Saturday was an unusual day–it was a FREE day, which means we didn’t have any obligations except to ourselves! We cleaned the apartment (I dusted and cleaned the bathroom, Rick vacuumed), started the wash (day-long job since we have a tiny front-loader and no dryer), and then headed out exploring. Since we’ve been traveling to the far corner of the city in a taxi when we go to our English assignment, we’ve been taking note of our far away surroundings. We walked down along the riverbed…and finally arrived at the “S. Outlets.” The store was filled with winter boots, shoes, clothes and some furniture. It wasn’t a typical American outlet but I bought some winter boots and we both bought down coats and Rick found some sweaters to start layering. Guess what? Sunday was our first snowy day and it was COLD…wintry cold! What great timing! However, we weren’t too happy to have snow in September!
On Sunday, we bundled up and walked to the bus station to make our monthly visit to the Nalaikh Branch. The bus was crowded and, as luck would have it, no one “politely” gave us old folks their seat until someone got off when we were about half-way there. As soon as we entered the church building we could tell we’d be staying in our coats because the heat hadn’t been turned on yet. Oh, it was so cold that we were glad when it was time to ride the bus home–the bus had more heat! There seems to be a “god” somewhere over here that decides when the heat is turned on so, until then, it will be cold!
We had invited a Hong Kong visitor for Sunday dinner so I had made rolls on Saturday and had bought a roast not knowing if we had made a good choice when I pointed to it at the meat market. All of a sudden, we was having TEN people for Sunday dinner. We were glad I had rolls and hoped the roast was at least edible! All of us senior missionaries had decided to fast for our Mission President’s family. He had rushed his wife to Hong Kong with pregnancy complications and fasting helped us feel like we were helping. After everyone arrived, we broke our fast together, we were unified knowing that all would be well with the Bensons. The roast was an excellent piece of meat, just by chance, and the meal was as nice as any Sunday dinner I’d ever cooked. It was nice to feel successful all the way around.
Sister Benson was resting and doing well in Hong Kong but someone higher than President Benson instructed them to fly their entire family to California and stay with her parents until after the baby’s birth so they could get the best of medical attention. We had already invited the Benson kids and grandmother for dinner on Thursday night and they had plane tickets for Friday morning. The kids were excited to see their grandfather, cousins, and even the dog! Oh, to go back to the states where some of them had never been–how fun! We were so excited for them. As far as we know, all is going well for them and President Benson will be back by the first part of the week. Of course, this isn’t the end of the story but this is as far as it goes right now.
Since President Benson was busy with family situations, he called on Sunday night and asked Elder Francom to fill-in for him by going up to Choilbasan with Batbold (maintains all apartments assigned to missionaries) on Monday morning. It’s a town of about 50,000 people and is close to the Chinese boarder. He packed and was off early Monday morning. Neither of us have done any traveling since coming to Mongolia. Choilbasan is about 600 miles from UB so that makes it about a 10-11 hour drive of…nothing! He has researched it and it’s like driving from Logan to Las Vegas in one day. He says it reminded him of driving across Wyoming–nothing but rolling hills of grass. As they drove along they came upon several herds of sheep and goats or herds of cattle. There were no fences anyplace. Then, off the road there would be a ger (house) of the owners of the animals. He saw eagles, hawks, and even a vulture (larger than an eagle). They stopped at a small town called Ghengis Kahn and had lunch. After traveling 3-400 miles, the road STOPPED! There were no detour signs…no warning signs! It had been torn up by the government to be resurfaced. So, they traveled on the dirt next to the road for about 200 miles with very few other vehicles passing. They noticed that some of the road seemed to be resurfaced but after driving on it again, it had big piles of dirt on it so they had to leave the road. After it was dark, they could see cars on the road but couldn’t get to it. They finally saw a car they were hoping was a local resident and knew where he was going. He led them to the road and they crossed a bridge on the newly paved road and finally made it to Choilbasan!!! While there he interviewed missionaries, audited the branch financial records, and accompanied Batbolt to missionary apartments. He tagged along with the missionaries as they taught English and visited with members. Elder Francom was lucky enough to fly home and the Assistance to the President drove home with Batbolt. Now, when others talk about Choilbasan, we know things, as if we were full of experience!!!
I kept the home fires burning…going to teach English and handling our office responsibilities. It was very nice to have Elder Francom back home! Our English class is going well. We are getting more students–we’ve gone from five to fifteen in the beginner class and the intermediate class is growing, also. We are trying to teach with variety and interaction so they can be successful with conversations. They seem to go away smiling. One student is a younger guy, named Chimday (nickname, thank goodness) and he loves to say, “Good Job!” So, everyone is now calling him “Good Job!” Then, when Mongolians say yahoo (as in yahoo.com) they weren’t pronouncing it correctly so Elder Francom raised his arms and said, “YAHOO!!!” Now, it is also one of their favorite things to say! “YAHOO!!!” We’re having fun but it really takes a lot of preparation time!
So, life continues in Mongolia! I went to the Women’s Conference tonight because we are one week behind all of you. I think it’s because of translation issues. I was so impressed with all that was said. When President Uchtdorf stated that God sent us here to prepare for a future brighter than any other, I was so touched. I want that future and to get there together, we all have to travel on that straight and narrow path and live the gospel with all our might, mind, and soul. Whether you are my friend or my family, I want to be in this bright place with you. We can get one step closer with each service that we do…with each prayer that we say…with each time we learn more about Jesus Christ. I know that He loves us all and we love all of you, too!
Elder Francom and Sister Francom