Thursday, December 2, 2010

Last night we got a Christmas tree.. . which is not so bushy as the ones I remember, but at least it has character. And at least we have a tree. There are even pine cones on it! Can you imagine . . .

After a delicious dinner-group dinner of scrambled eggs and sausages by Paul, we got to relax a little. Yay! I started working on a Christmas advent calendar (it will be amazing, don't even worry!) and Joshua was able to read for a while.

Under the glow of rainbow Christmas lights I hung around our room,  we watched a conference talk by Elder Uchtdorf about paying attention to the important parts of life. Don't spend so much time on things that don't really need to be worried about. Spend time thinking, and relaxing.Good advice, I thought.

Today we will go to a performance of Turkish instruments. Joshua is excited. And speaking of Turkish, and Joshua, and excitement and speaking, Joshua is taking a Turkish class. Today he had a speaking session and he said "it went really well."

At the moment I am part of a test shoot in the new BYU Broadcasting building. We have two studios crewed and all the cameras up and lots of engineers and audio guys running around. Great fun. Hopefully the first real shoot won't crash and burn . . .

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Back to our Garden

Well, there is a lot more that happened on our trip, including Joshua getting suuuper sick the very last day - leaving me to venture out on my own to gather last-minute souvenirs. But I made it. And he got better, eventually. :) He hated not being able to eat all the delicious plane food (doctors orders). We stayed the weekend in Salt Lake at Joshua's family's new house, which is lovely. We relaxed and watched conference. And I had fun checking out Tara's new beaUTIFUL engagement ring and hearing about all their wedding plans for this winter. Yay!!

Now we are home, and I saved all our tomatoes from rotting by canning them. So proud of myself :) I also took it easy that week from work, trying to get the house in order. I am excited for our nice new windows, and for the material I bought from Mongolia to make curtains with!

I like our house. It will be sad to leave someday when we have to, which we will, eventually. Right now we are working on grad school applications for Joshua. Who knows where life will take us these next few years . . .

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Frustrating Day

Erica and I had many frustrating days on our mission.  Tuesday
reminded us of those days.  All of our best-laid plans went awry.  We
wanted to go to Nalaikh, but my RM friend went to the huduu (countryside) so he
couldn't drive us there.  We met a couple of friends at church
headquarters, but we had to wait a long time for them to be ready to
go.  We did get some potato hushuur from the restaurant across the
street, just like old times (and we ran into several districts of
missionaries coming to eat after their district meetings). Then, while
waiting for Pukii, we went with Sainaa to look for one of my favorite
families, which is also the most inactive of the people that I taught.
 Their living circumstances have really gone downhill (not their
fault--they were swindled by an extended family member), and they are
proving basically impossible to locate.  The car wash they used to
work at is defunct, and none of their supposed neighbors admitted to
knowing who they were.  I might try one more time to get directions
from a relative on Thursday, then we might go Friday morning in one
last-ditch effort to see them...

Anyway, we finally got to Nalaikh at 5pm, we went to see two families
whose kids I'd taught.  I was really heartened to see how active
Sainaa's little sister has become (she was less-active for a long
time). So even in this rough day there was a silver lining in the
cloud.  But then, on the way home, we met with a little opposition.
In a later post, Erica will tell you what happened (I learned my
lesson, to not let her out of my sight or touch!)  :)


