Sunday, November 09, 2008

Sunday Ride

Today Maggie and me went out to visit our friends in the countryside.  Sunny was nervous about where his sheep were.  He nervously asked his shepherd boy their whereabouts. It occurred to me that grazing your livestock over open range would be a little like you or me placing 50$ bills on the hillside, maybe under a rock, or tied to a branch.  You'd be pretty concerned about whether anyone was watching that field.  In the case of Sunny's sheep, he is much more concerned since he's seen a pack three wolves prowling nearby of late.

Not only that, but no one has seen 8 or his cows for three days.  By American prices that would be about 5,000$ that had disappeared.  He was less nervous about that than I would have been.  
So we're off to find the cows, but first have to round up the horses.  Sunny and his son each were mounted, but I wasn't.  So they pushed the whole herd close to the river where we would have the best chance at catching one.  Thankfully I was able to catch mine.  Sunny also caught a fresh mount, since he'd been riding his for three days.  I had my saddle and bridle with me, and soon we were headed up a rocky crag in the nearest hill.  

We crested a hill and rode along a ridge with golden grasses dancing in a light breeze.  No cows. Sights set on the next ridge, we descended into another rocky draw.  As we crested that hill, a cow became visible on the next hill over.  But it turned out to be part of someone else's herd.  

So we rode all the way down to another bend in the river, where there were a couple cow's watering, also someone else's.  From there we turned north and headed for high ground, pushing our horses along paths ridden with basalt rock and loose gravel.  My horse didn't appreciate the steepness or the footing.  

A mile or two later we approach a jagged peak of a hill, and the horses naturally want to rest. Directly below beneath some brush in a gully, some cattle are visible.  We circle back around on the same face we just climbed.  Going down the footing is even worse.  It feels more like a snowboarding than equestrian.  But we make it alright to find the missing 8 in question.  

They look fat and unapologetic for having wandered 6 miles from home without coming home for three nights.  It made for a nice ride anyway.  

On the way back we stopped at Sunny's dad's homestead, a couple felt tents and a shed, with a horse tied out back.  I followed Sunny into the ger.  A man of 70, he leaned up in bed and talked with me the whole time I was there.  Someone said I was a Jesus person, and he said "hallelujah", and pointed to his New Testament sitting on his bedside table.  

After we left, he said his dad hasn't been able to get out of bed for some time.  Yet still, here he is living 10 miles from town on the prairie, with his wife to take care of him, at least a mile from any other herdsman family.  These people's toughness amazes me.  Their wealth would surprise you too.  Sunny said to me as we rode away his dad owns over 1000 livestock, whereas he himself only has 200 or so.

I turned my horse loose on the open prairie, put my saddle back in my car, and said goodbye to Sunny.  Drove back up to his tent homestead, picked up Maggie, and drove home thinking.

It occurred to me that this simple life, not much changed from three or four hundred years ago, still must risk loss to produce a financial gain.  I guess his life isn't all that different after all.

Pink Shoe

This morning just before it was time for church two young Mongolian ladies knocked on our door.  They announced they were with the 'Pink Shoe' Union.  I had to confess that "pink shoe" was a word that hadn't made it into my vocabulary yet.  So they explained how it wasn't really a religion, but had to do with creating and using good energy for a healthy and life known as Ping Shu.  Mongolians frequently switch the pronunciation of F and P.  So I was finally able to gather that this was some kind of Chinese Mysticism that it seemed like I'd heard of before: Fing Shu.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Mongol (The 2007) Movie

Has anyone out there seen the movie called Mongol, that was released last year?  

Looking for reaction and recommendation as to whether it's worth seeing/buying.


Sunday, November 02, 2008

Weary Travelers

Here's the bus that carried us and 23 other passengers 1000 miles over dirt and sand to Hovd Province, Mongolia.
Posted by Picasa

Bus Window View

This was the scenery that passed our window for two nights and a day. So big and empty you get thankful even to see a large rock or old dead tire to rest your eyes from looking at near nothingness.
Posted by Picasa

Fermented Camel Milk

My first try of what they call "hoormog". Imagine maybe your milk after your corn puffs are all gone, then stir in a table spoon of cottage cheese to similate the clobules of milk fat floating under the surface. All in all good, but not as nice as fermented horse milk.

