crown Café. I’d tell you of it’s history, but I don’t remember what was said. Horses were tied up at the rail outside. You might think that would be “Old West” and strange, but that wasn’t such an uncommon sight in Mongolia. Inside, the restaurant was nice, though we wondered how people stayed warm while eating in there during the winter. There was a nice fireplace, but only the people near it would be very comfortable. We had meat pies (not by that name), fried chicken, goulash (not like any you have ever seen), etc. Elijah played with a little Mongolian boy while there. They had sword fights around the empty part of the restaurant. It began to rain while we were eating and our waitress ran out back to shut the opening in the roof of her ger. We came out after our meal …to a double rainbow. Running through the drizzle and mud, we went to a little store nearby. They had no lights on, so you could barely see the product. However, Tiff was able to purchase choco pies…a dessert appreciated by all of us. While there, I began to realize that a scratch on my hand (from some sharp object in the car) was now infected. It becomes a bit more of a problem when you can’t reach under the sink for some peroxide. I squeezed undesirable liquids from it occasionally and tried to get soap down into it. Eventually it healed. There are medicines available, but you often have to self diagnose and self prescribe it. You can even buy antibiotics at little stores if you know what to use.
We ate our chocolate pies back at the hotel. As the sun settled down behind the mountains, we played some cards, ate candy that we’d brought along, and drank hot water from a pitcher provided by the hotel. We tried to stay awake as long as possible, because it was going to be a long night. The mattresses basically didn’t exist…they were rock hard. We had to order breakfast the evening before we wanted it and tell them what time to serve it. We assumed that they went out and purchased the food after getting our order.
Because we knew what time breakfast was served, we calculated that we had 12 hours to survive until then. Chris & Tiff each had a boy sleeping with them in their twin beds. Carol & I had our own beds, but found it very difficult to sleep. Carol said that she got almost no sleep at all. I did better, but know that I turned over at least once every hour and squeaked the bed each time. Chris read the next morning that this was a “mid-range” hotel. He also told us that there were possible plans to one day return the capitol of Mongolia to this sleepy little village. I have very many doubts about that, but who knows?