Here is the later post from Erica:
Yesterday was a really long day! I was getting really hot and bored of following Joshua and his friend Sainaa around searching for the lost family. And they kept talking in Mongolian and I had to pay really close attention to know if they were going left or right or crossing the street or what! After we gave up we took a really long bus ride to Nalaihk where I got a snickers while Joshua charged his phone. :) The lady at the store was nice and let me sit in the chair. We visited a few families who were very cute and excited to see us. And they gave us a lot of food. Soup, kimchee (they where excited that they had that to serve us), and some eggs and fried sausage. And candy, I ate a lot of that! Anyway, after visiting those nice families, who kept saying how cute I was (I liked that part) we went to catch the bus home. Joshua and Sainaa saw that the bus was pulling away and started to chase after it. We were all running, but I was a little ways behind them. As I was running past a group of teenagers, one of them stuck out his foot and tripped me! Punks. They went a away quickly, and I was glad I made some kind of yelp as I went hurling straight face-down to the dirt. The boys heard me and turned around. Luckily I had caught myself with my wrists so I didn't get too beat up. Except my wrists hurt a lot. But they are ok now. Good times for good stories. And Joshua felt bad so now he is going to make sure to be right next to me the rest of the trip! ;)

The end.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Church in Mongolia Continues to Prosper

I have been struck again and again by the number of Mongolian missionaries whom I remember as young men/young women, and whom I am shocked to see all grown up as missionaries now, 3 to 5 years after I knew them.  Here is a partial list (more for my benefit of keeping track) that will give you an idea of how many of the 14-18 age kids from the branches I served in have served or are serving missions:

Han-Uul Branch
hmmm...none yet that I can remember.  Actually I do know of at least one, but she is going to be in the post-script of married RMs

Nalaikh Branch

(more to come in that marriage postscript).

Elder Galbayar

Elder Xuyagaa, Elder Purevsukh, Elder Munkhsukh (these three brothers are part of a family that my companion and I contacted, the oldest of them was in prison and the other two were barely progressing investigators when I left the area--I was astounded to hear that they were baptized, much less that the last two listed are RMs and the third is now serving his mission).

Elder Amarbaysgalan (little guy who looked like he was 12 and had no support from his family at all--his family still aren't members but he is a district leader and trainer now).

Sister Ariunzaya - one time, we reluctantly agreed to let her go with us to a couple of lessons even though I thought she was an immature, outspoken girl.  That day all of our plans and back-up plans blew up, and while I was trying to figure out what to do, Ariunzaya suggested that we pray.  I said, okay, fine, you're right, how about you say a prayer. So she did, and then right after that I felt like we should go check on some less-active members in a certain part of town. From the buildings we had been in to the shack where the less-actives liveed, we took a path I'd never taken before.  On the way, we ran into a guy who was pretty much a golden investigator.  He said, "my mom died recently, and I've had a really strong feeling that I need to find out where her spirit has gone."   He and his brother were great people, who, to my knowledge never got baptized, but regardless, little Ariunzaya taught me a lesson about praying for direction and following the Spirit that day.

Unur Branch

Elders Byamba and Ganzorig were great friends when I knew them as young men.  One night I was walking home from an activity with them and two or three other of the young men, and I got the distinct impression that it would be an amazing day for Mongolia when these two became missionaries.  Now Byamba and Ganzorig are serving together as zone leaders of the Erdenet zone.

Elder Bilguun

Elder Chinzorig (older brother of Ganzorig).  They are two fun kids.  I think they might have a sister who also served.

Sister Bulganbat (I have to remember to pass along her email address to Sister Schurz, the sister from my group, who always brought Bulganbat along to lessons as a witness)

Sister Turuu (she went to Utah Provo, and translated for Erica in RS on Sunday).  She is an English teacher now.  She'll go with us on Wednesday to visit a few people.  Her sister Otgoo is waiting for a mission call, it could come any day now.

Elder Boldsaikhan - I taught his parents and he baptized them.  I'll always remember when he shared his testimony at his parent's baptism.  His mom hasn't done so well and has separated from the family.  Boldoo served an honorable mission and is now married with a kid.  His dad, who has long had poor health, lives with them and is still active.  We'll visit them Wednesday.

Elder Jiguur- he replaced Battsetseg as the mission secretary (back from a mission to Hawaii). 

Hailaast Branch

Elder Munkhbayar, now serving in Unur. His sister (name forgot?) was just called to the California San Bernardino Mission

Elder Batgal and Sister Batchimeg--Battsetseg's duu's. You've seen their pictures on our blog.