The bonding time here with our bus driver was worth stopping for this liquid meal. He, like me, after 30 hours on dirt roads through sand scaped desert roads, needed something to quench a thirst so deep your eyes even begin to feel empty. He probably knew better than me the fat calories of camel milk would drive us the 6 or 8 hours on to our destination.
Posted by Picasa

Small Town Pastor and Wife

Three years ago this man was destitute and drunk, with his family scattered. Now he is shepherding a small church in a tiny countryside town. In this tiny little chapel adjoining his house (where 3 or 4 happy little children politely greeted roomful of visitors), he spoke of his struggle in seeing men like he used to be saved by the grace that same him and which he said he loved singing with us about.
Posted by Picasa

Rubble Living

Houses in Hovd are building out of mud block or rock like this one. When you look around at the gravel that surrounds, you can't blame them for making at least some use out of all the stones. Walls and fences are made of rocks as well, which I'd never seen any where else in my travels in Mongolia.
Posted by Picasa

My New Kazak-Mongol Friend

I didn't believe this guy when he told me he was Kazak. I should have known by his name, Salinbaba. But he'd been passing around the bottle with his pals and I thought he was joshing me. After I went outside to the car, I was told he really was Kazak, and came back in to get thisi picture. Maybe I was thrown by his language. They speak Mongolian perfectly, which makes me jealous. But then three days later when I met him again, I heard his speaking Kazak to some people who looked Mongolian to me. But then they spoke back in some language I couldn't understand. These Kazak-Mongols I spoke with seemed interesting people. Who would have thought knowing Mongolian would make it possible to befriend Kazak people?
Posted by Picasa

Western Mongolia Moonscape

This month, two of us took off for a 9 night visit to the capital of Western Mongolia, Hovd. The landscape makes our part of the country look like fertile green paradise. We had to travel through the Gobi desert, a 36 hour bus ride, to get there. This photo was taken just outside the capital city of Hovd Province.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Fall's Shortening Days

Seems a lot of our conversations these days (when we can rise above the chatter of 4 youngsters) has to do with the future, and how our life will look a year from now back in America.  There's sure a lot of changes happening there now, with the election and economy up in the air.  Who knows?  Anyway we want to also be talking and praying about our life in Bulgan, and what that will look like after we come back here in July 201o.  We are conducting interviews with people here to try to determine ways we can be of service in the long run.  

In the short run, these October days are getting shorter. The grass is brown again.  The golden sun sank behind the south western mountain at 6 pm tonight.  As the days get shorter, it seems like the rest of our term here will fly by even faster.  We are excited about furlough, and especially now that we may have someone who wants to stay in our home while we're gone.

We're still seeing kids from this summer's camps, but with shortening days and schoolwork, there's less and less time for play outside.  It snowed today.  And our girls seem to be playing inside more and more as the crisp air blows through the dried brown plants in our yard.

Hoping to host a horde of fellow missionaries for Thanksgiving, most of them American.  Won't be able to fit them all in our house, so have enlisted neighbors to put up several families. We've already picked up some whole chickens (bought the store out of them) just in case we're not able to find turkey for the occasion.  Hoping it's enough to warm heart and soul till Christmas.

Speaking of Christmas and shortening, Renee made a batch of cookies today (on top of homeschooling 2 kids and watching Clara crawl all over the house).  So even as the days get shorter, there are still some sweet things about this season.  Blessed in Bulgan - in fall.

Dress Up Turns to Dance

The girl's friend Avery takes center stage in this dance improv hastily thrown together before a looming bedtime.
Posted by Picasa

Dancing Partners

Johanna's friend Eli was the only boy, but found a way to get into the spirit of the dance party!
Posted by Picasa

Renee and Krista

The ladies of the families mounted up for a short ride on a nice Sunday afternoon.
Posted by Picasa

New Toys

Clara keeps busy with gifts for her birthday.
Posted by Picasa

Clara is ONE

Johanna wears the party hat in honor of Clara turning one on October 8th.
Posted by Picasa

