Tonight (Friday) we were on our way to the Zakh for another round of meat shopping and ran into a very American-looking young man. We stopped and introduced ourselves and found that he was from Hong Kong–the area Information Technology manager for the Church–and was in Mongolian on a yearly visit. He asked if we knew of any good restaurants so we scratched our shopping plan and headed for an American place. As we were eating the electricity went out and candles were put on our tables–we were glad we had timed it so that our food was already cooked! It was an enjoyable evening and so convenient to talk about IT issues in our own office! We invited him for Sunday dinner because there is nothing worse than to be stuck in a hotel room with nothing to do.
Well, guess what? There is no power in our apartment either! So, we have candles lit but, thanks to modern technology, we have computer power. What a perfect time to reflect on the past week with nothing else to get in the way. Oh, the power just came on!!! There was no power last Sunday at our church building across town and someone said that they are getting ready for the winter by turning off and checking all the lines…maybe that’s what is happening!
Let’s start with last Saturday–we left our apartment at 8:00am for a Sukhbaatar Branch “Outing.” We reached the church and finally boarded a bus. (Think about it–when most people don’t own cars, you have to furnish transportation.) We rode for about an hour and we were still in our branch boundaries. We finally reached a park with beautiful surroundings. Some members immediately started putting up tents, others had quilts to sit on, umbrellas to shelter from the sunshine, and lots of food. Neither of us had even thought about food–we were under the impression that we’d eat lunch together and then go home. I did bring some chocolate chip cookies for a fun treat but we had lots of people offering us all sorts of sweet breads and dried fruit. Then, the Relief Society counselor that speaks English, fixed us some wonderful sandwiches–fried salami, cucumbers, and cheese spread. Everyone visited and the hours started rolling by. Then, the men had a fire burning and started putting mutton meat, cabbage, carrots, potatoes and onions into two cans that looked like huge milk cans with a clamp-down lid. They took rocks out of the fire and put them inside, too! Finally, when nothing more could fit in, the lid was clamped down and the can was put on the fire. About an hour later, a steaming hot dinner was served! We were a little hesitant about the mutton but it really was delicious–maybe eating it with your fingers helped??? Each can served about 50 people. We were about ready to go home…but wait…the soccer and basketball games were just starting and the women pulled out decks of cards and the kids played here and there. I was asked to play “DONKEY” and had to do jumping-jacks when I was not fast enough. Elder Francom was here and there but there wasn’t much visiting to do since very few people spoke English. We were walking around and some older members asked us to try their drink. They poured a cup full of white “milky” liquid, we tasted it only to find out that it was FERMENTED MARE’S MILK–AIRIG!!! We both took a sip–I wanted to be polite and drink more but just couldn’t!!! It was just…nasty…sour…putrid!!! A sweet older lady took our cup and downed the whole thing while her husband chugged on a big bottle!!! Oh, my!!! Finally, a little after 5:00pm the games dispersed…tents came down…and we were finally rewarded with a ride back home. But wait!!! The bus STOPPED half-way back to the church and every man got out and started pushing it. When it started, it was hilarious watching them all run (including Elder Francom) and trying to jump back on the rolling bus. The bus driver stopped at a gas station so maybe he was just low on gas? We finally reached the church, caught another bus home, and finally arrived at almost 8:00pm that night! What a day…what an adventure…what a great way of showing branch members that we were part of them!!!
On Sunday, we went home-teaching to Munk-Od’s family. His nephews were also there and they tried all the games on my ipad that our grandkids love. It was a fun visit and they served us another delicious soup with bread, candy (candy is always on every table) and hot milk/water. Wednesday night we also went home/visiting teaching. I went with the Relief Society and we visited a older lady who is on her way to Czech Republic–at one point I was told she’d be gone for 5 days and another time was told she’d return in May so I’m not sure–welcome to my world of translators! She fed us a dinner of “BOTZ” (see picture) and hot milk/water with candy. I met Rick and the Elders at the church and went to visit the Branch President’s family. He commented that he had never had home teachers so we were pleased to be there. AGAIN, we were served dinner–a noodle based soup that was very nice but I was too full of botz to enjoy much! We visited for awhile and then the dear Branch President offered us a ride home in his car…how nice!
Oh…busy week! We also had some Elders over for dinner on Tuesday night. One of them had suffered the loss of his mother recently and another senior couple had showed him my family’s story of “Finding Forgiveness” on Youtube. He had wanted to talk with me but seemed to be doing well and attributed it to our story. Who would have ever thought it’s effects would reach half-way around the world??? Then, on Thursday night, we took four sisters to dinner at our favorite nacho restaurant. They were missing American food and so we thought we’d treat them to it…well, nachos are American, right? They loved it and it was a fun night for all of us as well as a birthday celebration for one sister.
English classes are going well. The numbers vary each day but we diligently teach to whoever shows up. We find that it takes lots of time between preparation, travel, and teaching. We are enjoying our students–ages range from early 20’s to 50’s. The first class started with the ABC’s, the second started with simple introductions, and the third class is quite fluent and it will be our challenge to challenge them!
So..as I’m sitting here there are fireworks going off at the Chinggs Kahn Hotel across the street. We assume that it’s part of a wedding celebration so if you’re getting married soon maybe you could start a new American tradition! T…I…M….!!!
Even though the week has been busy we always make time to visit with loved ones. It is a necessity since the time away from all our grandkids is starting to seem like forever! How we love all of these wonderful children and are grateful that they all have wonderful parents to teach them correct principles. Today, we were reminded that there are many things in a busy family’s life that can be left undone–the wash, the dishes, the unmade beds–but the things that are most important are the times spent together in Family Home Evening, family scripture study, and family prayer. These are important because if we want to be like Christ, we have to spend time getting to know Him. We hope and pray that all of us can spend time with the scriptures and become more Christ-like through our service, our love of others, our example, and our patience with one another. We know that through His atonement, we can become an eternal family and that is most important! We are so blessed to be in Mongolia watching other families strive to become Christ-like. We are blessed to have wonderful friends and family who are a blessing in our lives.
We love you all!
Love, Elder and Sister Francom