Elder Battulga, served in Mongolia and now returned and an English teacher.  I was happy to hear that his formerly offended family is back into activity in the Church.

Sister Eegii - she is back from serving in Hawaii and is translating for the couples.

Sisters Chimedavaa and Urangaa - One of them was a flaky branch missionary and the other was an eternal investigator who couldn't get permission from her parents to be baptized.  They are both RMs who gave talks on Sunday about going to the temple, talking about the goals that President Andersen set to go back there.

Sister Shinegerel - I hear she's married now.

Sister Uurt____?  will try to remember the name

Murun Branch

Elders Munkhbayar and Bayraa have returned to Murun, where they serve collectively as branch executive secretary, branch mission leader, and young men's president.  They were branch missionaries; when I was there, one of these two went with us to lessons almost every day. Erica and I went to almost every house with one of them, just like old times. *  Purevochir also took a break from his 7-days-a-week routine of going with the full-time missionaries after school, in order to show us an address I'd forgotten.  He was a tiny 13-year old kid but now he's 16 and can't wait to go on a mission after 3 more years as a super-active branch missionary

Sister Erdenechimeg

Sister Oyunpurev - served in Unur branch where I was her district leader.  She married a non-member which makes me worry about her a little bit but she was at church.  She has a 1-year old baby and seems reasonably happy.  Her older brother, an RM, returned to activity, which I had thought impossible.  He taught a wonderful Elder's Quorum lesson.

Stay tuned for pictures of many of these missionaries.

Also that marriage post-script!

sheep ankle bones = fun times

Sister Munkhnaran, Sister Battsetseg, and Sister Nelson (Wheatley!). Their names don't change, just mine.

Shagai is played with sheep ankle bones. Similar to some kind of dice game, but much funner. Munkhnaran wanted me to make sure I noted that her husband (the one in purple) won. Her mother-in-law gave us a set that we are bringing back. We didn't think we'd slaughter enough sheep ourselves to collect a whole set of bones!

Best RM party ever! Look at us, all married and everything. :) We had dinner and played shagai (see below) at Joshua and my apartment on Sunday afternoon. They approved of my cooking even, so I was happy. It is fun to see my good friends doing so well and married to great boys.

We got her a BYU snuggly blanket.

We had a great weekend in the city. Friday we spent mostly all day with Munknaran and her two moms (Mom and mother-in-law). She lives with her husband's family. And her mom was visiting there too. Sadly, Munkhnaran gave birth to her cute baby boy too early and after a week he went back to heaven. "He was just too perfect," Munkhnaran said. :) The moms made us very tasty food and I ate a lot and we looked at all her pictures. I had fun seeing myself in lots of her mission pictures! Felt famous.

Saturday we went to the RM Conference 2010 - only happens every two years! Nobody told us. Joshua loved seeing everyone as return missionaries, and some of his good friends married to each other! We event went to the "ball dance" that evening and danced around a bit.

Sunday was busy, church-hopping and all. We saw lots of people Joshua knew and worked with on his mission.We set up lots of appointments for the week One of my favorite parts (and his too) was seeing Naranbat (Battsetseg's dad, who Joshua taught, and who we went to the temple with a few weeks ago) conduct the meetings. And one of his sons + Battsetseg's husband bless the sacrament. Very sweet. Such a great family!!

Then after church I made some yummy food and we had a married people triple date :). They were fun to spend the afternoon/evening with talking, eating, and playing games. I liked getting to know my companions' husbands too.

And then finally today we met with Munkhnaran and her mom-in-law for a trip to the zakh (a ginourmous swapmeet/ bazaar place). I got a scarf and Joshua got some little Mongolian stools that I guess he has been missing sitting in. And, of course, I got some material to make a bedspread, curtains, and pillows. Luckily we had a mom with us to figure out how much we needed!

Now we are off to dinner at the Naranbat household, ... maybe try to track down a couple other people on the way.

