FACT: There are 3 million people and 44 million animals in Mongolia! We learned this as we took the Farleys (visiting couple from gardening project) on a day outing to see the sights of Mongolia. President Benson suggested that we show them some sights and it couldn’t have been a more perfect day. We had noticed a gigantic statue of Chiniggis Khan on our way to Baganuur a few weeks ago so that was our suggestion to all the other seniors. We contacted a church member who was a tour guide and he helped us plan the day. Our adventure began at the Bayanzurkh Building and before we knew it, we were on the bumpy two-lane road out of town. (All of you kids would have loved the bumpy roller-coaster ride!) Along the way, we stopped to see some Yaks–they reminded us of large cows with long fur hanging from their underbellies. Our guide, “Jack”, said their milk and its bi-products are much sweeter than that of cows’. The yaks reacted a lot like cows and were very “people shy” as we tried to get close for a good snapshot. Next, we arrived at the Chiniggis Khan Statue which was built at his birthplace, and the closer we got the more magnificent it became. After the Russians left in 1990, the Mongolians decided there was Mongolian history that needed to be told so they built this to honor their founder. It is made of steel and is part of a plan to be in the middle of a big GER complex with the 24 Mongolian tribes organized around it. The surrounding land is still vacant but it’s a plan for the future. We walked up the outside stairs, into the pedestal, and found a big Mongolian traditional boot—it is so big that it holds the Guinnes Book of World Records as being the largest boot in the world. It is made of 2,025 cow hides with traditional symbols on it–signs of the Russian Swastika before Hitler claimed it. This boot has a turned-up toe which has three uses—(1) it is used like a ski in the countryside’s deep snow, (2) it helps keep feet in stirrups when riding a horse, and (3) in wrestling it helps hook the opponent’s leg and take him down. In the basement were two museums—one of the Bronze Age before Chiniggis and the other museum told of his empire. At one time he ruled from Europe, through the Middle East, to the farthest eastern boarders of Asia. (No pictures were allowed, as usual). Then, we took an elevator and walked up a narrow staircase to an outside door that led to the top of Khan’s horse–we were outside on the statue and the view was spectacular!!! We saw several mountain ranges in the distance and some ger camps for travelers to experience. To be on the statue was amazing! We enjoyed the scenery and took some pictures. Yes, it was very windy and mighty cold so we finally retreated. We then ate lunch in their restaurant and bought a few trinkets at the souvenir shop. Next, was a shop that dressed us up in Mongolian ancient costumes and we posed for pictures and had some fun with that. We left after experiencing it all…we thought! However, at the base of the statue was a bird handler with some eagles and vultures. We took turns holding them—oh, I was surprised how heavy they were! It was another venture of getting close and personal. Finally, we got in the van to return to the city of appointed English teaching, but wait…a camel on the roadside to add to the day! Some rode the camel and others bought more trinkets laid out on a blanket–always an opportunity to sell to a foreigner! Jack pointed out a Mongolian cemetery up on the mountainside. It looked familiar but he told us that, in olden times, people were buried above ground. If a dog ate your body, it signaled an eternity of hell, but if an eagle ate your body, it signaled an eternity with God. The ride back was great and we were content to know more of this amazing country and to experience so many animals that we never thought we’d ever get close to!
Oh one more fact—goat and sheep meat is for summer eating and horse and cow are for wintertime. Speaking of horse…we had District Conference last weekend. (It’s the same thing as Stake Conference only for the District.) It allowed all the senior couples the opportunity to stay and attend conference at the Bayanzurkh Building. Since we were all in town, we invited everyone to our apartment to try our HORSE meat (it’s a winter-time meat) and for the Taylors to bring up their CAMEL meat (I guess it’s in the winter-time category?). We decided to make meatloaf with both so we could taste and decide. We assigned the other sisters to bring the other parts of the meal. We all took a sampling of both the HORSE and CAMEL. Hmmm…they both tasted surprisingly good but the camel was softer. I preferred the HORSE but others liked the CAMEL and some liked them equally, so the conclusion is they are both very similar to beef. However, I think I’ll stick with beef. Isn’t it funny that eating COW seems more civilized than eating HORSE or CAMEL??? After our outing, we might want to try YAK next? Oh, the adventures!!!
The rest of the week pales compared to all of this. We fed two different groups of missionaries. One companionship had an investigator who has a baptismal date (YEA!!!) and another pair had an inactive members with them. She had just returned from a year in North Dakota and additional time at BYU-Idaho. She had excellent English—the best we’ve ever seen/heard. Since she has returned to Mongolia she hasn’t been active so we all tried to be positive and let her know how much the church needs her here—oh, how they need her talents! It just so happened that she accompanied four American sisters so it was a fun night to all have English in common! The Elders came on Thursday night and had been a bit sly…all of us seniors started comparing notes and noticed that they had snagged dinner appointments with three of us—trying to get a fourth appointment with the Harpers. We laughed but decided to be careful and make sure we’re not taking the missionaries away from their teaching time even though they do enjoy a good home-cooked dinner! Funny guys!!!
It’s Saturday night. It is late and we are tired. We’ve traveling and have just experienced more magestic scenery and amazing animals over the past two days. We are traveling with the President’s entourage up to the northern parts of Mongolia. This part of our story is a chapter for another time–like next week–since it’s late and we have another three full days before we return home on Tuesday sometime. Oh, a mission has been such a wonderful experience with people that have enriched our lives so much–we met with Saints in Darkhan and taught them from the handbook yesterday. We will do the same with Saints in Muron tomorrow. How they have taught us through their humble spirits of service. We have gone places and seen things that we could never have imagined. We are grateful for this opportunity to serve and broaden our experiences as we grow our testimonies of this wonderful Gospel that is turning so many toward Christ. We are blessed!
We love you all and think of you so often!
Elder & Sister Francom