We’ve learned that WALKING is one of our “favorite” pastimes in Mongolia! Without a car, if a senior missionary has a great idea of something we all might want to do, it involves a lot of WALKING–WALKING by the block…the mile…clear across town. Oh, and of course, we WALK if we need milk, bread, or anything that is a want or a necessity. Now, WALKING is good for us so we aren’t complaining but having good WALKING shoes are very important. We both have shoes but the key is finding some comfortable WALKING shoes that don’t detract from our missionary attire. That’s the hard part! Rick found some black shoes that are acceptable but I’m still searching and they might not end up really pretty but they’ll be good WALKING shoes!!!
We WALKED to “The Black Market” last Saturday. It was several miles away but it’s quite an interesting place. Mongolians set up their own small shop or booth daily and these shops begin in the parking lot before you even enter the market–this adds to the mass confusion of traffic problems. Then, as you enter the market, it is humongous–lots of small shops, one after another, on and on as far as you can see. The shops seem to be grouped–women’s clothes, men’s clothes, household items, fabric and sewing, shoes, clocks, and on and on and on…! It was amazing and if you went in one they tried to do everything to get you to buy from them and you felt a little badly when you didn’t like what they hoped you would buy. Rick bought some hiking shoes and the booth owner told him that one sale would give him what he needed for the day. So, we do understand that it doesn’t take a lot to make a difference for them.
Sunday, we WALKED about 20 minutes and then rode the bus another 20 minutes to church. The hole was still in front of our church but not as large with a walkway around it…so nice! It was a good day in church and we were both sustained–Rick as a District High Counselor and myself as the 2nd counselor in the Relief Society. We bore our testimonies with a translator and we hope to gain the confidence to do it in Mongolia, soon. We both have an extra meeting on Sunday–Rick’s is before church and mine is after so we’ll have to be patient before WALKING home.
Our WALK to the office is about 5 minutes. We are learning more of our duties and clearing out outdated files in our office. We are teaching ESL and finding our classes vary in size but their enthusiasm for learning is always high. We have skyped with senior missionaries in SLC that are there for support so we’re gaining more understanding. Our translator, Miigaa, is an amazing person. With a new couple coming in every 18 months, she is the glue that holds the place together. She’s a great resource for us and has helped us more than anyone. A senior couple, the Grosbecks, are from Mapleton and left for home on Wednesday so we all gathered for a testimony meeting. They have lived out in the smaller communities and have been Leadership Support. We could feel their love for the Mongolian people and they made such a big difference–something to work towards!
The big thing around Mongolia right now is Nadaam. It is a national celebration like the 4th of July. Interestingly, the President of the country declared that it would be extended from three days to five days. The city is closed down and everyone attends the festivities. It reminds us a lot of the State Fair with carnival-like games at some booths and traditional foods at others. There are people all over the place and driving a car is problematic because of lack of parking.
Wednesday night we WALKED and WALKED and WALKED! One of the senior couples wanted to go check out the pre-Nadaam activities. We decided to go with them. When we finally got there, a lot of Mongolian men were doing archery and some were in traditional costume so it was interesting. We were hoping to see the children’s archery but we must have been too late. Hey, we were WALKING as fast as we could–one of the senior, Elder Nay, is a marathon man so he takes off and we try to keep up! Rick and the doctor get talking and forget to keep pace at times!
On Friday, the whole city was closed for Nadaam and we left in the morning to WALK back to the stadium for the Opening Ceremonies–so many people doing the same thing. We found our seats (tickets were $35) and were entertained for about one and one-half hour. We witnessed military soldiers marching in that “duck-walk” fashion that you see in movies. They circled the stadium with all the participants following. There were dancers that reminded me of ballroom dancing to Mongolian music, the throat singers were good but it was OK that that portion didn’t last too long, then the wrestlers came out and seemed to be everyone’s favorite. I would compare wrestlers to our football players back home–big and well built, some had sponsors which meant they were getting money for it and they trained for many years–from the time they are young. We went with the doctor and his wife (Elder and Sister Lewis) and they brought their translator so we were lucky to understand most of what went on. Oseeka wanted us to try a traditional dish so we waited in a long line and it really was good–a tortilla-type covering with beef and onions in the middle, deep fried. Of course, it has a name but don’t ask!!! At that point, we left and began our long WALK back home. We were tired but were glad we experienced a bit of the Mongolian culture. A few hours later, we WALKED to a new store called The Good Price Store. It just opened and it actually had a lot of Kirkland items but the most important part–almost every item was in English!!! It is quite pricey so we didn’t get non-essentials but it’s nice to know this new store is close and has things–just in case!
Today (Saturday) is a day of cleaning and organizing our little apartment. We don’t mind staying in since it’s been raining most of the morning. We’re WALKING again tonight to experience the ballet–part of Nadaam. (Rick is a good sport for trying it out.) We’re (Francoms and Lewis) going to “SwanLake” so we’ll see how Mongolia handles the ballet.
The one thought that I keep having that seems to keep things in perspective is that a mission is a great thing even though it is not easy. We don’t have the comforts of our own home but we can learn and grow as we make a new place home–home for just a while. We are learning but there have been so many other missionaries who have had to make a new home of much less. What about those who went without purse or script? What about those who left their wives and family because the prophet asked? What about some of the first missionaries in Mongolia who had to figure it all out so it could be smooth for us. We are humbled…we are blessed…we are loved by our Heavenly Father and we will continue forward. Yes, we will WALK and WALK and WALK and be much better for it. We will learn and grow and be grateful for this blessing in our lives.
We love you all back home! Love, Elder and Sister Francom