So maybe living here wouldn't be my first choice (especially not being being able to communicate with anyone aside from smiles and pointing!) but I am having a good time. Joshua is getting in the habit of translating and I am enjoying seeing my old friends. The city is nice because there are lots of nice food places and shops, but I miss the peacefulness and clean air of the countryside! Oh, and anytime anyone says that CA people drive crazy should come here. I have never been so scared for my life than when I was sitting helpless in the back of a miker (pronounced meeker) van as we were passing one really big truck with another really big truck driving straight towards us. That one gave me the shivers!

p.s. Today I saved Joshua from stepping on a dead puppy. Smashed flat in the street. So sad. And the worst part is that we were looking for this internet cafe and had to walk past it like 7 times! ugh. Good note to end on, huh?

RM Conference 2010

Odgerel (served at the same time as Joshua) and his young family

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Herding the Flocks and Drawing Water from the Spring

Dorjhand and his wife Oyundalai were some of my favorite investigators.  They were baptized after I left, but they are a little less-active (still come to church when they have time, which may not be terribly often, but they drink tea alot).  The missionaries visit them a lot, which is good, and they still like the Church (both testimony-wise and friends-wise).  They bought 8 cows and half-yaks a couple of years ago, so they come out in the summer to check on them and make sure the hired-hand family is doing their job.  The ger that we slept the night in with them was pretty crowded.  They gave us so many of their blankets and dels to keep us warm that we were worried they'd get cold.  We were very warm but it wasn't very comfortable on the floor with a meager pad.  Oh and to explain the video, they also are having their hired hands take care of someone else's sheep + goat herd.

In this video, the sheep were wandering too far away and everyone else was busy lassoing half-yaks (the guys) to give them vaccinations or milking cows (the girls).  In soon-to-be-posted footage, Erica and I attempt to milk the cows without much success.  Herding is much easier.  (We didn't even try to lasso--but I did hold the medicine for them).  And I helped carry the sheep that we later put in the trunk to take home with us to Murun.  Dorjhand and Oyundalai will slaughter it later.

We have an even better visual memory of herding than this video, which unfortunately was not recorded on camera, of Erica, Dorjhand, Oyundalai and I herding the sheep AND the goats up to the hill where there is water for them to drink.  I'll just have to settle for describing it...each of us walked a few meters apart behind the animals.  It's really about as easy as it looks in the video.  We walked for about 20 minutes till we got to the hill.   The hill had a pretty neat forest--Oyundalai kept teasing Dorjhand about it, because he has a phobia of forests and was pretty uneasy while we were up there.  There wasn't that much water, and it had a thin layer of ice, but I guess they still got enough to drink. Also Erica won't let me get away without saying that I ran back to get the camera after we were almost at the hill, but I got lost and they watched me from the hill running back and forth, almost finding the house which was past the next dip in the rolling steppe, but never quite getting there.  It was the most strenuous jog that I've done in a while, but I surprised myself with how refreshed I was by it (and not too tired).

The next day Erica and I went with Dorjhand to get drinking water.  We have a couple of good videos of that, which we will send to you as soon as we can.

she ate the whole yak

Yep, there was a fresh yak being slaughtered down the street so Dolthamjav collected bits and pieces of its insides for her to cook up for us. She is a great cook, so it didn't kill me. She took the liver, dropped it on the hot wood to sear it, took it out and dipped in a tasty sauce, wrapped it in a large chunk of fat, and put it in the fire for a little longer. And you'd never guess it, but that meal was our favorite of the whole trip so far. I'll make it for you when we get back, don't worry. Anyone know of a yak being slaughtered?

