Sunday, February 10, 2008

Festive Family Visit

The last two days were spent seeing lots of fat tailed sheep. Here we are visiting our neighbor's in the tent they live in.
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Many Hands

Renee lets the women fight over holding Clara at our nieghbor's house. This lady who's holding her here wond the fight overall I would say. Renee and the lady on the right are in their traditional Mongolian robes for the celebration of the Lunar New year, know here as White Moon.
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Candy Land

Some good friends of our sent the girls the game "Candyland" for Christmas. The girls have certainly loved getting to know King Kandy and his crew which has evolved only slightly over the years since I was a child. . . candy cane lane, lord licorice, and Grandma nutt to name a few. They even have began asking if we may go as a family to candyland--and often it becomes the destination spot in their playtime travels. Well, someone needs to imform them that they have arrived. I know of no better candyland than Mongolia itself! As a mother it has become quite a test in tolerance of other cultures and customs. We are just coming off of Mongolia's biggest annual holiday, the Lunar New Year, or Saagan Sar. Along with offering boiled mutton, steamed dumplings, milk tea, and fermented mares milk, candy is a not-to-be-forgotten main staple on the table. Saagan in Mongolian means white and often the holiday represents purity and newness, thus the white food. So, as you may have already guessed, the white variety of candy that graces the table is sugar cubes--my children are officially in heaven. Before I ramble on, some quotes from Maggie, Lydia, Johanna and Clara: "Do we do this again tommorow?" (Mom musters a reply about finding our way home in the dark without slipping in the snow with four kids and arms full of gifts first) "But Mongolians do this again tommorow right?" --Maggie "We have to eat this!" (An excited Johanna pops another sugar cube into her mouth!) "May I please have some water?" (There is not a drop of water to be found in Mongolian's homes--they do not drink water, and what they use for personal hygiene and to make milk tea is often carted in by hand from wells that are sometimes a kilometer or more away. Of course, Lydia, by this time has eaten so much candy that only water can douse the foggy sugar daze she is in!) Clara happened to turn, yes, believe it or not, four months old on the first day of this holiday. To celebrate, she not only had some cereal, but was given her first lollypop at our final destination around 10:30 that evening! Besides the sugar cubes there is a variety of other candy by the bowlful on the holiday table and parents are frowned upon if they attempt to limit their children's intake of this "poison"! The occasional moment when our children remember what we have told them previously about the multiple other visits we will have and to take only a little at each place finds them instead "saving" the candy for later in the convienient pocket of their traditional mongolian dell. What they forget at that point is that upon leaving every home, they are given a treat bag full on candy to take to our house! I know there are some of you who will see the photo of Clara and imagine my astonishment and may I say horror as she is treated to a nice big lollypop at the young age of 4 months! I should be used to this by now, although I think Johanna was at least 6 months old before her first Mongolian New Year.
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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Cheese Making?

We had an idea for a business in Bulgan. Cheese in Mongolia is almost all imported which makes it really expensive. People like it here, but can't afford it mostly. We want to hear from anyone out there who has experience making cheese. If you know anyone who happens to have like a home/farm small scale cheese making business, please get us in touch with them.

Renee Keeps the Home Fire Burning

I got home from the countryside late last weekend. There were no lights on. But there was smoke pouring out the chimney. Got in the house, and it was warm and toasty. Renee broke it to me in the morning that that roaring fire took her 3 hours to get going.
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Mama's little helper

Johanna has been remarkably well adjusted to not being the baby anymore. Here she is helping mama by holding Clara, who is less and less willing to stay where you put her.
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Invisible Hand

At a time when a lot of attention is being paid to the American economy, this phrase originally coined to illustrate a free market economic idea, has come to mind. Though I really want to borrow the phrase to contemplate God's hand moving through history, which is an inspiring and exciting idea, especially in Bulgan, regardless of economics.

Two examples of God's hand moving here our neighbor and house keeper.

Our neighbor's name is Otgonbayar. He is 40 years old, and has a young daughter and another on the way. He started building his house about a month after us. One day I needed to ask a favor, or borrow a tool or something. I went into his Ger (small whilte felt-walled tent) and he gave me tea and we exchanged names and ages, which are the two pieces of information most important about a person here. Then he asked what we were doing here.

Hearing the answer, he excitedly started ruffling through some trunks looking for some book. He came up with some AA materials and showed them to me. He explained how 5 years ago he had escaped from a life of alcohol addiction through this program. He seemed to be giving God the credit for helping him get out of this destructive life. Then we talked about Jesus.

Otgoo did some more digging in his trunk and came up with a Mongolian Bible! Since then we've had a few chances to read it together. One of our other neighbors asked me the other day if Otgoo believed in Jesus. So perhaps they know or see something I don't yet.

The invisible hand of God seems to be bringing His Kingdom here through one of my neighbors.

The second example is the lady that helps us clean our house now and then. Her name is Bamoe, and she's about 50. Her husband died about 5 years ago, and she lives by herself. She actually first helped us with painting the interior of our house starting in October. At that time, she would occasionally ask spiritual questions and about what we were doing here, what the differences in the 4 churches in town were. To me she seemed to show disinterest to the answers to her questions. Now we hear her singing hymns in Mongolian that we don't even know. One day I finally asked her if she had received Christ. She said yes. I asked when. She said July. So the invisible hand of God was working in her heart before we ever even met her.

I found the following succinct explanation of the origin of the phrase: "The invisible hand is a metaphor coined by the economist Adam Smith. In The Wealth of Nations and other writings, Smith demonstrated that, in a free market, an individual pursuing his own self-interest tends to also promote the good of his community as a whole through a principle that he called “the invisible hand.”

Similarly I think, If Otgoo, and Bamoe follow Jesus because they want something for themselves, the Kingdom of God will be the richer for it, whether either realizes this on earth or in heaven.

Countryside Hospitality

Mongolians are renowned for their hospitality. It’s built into Mongolian culture so deeply; it is second nature, especially in the countryside.

On a recent trip through the snowy mountains of our province, Jeremy and a group of believers visited several countryside families. Most are busy watching over their flocks, butchering some to provide meat for the upcoming New Year’s holiday, and just generally trying to keep warm inside their cozy round tents.

Farm houses are impractical here because country folk here must follow their animals to good pasture with the change of each season.

Nevertheless down home farm culture here is recognizable to anyone whose spent time in the agrarian parts of his own country. There is an expectation you will sit, talk, drink and eat and eat and eat, until your heart’s content, and beyond.

One of the first treats offered to a visitor is a hardened milk product called aaroal. You could imagine it almost like a sour cheese milk product, only harder than a dog biscuit.

One family offered us aaroal, which turned out to be unusually hard to chew. Finally upon examination it looked like a rock might have been molded into the piece that I took. That would have been unusual enough a thing to write home about.

I removed the foreign object from my mouth and dropped it discreetly on the floor. A quick survey of my teeth with my tongue revealed something was wrong. A big corner of my largest molar was broke and missing. Alarmed, I quietly reached back down to the floor to examine what I thought had been a little pebble in my mouth. It was my tooth.

I guess there are some hazards to the job of visiting Mongolians, even as hospitable as they are. You see the visitor’s worth is measured by his ability to accept hospitality.

Thanks God the tooth fracture didn’t cause pain and I was able to go on eating meat dumplings and drinking tea as we traveled from one family to the next. I was sure to steer clear of hard candy and this harder and now I know hazardous piece of Mongolian hospitality, aaroal. I made up for it by having other goodies like gravy tea.

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