Sing along, “The wheels on the bus go bumpity bump, bumpity bump, bumpity bump…all the way to Nalaikh!” President Benson gave us the assignment of visiting the branch in Nalaikh (Naw-lock) one Sunday of every month. We had no idea where it was, of course, so the Lewises showed us the way–thankfully they had been there once. They also have the same assignment. After arriving at the bus stop and watched about a million buses come and go ours finally came. Sing along again, “The people on the bus go squish, squish, squish…all the way to Nalaikh!” Yes, it was packed and people kept boarding at every stop with no one getting off! We stood closer and closer to others…and…farther and farther from one another! I’d heard about pick-pockets but there wasn’t any danger because no one was moving…where would they escape to, anyway? After a one-hour bumpity-squishy ride, we arrived and welcomes the fresh air and solid ground.
The branch has two sets of missionaries and they were marvelous at showing us around and translating for us. There were about thirty-five people at Sacrament Meeting but NO PIANIST!!! On a scale of 1-10 I’m about a THREE in piano ability nowadays but I smiled and made my way to the front. Oh, I thought,…there’s the page number but I had no idea what the name of the song said in their small Mongolian hymnal of about fifty songs. (I usually like to start singing the notes in my head to see if I can guess the song before the pianist starts but I WAS THE PIANIST and I didn’t have time to count it out or anything!) Let’s just say it started a little rough but I improved as the meeting progressed, thank goodness. (My mother is up there smiling down on my effort like any good mother would!) We attended a small Sunday School class and then Relief Society was nicely put together. Why is the president always one of the prettiest and sweetest people…no matter where you go? She asked to meet with me afterwards as I introduced myself and I found out that she only has a 1st counselor and that’s it! So, I’m giving the lesson the next time I come out and I’m assuming every time I visit. Wonderful people with hearts of gold! We will enjoy our time with them as well as going to our Sukhbaatar (Suk-butter) branch the other weeks. OK…once again…sing…”The wheels on the bus go zoom, zoom, zoom…back to Ulaanbaatar!” We caught the first bus coming back, got great seats, no crowds, and peacefully enjoyed the beauty of the countryside.
Later last Sunday, we were invited to Miiga’s house for dinner. She is our translator and it was our honor to accept her very kind invitation. She lives across town but she and her husband thought ahead and wrote their address in Mongolian on a paper. We hailed a taxi and were on our way. They live on the other side of town and her husband came down to the street and met us and took us to their apartment. They had also invited four missionaries for dinner so it was a fun time and Miiga’s food was amazing. Of course, the Elders had to be on their way but we stayed for a bit. Miiga has a three-year-old son and he is wild and crazy like most kids that age. We brought him a Buzz-Lightyear toy so that kept him busy for awhile. Other relatives dropped by so we didn’t stay long after that. What a delightful evening. (NOTE: A taxi might be an official taxi like in American or it might be any car that happens to be passing and has room for passengers. This is a way to make extra cash. This is a very trusting society!)
In the office, we are following up on last-minute PEF loan changes in schools and tuition amounts as school is close to starting. I have returned to my teaching days by making yet another Powerpoint. We hope it will help the Reverse MTC run smoother but we don’t have any missionaries leaving for another few months. There are some tremendous young people here. One young man had a job of translating an English book to Mongolian. He finished, bought a plane ticket with his paycheck, and is leaving for BYU Hawaii this week. He has a lot of faith as he moves forward with only $400 in his pocket! Another girl wants to go on a mission but had to earn some money to help with it. She found a job (thanks to Miiga) and put in her mission papers. Her boss found out she wouldn’t be able to stay long so they fired her. She cried and cried. A woman happened to come into the office at about the same time and when she heard of what happened, she suggested that her own mother might need some help for a little while. That brought a big smile to the girl’s face and we’re hoping that works out. The young people have many trials as they face work challenges and they yearn for a temple marriage but it’s hard when there aren’t many members. We see so many young people with such great faith.
On Friday, several senior couples went down to The State Department Store. There was a quilting exhibit that the women wanted to see and the men tagged along. (Oh…between this and the ballet, Elder Francom is going to come home a changed man!!!) We were pleasantly surprised as we walked in because it looked just like a Nordstroms…or a Dillards…or a Macy’s!!! It has seven floors with escalators and lots of clothes, and lots of shoes, and lots of cashmere items (oh, so soft), and lots of jewelry, and lots of bedding, etc. It even had a Cinnabon in a food court so we tried it out for lunch. This is a store that needs further checking out, for sure!
As we were visiting a young women named Onin Nono one day this week, she asked if we were missing our home. I thought for a minute and said, “NO.” Then I explained that we were very comfortable here and were learning so much about life and ourselves. It is a simple life…two people…one small apartment…a job to do…young people to help…testimonies (ourselves and others) to help strengthen. We like this simple life. But, if Onin had asked about family and friends we would have answered so differently! How we live for the mornings to see who might have had something to say to us! And how we love to read about home and all of you! Thanks for being there and taking care of each other! Love,
Elder and Sister Francom
PS…and one last verse! The Wheels on the bus…or is it walking today? Walking today? Walking today?…all over town!