Big One

My friend here landed the one that didn't get away. More than three feet long, and probably more than 10 pounds. We may not have an ocean, but in this Mongolian river there are fish that could hold their own in any big pond.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Keeping In Line

Maggie waits in line with classmates for the teacher to let them in school. You can see our house in the distance.
Posted by Picasa

Off to School

Maggie ready for Mongolian 1st grade and Johanna back to pre- school, while Lydia stays with Renee for her first day of Kindergarten home school.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 25, 2008

Tightening Belts

These ropes that tie up the whole package that is a Mongolian Ger, are actually called belts. Bayca, 11, our neighbor boy is helping to pull them tight, while the owner NaranPurev ties them. Mongolian town folk like Bayca many times have never experienced setting up a Ger, becuase so many people in towns live in buildings. So setting up these Gers was a learning experience for more than just us Americans, which made it even more fun.
Posted by Picasa

Setting Up Ranch House 2

Here is Renee holding up the centerpiece of the Mongolian home, while the other ladies fasten the walls to the door of the ger. Mongolian tents have stood on these plains for centuries. Soon they will place round rafters into the holes in the round wagon wheel looking thing and fasten the other end to the lattice wall. After being covered with felt, canvas and tied up with rope, it will look like the big Ger behind.

Reinforced by layers of half inch felt, they are not only portable, but still considered the warmest and the dwelling of choice for at least a million people across this land. Our friends were able to get both thier homes and furniture on their pickup type truck. Then they went back to pick up the wood for all their coralls and pens for 200 livestock, which also fit on their little truck. So by evening the ranch is 15 miles away from where it stood at 10 o'clock that morning.
Posted by Picasa

Greener Pasture

Our herdsman friend and family moved yesterday. I rode along with these guys and thier 200+ livestock.

From this hill we can see the destination of the drive down by the bend in the river behind us. There the portable ranch, inlcuding homes, coralls, good grass, and water source will be established for a time.
Posted by Picasa

Snow In August

Back by popular demand, by a small minority, the last year's showing of snow in August is back again this year. All summer I've been wondering which month we would NOT have to start a fire for heating the house. All late June was cold and rainy, then after some nice warm sun, early July held a few huge cold rain storms. Here we were almost all the way through August without a fire, and now we see snow on that mountain behind some still green hills. As I write this, I hear neighbors running their chain saws, presumably to cut firewood. It's August 25th. How about a picnic for labor day?!!!
Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 15, 2008

One Horse Town

With our car broke down last month, we had to use our other means of transportation to get down to the fairgrounds for the big summer Naadam festival. It ended up being more festive, since Naadam like most gatherings here exults the horse as an icon of Mongolia's illustrious history and tradition. Horseback also proved almost as fast as motorized travel anyway...check out the traffic jam on the road behind the parade band crossing the bridge. Not quite 3 cars at a stop sign, but not much worse. That's probably the worst traffic this town will see until next year.
Posted by Picasa

Festive Fourth of July

Cowboy Camp and State Fair

Thursday, July 24, 2008

We Are In Mongolia

As if we could forget...then again maybe we do sometimes, that we're living in such a different place.  

Twice this month I've been reminded at the top of two different Mongolian men's lungs that I'm in Mongolia.

One came when I was helping a horseman handle his foals as they suckled milk from the mare. (They let the foal have a little taste then milk the rest into a pail which becomes the national beverage, fermented mares milk) 

My horseman host showed me how to hold the foal.  Then I showed him how we do it in America in a tone that said, "this is one thing I don't need to be told how to do".  So he firmly reminded me "You're in Mongolia".  Since they have their own way of doing almost everything, this was indeed something, among many others, I needed to be told how to do. 

Second came at the garage where our car has been out of service for a couple weeks awaiting parts.  So after showing frustration at how long things were taking to get me back on the road, the greasy mechanic firmly reminded me "This is Mongolia, these kind of parts can't be found". They're on the way from somewhere far away, probably Japan or China.  So this is why waiting has become a finely tuned art for those who live here long.  

I'm still a novice artist in this medium.  But one thing I'm sure of.  I'm in Mongolia.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Renee's garden peas are starting to bloom. Not bad for a first year.
Posted by Picasa