Saturday, January 30, 2010

After the hour-long bus ride, I only have to walk a mile to get to church. Negative 14 is positively refreshing on the Mongolian scale. I had believed that the walk would be several miles, but the young people from church showed me the shorcut through the remains of the palace where the last king and queen of Mongolia lived.

Having asked if there was anything I could do to help out around the church; I am in charge of youth group for the next six weeks. The youth are energetic, new Christians and I couldn't be happier to lend a hand. We are doing a Bible study from the 60s, They Met Jesus, about people in the Bible who encountered Jesus (usually) briefly. It's interesting to hear the unique perspective that a group of new believers brings to the table; I have so much to learn from them (or re-learn!). We play games and have a short English lesson each week. I'm genuinely surprised at how much the youth really enjoy the English lesson.

I will be working two days a week with hospice care, 2 days with senior citizen groups and one-on-one tutoring, one day as impromptu youth leader, and one day attending church with our United Methodist congregations here. I'm getting used to micro-busses and other peculiarities of Mongolia, and generally getting settled.

It's wonderful to serve with the missionary community here and I'm learning so much from our daily interactions.

Monday, January 25, 2010


Nara in front of Dum badarch Church

The "Tech Team" sitting with their backs to the woodstove.

The window in the ceiling of the ger.

Youth preparing for the children's Sunday School hour.

Children during the Sunday School hour.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I went for a walk downtown today.

Ulaanbaatar is a city like no other.

Today was particularly warm, possibly above 0 on the Farhenheit scale, so a long walk made a lot of sense. When you're out walking in UB, as foreigners call the capital city, it is of utmost importance to watch for open manholes. I don't know if people actually live down there, of it they are just stolen and sold for scrap - but it's not uncommon to find an open manhole. You should also be careful to avoid the sliding zones. Young Mongolians love to slide their way wherever they are going. On almost every sidewalk there is a pattern of running space (to get up speed) and sliding space (to sail by the walkers.) The long icy patches are easy to see as long as you keep your eyes open at all times!

If you dare to take a second to look up and look around, you'll see a beautiful city. Downtown there are a handful of tall, modern buildings. Most of the buildings take their design from Soviet Russian inspiritaion. The Opera house, State Department Store, and any number of government office buildings share the 2nd world look and feel of Stalinism. Beyond all of the buildings, the mountains are present on clear-sky days.

Many people live in communist era apartment buildings. Most people live in gers. Gers are round tent-like semi-permanent structures. A wooden frame is covered with wool and cloth. You can lock the door on a ger, and they usually have a wood stove. I haven't been inside a ger with running water, but I have seen computers and high-speed internet inside the dwellings.

Pictures will be coming shortly. I just haven't had my camera out yet.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Having seen the mountains on a clear-sky day, I know they exist. Had it not been for the two nights of wind which knocked much of the pollution from the sky, I doubt I would have believed the mountains were truly there. They are beautiful - lined with traditional gers and fences forming a labyrinth board at least part way up - and truly a sight to see.

Sometimes it is difficult to convey meaning through words. I could write a hundred times "It is cold in Mongolia" and the words would be completely insufficient. Inhaling deeply outside is like being kicked in the stomach by a donkey - it simply knocks the wind out of you. Icicles form on your nose and eyelashes within the time it takes to get from the church ger to the outhouse.

I'm here as a student: an intern. I'm learning from the United Methodist Missionary community in Ulaanbaatar. I'm completely convinced that I need some good, stearn lessons from seasoned veterans to whip me into shape so that I can be an effective missionary. Our church did things right in Mongolia, and it's thrilling to learn from the missionaries here.

Every day is different. I teach English, visit hospice care patients, hang out with children and youth, play dominoes with the senior citizen group, take part in Bible studies, or anything else I'm told to do. Worship is an experience, and it's a joy to be a part of it.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Roused from sleep, I only knew that it was "dark." Which in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia "dark" could be anytime from 5PM until 9AM. This particular dark was just after midnight. And this particular waking was because of smoke. The apartment was filled with thick, acrid smoke. We checked every furnace and room to make sure it wasn't coming from our apartment. Questions like "What does one wear, exactly, to go stand outside in -30 degree weather to wait for an undetermined amount of time?"

It ended up unresolved. The smoke was coming from our neighbors apartment. When 5 firemen showed up, our neighbor simply refused to allow them in her house. They knocked on her door for close to an hour and she stood on the other side of the door and refused to let them come in. Apparently everything is alright, because we didn't have to evacuate and we still have our health.

This is my third full day in Mongolia. I will be here for 2 short months, so I want to make the best out of every day. I love working with the churches. I went on a hospice visit with Helen and one of the Mongolian doctors on my first day. The patient's daughter spoke Russian and I was able to have a conversation with her. After that, I went to a party at one of the churches for the senior citizens. Apparently, everyone over 60ish speaks Russian, so I introduced myself in Russian and was understood by almost everyone. We danced after lunch, and an older woman taught me the Mongolian spinning-whirley dervish!

The stores sell Russian and Korean foods. Every box has either Russian or Korean lettering on it. I feel super prepared to be here! Every day holds new adventures, new low temperatures, and new learning experiences for me. I'm so thrilled to be here - and right now I'm just hanging on for dear life.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


I arrived safely in Mongolia.

The flight from Seoul to Beijing was uneventful. In the Beijing airport I went to the gate I found that there were two different flights waiting in the same lounge. One was headed to Mongolia and the other was going to Thailand. No one needed to ask anyone where they were going - half of us were wearing long wool coats and boots and the other half were decked out in bermuda shorts and flip-flops!

Today is my first day of work. I'm going with Helen to the hospice center in the morning, and visiting the English classes in the afternoon.

I'm glad I was adequately prepared for the cold. Because ... it's really cold. My eye lashes freeze together if I shut my eyes for too long, and stalactites form under my nose when it runs. It's best to have a good sense of humor about it - and a number of layers!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Mongolia here I come!

I'm flying to Mongolia on Wednesday.

I'm ready for the cold weather to take my breath away!