Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Orange End of November

Maybe you can see some of our view looking West, snow-covered town, road, and mountains. Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 28, 2005

A Musical Trip to the Mongolian Steppe - World Music


Story features 10 minutes of sounds of this place we now call home, plus some rich photos, and:

Mongolian National Instrument

Body Contortion: Human Rope Tricks

John Denver's Country Roads by Mongolian Herdsman

American Stage Fright before small "obscure" audience

Sounds of a horse ride in the wide open space; "NO FENCES, a cowboy fantasy"

Heaven of horses

Unidentified Mutton Parts

Lulliby song for animals, (which sounds to me Native American)

Ghengis Khan Irish Pub venue for American Cowboy performers
with Mongolian translation

Sunday, November 27, 2005

A feat to be thankful for - or Four

Renee made the Thanksgiving pies. She would say she got a lot of help. I say I was thankful. Posted by Picasa

Getting Ready to Watch Holiday Movie

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Table of Thanks

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Thanksgiving in Mongolia

We gathered Friday night after school for great food with our mission family. Instead of turkey, we ate chicken, a rare delacacy here. It was even more special because it was American chicken! Someone found it in a store in the capital a month or so ago.

Everything was great, and yes, we are thankful for so many who make it possible for us to be here. And we're thankful to the One who 'gives every good gift'. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Here's the newest development and latest view from our house.

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A tough croud, you say?

I've talked to tougher ones. But having some experience in front of people is always nice when facing an intimidating audience. They were great listeners, even though they don't know the language I spoke in. One of the young guys from church, translated the little bit I said. They wanted to know how their place compared to American prisons, and what was different between the two countries. I got a resonating laugh when I mentioned some of vices that I was saved from. Posted by Picasa

A new friend - 20 years old

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"Mongolian Idol" - Visit to a Prison

This week I went to the local prison. It’s about 6 or 8 kilometers west of town. The dirt roads are smoother now glazed with ice, but still a little like riding a frozen sea.

We passed over our town’s frozen river on a long bridge. You could see footprints in the snow on the river where people chop through the ice to get fresh water. Sled tracks stretch up the bank and lead to a whole suburb of houses without phone, heat, or water.

Our little taxi negotiated the ice-glazed dirt road and delivered us to the guard house of the prison. The guards shook our hands and showed us to the gate. We walked in unaccompanied by them. Opening before us was a large prison yard with a basketball hoop, a clinic and three buildings. The huge white wall with barbed wire on top did nothing to slow the icy cold air from the surrounding foothills. We stepped into the large building. I noticed it was a little warmer, but not much. I had my coat on and never took it off. The guys greeted us in socks and sweats, with shaven heads. When we shook hands, mine were warmed by theirs. I guessed it to be between 40 and 50 (F) degrees in the big room where they gathered.

My young friends from church officiated what I grinningly considered an episode of “Mongolian Idol”. Like the televised American singing competition, each man, one after the other sang a solo of a new worship chorus. I was astounded at their courage, thinking I’d never seen such in any North American gospel meeting. The last one to sing “I have a Savior” was young and shy looking. But he sang, with feeling, in a nice voice the perfect melody. All contestants received a prize of winter socks. Various presentations of the gospel of freedom followed. They engaged.

When we left I was extremely cold, like to the bones. This is the first time I’ve really felt cold in Mongolia. On our way back past the guard house, one of them came out in the cold wind and talked to us in his shirtsleeves (rolled up to his elbows). Leaning against a cold concrete wall in the afternoon shade, he seemed in no hurry to get somewhere warm. I tell you it was within 5 degrees of zero Fahrenheit, one side or the other. I couldn’t wait to get out to the car, and next to some heater drinking hot liquids.

I came home to Renee and the girls in a dark apartment. A power outage had stalled a half-cooked dinner, and made it impossible that hot beverage. I guess I’m not conditioned for cold yet. The life of a language student in a warm classroom allows little acclimatization to cold. In that direction, this was my first small step in a long journey.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Home of Cowboys....President Bush Comes to Visit Mongolia

Check out a story on American Radio called: "Welcome to Mongolia, the Texas of Asia"
You can listen by clicking http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5012347

The similarities to Western-American culture, the respect for hats, boots, livestock, and singing with all of them, are unavoidable. Since I've never been to Texas, I formally described Mongolia in terms of another colder Cowboy State. I call Mongolia the Montana of Asia.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Launguage Bloopers

The word for and in Mongolain is "bac," pronounced "bas." We begin every day with conversation, usually about what we did the day before. As you can imagine, my conversation generally includes my girls. I often find myself saying "maggie bac lydia." Jeremy and I get a good laugh out of this as it often computes in my mind as "maggie boss Lydia!!!!"

One of the first words the girls learned in Mongolian we heard them saying around the house in a typical child sing-song voice. It happened to be "baexgue," which is the mongol word for "have not." It was then that I realized that 1. they didn't know what they were saying, and 2. the reason they had picked up on this was probably due to the fact that their mongolian caregiver was repeating it as often as they asked for a forbidden item such as gum, cookie, candy. . .the list goes on:) (Stranger things have happened--we came home one day and asked the girls what they had had for lunch to which they replied "cookie dough"!!!!!!) I had made cookies and put some dough in the refridgerator for another day.