Well, unfortunately along with the liver we also had to taste the heart, lungs, stomach, kidney, large and small intestines, and who knows what else. Some of them were more palatable than others. Mm hmm. I also drank a lot of fresh cow, yak, and goat meat. Most of our meals are mutton. We have been pretty lucky in regards to our stomachs holding up - made it a whole week without getting sick. Just yesterday we were feeling a little queasy, but we are ok now. Here is some info from Joshua on the Mongolian delicacies we enjoyed:

The 5 Treat Organs


Other parts that we ate:
yak cud stomach
lots of fat

Josh ate this, but Erica couldn't quite handle it:
the Lower Intestine


We were able to see lots of people in Murun, there last area of Joshua's mission. We stayed there in a hotel or a few days, then we took a trip to the lake with a member, Dolthamjav, who owns a tourist lodge. It had just closed for the winter, but luckily she had one ger still up that we slept in. We had a private cook and the whole restaurant to ourselves. Lovely. The lake was peaceful and the air there was refreshing. 

On the way back to Murun we got dropped off in the countryside. We stayed in a ger with a family Joshua had taught on his mission. They were very nice and had a blast showing us how to live a good Mongolian countryside life. They were very proud that we enjoyed herding the malth (livestock) to the forests to water and driving the ox and cart to the spring to collect water for the family. We had fun, especially sleeping with 10 other people on the floor of a ger. :) There were a few other people at the ger too, including a lady and her cute two year old who got pretty attached to Joshua and I. Super cute. Well, my arms got a little tired fro holding her, but it was fun anyway.

Ok we are really going to go now. We are crashing the RM Bi-annual Conference and Ball Dance. Should be fun. I get to see my companions and Joshua will see all the people he worked with on his mission who went on missions too. Hopefully before the dance I will find a nice Mongolian jacket to look fancy in.

More adventures to come. Over and out. :)

Landlord, can I keep him?

Yes Erica wanted this pet deer, but the guys with the motorcycle wanted to keep it too.  It'll make some real good venison in a few years (and deer like this are rare in Mongolia).  They said it was about to die when they found it.

The miker ride up to Huvs-Gul lake a couple of days earlier was pretty rough (4 hours, super-bumpy road, Erica carsick, Josh only halfway sitting on the seat.  But, the trip during which this video was taken was just a short jog from Xatgal to Janxai, where the scenic pictures at the forest and the lake were taken.  Stay tuned for a later post that will talk about the delicious food that we've eaten so far (but no venison).

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Stray Dogs and RMS

I have been taking a lot of video here in Murun, but I am forgetting to snap a few pictures! My feet hurt a bit, getting used to all this walking. Murun is very pretty, a small, podunk sort of town. We have been visiting lots of neat people in their homes. Joshua is always suprised at how big the kids have grown, and happy at how active the families are in the church.

Last night I experienced my first ger - now I want to bring one home as much as Joshua does! Some of them are beautifully painted with flowers and patterns, all bright colors on an orange base. I practiced being an anthropologist and asked the families about their homes, their life, and things they care about. Hopefully we will put together all the footage into a movie sometime soon. I ate soup last night - carrots, potatoes, onions, and, of course, mutton. Mmm.  Actually, I really liked it until I had to chew all the fat. I asked for seconds but left he extra fat and bits of hair in the bottome of the bowl for Joshua to finish. They were happy that I liked to food and asked for a second helping. Good trick, huh?

This is an EXAMPLE of what the furniture looks like inside a ger. Really each home is much more busy with belongings and contains much less furniture. The furniture is also much more used. But I think it is all very beautiful and want some for my home. :)

Today we were escorted by Munkhbuyer (Joshua will want to correct the spelling on that one, I am sure), a recently returned missionary. When Joshua was here, Munkhbuyer was just barely preparing for his mission. He served a great mission and helped many families gain testimonies of Jesus Christ and become strong members of the church. He went with us to another recently returned missionary's house where we had them  bear thier testimonies on camera. The spirit was sweet.

Last night I got to hold a bunny rabbit. A family had just got it from the city. I asked if they got it for a pet or for food, and to my releif it was just a pet. Made me miss Buddy my rabbit (is Buddy still alive?).