We are beginning to learn handwriting instead of printing. We actually pronounced the capital as "Ulaanbammar" when trying to decipher the writing. We thought print was difficult! Upper case B is a mongol V. Handwritten lowercase g is a mongol d. Lower case p is a mongol r. T's look just like english m's. Handwritten mongol e's look like an english u. And our personal favorite is the letter N which is written just like an english H. What an adventure!

School Days

I think back to this summer after attending our month-long language learning techniques course in Chicago, how hard it was to tell folks what we had actually been doing. This was especially true considering that we came back knowing not a smidge of Mongolian but actually some Spanish:) Let me see if I can now shed some light on that mystery.

Jeremy and I study at school for 3 and a half hours every day. Our school meets in an apartment exactly the same as ours. (The whole city has the exact same set-up) Instead of bedrooms and a living room their are 3 classrooms and a kitchen which can also be used as a classroom. (one of the classrooms doubles as the director's office and holds the school's computer.) Our school has five teachers including the director. Jeremy and I have a classroom and a teacher all to ourselves. This is the way this school works. At the same time there are others studying in all the other classrooms, some one-on-one, some two on one like us. This country has basically one language learning textbook written in English and this is used by all--Koreans, Brazilians, Norweigans, Indians, Figians, Tongans, and us too. This series of three textbooks takes about a year and a half to conquer. The teachers then are willing to do student-directed study. Some study biblical language, some traditional mongolian script, some business or medical terminology, and some just review.
In chicago we spent some time learning about the different learning styles and what our individual tendancies were. How to get the most out of our studies--whether we needed more book time or conversation time. Whether we learn best in a group setting or all alone in the quiet. How to learn so it sticks with us. Jeremy and I found our learning styles to be fairly opposite. This makes an interesting classroom setting five days a week!
We are hearing from most of our collegues sent out to all parts of the world that the learning atmospheres are as different as all the individuals themselves. Some study in an actual university. Some are in a high school type setting where they switch subjects and teachers. Some are in warm climates where the outdoor setting allows for much conversation. As we are legally in the country on a student visa right now--the current setting is our option. And, as the winter begins to get colder and colder, I imagine our converstion opportunities will be limited.
We have a great teacher who is beginning to sense some of our needs, although the mongol/russian learning style is very traditional with written tests every week and emphasis on book work. I could write more about this, but I will say we value your prayers for our study time, our teamwork, and continued variance in our learning as we go. As is to be expected, some days it feels as though we have turned a corner, and some days as though we have hit the wall. It is great to be reminded by collegues that we don't have anything to prove or a timetable to meet, we have as many years as the Lord gives us to learn all this and do not have to get everything the first time.


Since this is considered a journal, I may resort to some musings. I think another way to say cornucopia is "horn of plenty" although I am not sure if I remember correctly. As I think about the significance of these words in a north american setting, I wanted to reflect a little on the application here, in Mongolia. A few weeks ago we as a team celebrated Canadian thanksgiving. There are three members of our team with citizenship there. It was great fun to be together and to be thankful. We had beef instead of turkey, but it was an actual tenderloin from the capital! The "pumpkin pie" was made with another squash found in the capital, but tasted declicous. One thing about Mongolia is there is never a shortage of potatoes--so there was enough mashed potatoes and gravy to go around and around! What a refreshing time.

As I do my shopping here in Darhan and send shopping lists with the team who sometimes travel to the capital on the weekends, it is my tendency as a mother trying to provide and as one who has lived all my life in the states, to want to stockpile and fill my freezer for the long, cold, winter. I am quickly learning that this is not the way in Mongolia. A few examples. We have one "department" store here in Darhan. While we are pottytraining and trying to use cloth diapers, we still visit here pretty frequently for Pampers. They have Sam's Club style shelving from floor to ceiling. The pampers are displayed neatly from right to left on the shelf. Upon closer inspection however, I find that they are all size 5. I am looking for size 2. I pull one package aside to look at the stock behind it for a size 2, only to find that there is no "stock" behind it. The attendant was quick to tell me when I asked that they had size 5!!!!! I am learning to focus on what blessings are available rather than what seems to me to be lacking.

When ordering with a large group at a restaurant, we have quickly learned to diversify our orders. They may have chicken on the menu, but that may not mean they have it today. Also, this does not garuntee that they have enough for three servings! It is not uncommon for three to order chicken. The waitress returns to tell two of them that

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Forcast Calls for Fur (Snow This Week)

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VolleyBall Day with our School in a rented Small Gym

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Dinner With Teachers and Friends

After a day out getting some needed excercise and shopping, we are getting some much needed fuel in this restaurant. It's nice to have extra hands to hold the girls. Posted by Picasa

Bright Turn in Language Learning

Do you have a competitive spouse? If you're lucky you have a spouse who excells where you do not, and vice versa. It's a nice balance that God builds into a marriage, if you're fortunate.

Competition can be a healthy thing. It can drive us to our best. But have you ever say, played the same boardgame with the same person close to 20 times and never won a game? It kind of makes you want to play solitaire, or basketball for that matter.

That's how having Renee as the only other student in our class can be. Maybe I should have researched her grade point average more thoroughly - but then thoroughness is her strength.

Today we showed up to our class at a new time, not knowing if we would like it. And we had a third student show up! She is from Brasil and studied here a couple years ago. Our teacher says she may stay in our class a month or so. So today was a welcome change in our routine.

We like the new time frame and the new tri-lateral learning environment. Both feel healthy.