I was going to stick a picture on here, but there is a sign above the computer that says "AHXaap FLASH ...." which appearantly means you can not use a flash drive.

Tonight we will go to more houses and tomorrow we will do the same, after church, of course. Monday we are going to the lake. A member will drive us up there, which is very nice.

Friday, September 17, 2010


Mongolian Skylight

Last night we were walking by the church and I thought I'd stop by to see if anything was going on.  Sure enough, there was a good-sized activity involving many of the people I knew best when I was serving in this small town.  They were holding the most unique annual branch budget meeting that I've ever seen.  It reminded me more of a town hall.  Anyway, Ganhuyag who I taught three years ago is now the 1st counselor and his wife is 1st counselor in the Relief Society.  Not surprising to me though, because they are such a great family.  After the meeting we went to some houses with the missionaries, one of whom turned out to be the little kid who'd always say hi to us (but we never paid much attention to him or let him go with because he was too young).  He wasn't even a member yet because his family disapproved, but now he is a district leader and trainer in the second year of his mission!  How things change in three or four years!

From my companion: she enjoyed eating hushuur (something like a fried dumpling, with mutton, of course!) for lunch today.  Also she wishes she'd studied her Mongolian a little harder.  Sometimes I forget that she doesn't understand and I talk to her in Mongolian.  She is training me to be a good translator, though.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bayarlaa, Batulga. Thank you.

Seven years ago Naranbat's eldest son, Batulga, was murdered by a gang in Mongolia. Sorrow and anger tore the family apart. Somewhere in the boxes of Batulga's belongings was a miracle that brought his whole family (and us!) to Hong Kong this week. A Book of Mormon piqued the family's curiosity and led them to find the missionaries and gain a testimony of the church. Over the years, each member of the family has been baptized and the spirit of Christ has brought their family the happiness so evident in the pictures. They saved up their money, sacrificing a great deal, and where able to take a trip to the temple to be sealed as a family. And luckily we could come meet them here in Hong Kong for the special occasion.

Joshua and I arrived in Hong Kong on Sunday night after a verrrry long flight. They gave us good airplane food and I watched all the Asian movies. And some American ones too.

We took a taxi to the Andersen's house, the former mission president of Mongolia. They just got home in June so they enjoyed updating Joshua with all the going-ons in the wards and branches. They live in a townhouse-like home with 4 flights of stairs. Its up in the green, green hills a little outside of the main city.

In the morning we went on a walk with them up and down the hills and along the ocean. All the old people were swimming and exercising. I wanted to join them, but I didn't bring my suit.

Ok, I have to go eat my oatmeal with cranberries now. I will try to write all about the rest of Hong Kong later. For the sneak peak: Monday we spent all day touring Hong Kong with Naranbat and all his family. A senior couple came with them from Mongolia. Brother Chan from the local ward led us all around - the highest building outlook, the top of a mountain, a laser show on all the buildings across the water. We had a good time - I liked seeing the family laugh and joke together. Tuesday we met the family at the Hong Kong temple where they were sealed as a family. Soooo neat. After lunch and grocery shopping and dinner we went back to the temple. Most of us, including the younger boys, went and did baptisms. The boys really enjoyed being there and tried to set records for how many baptisms they could do. I told them they probably created two wards in heaven.

Today we are off to Murin, a town a plane-flight away where Joshua served the last few months of his mission. He is very excited to see everyone. And we are also staying a day or two at a beautiful lake there.

Yep, that is our trip so far!!

Love you lots. Bayartai.

Battsetseg and Muugi and their baby coming soon, at the Hong Kong Ferry station

Monday, September 13, 2010

Hong Kong

We are having fun in Hong Kong, we don't have time to write right now but a picture is worth many words so we will try to post one.

Hong Kong is beautiful, more green than I thought a place would be!

Yesterday we toured around with Naranbat and Battsetseg and their cute family. Seeing them again was incredible, and I loved spending time with my old companion.