Thursday, September 19, 2013

A very long day in Mongolia

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

We woke up to wind and cloudy skies and took a drive that began at 8:30 AM and ended at 8:30 PM.  It began to rain before we reached our destination, but thankfully it never rained very hard.  It took us forever just to get out of the city--about 1½ hrs.  We began our journey on a very nice road, which eventually narrowed and became at times rather bumpy.  Eventually we ended up on dirt, first not so bad, later worse, but mostly not as extreme as what we’ve experienced in the past.  Our goal was to travel to a growing town where we had 4 boreholes, which were covered with roomy kiosks.  There is electricity to pump the water into a plastic tank, and then dispensed easily (no hand pumping) to those who come to purchase it.  The huts have thick walls and a stove to heat the room.  Some even have couches and tables and throw a rug over the cemented floor. 

The best of the constructed kiosks where water is sold.  It is pumped into a tank or directly into their buckets.

First we located the office of the water ministry and met with a woman and several men.  One of these men took us to each of the well sites so that we could be terribly disappointed with several things: (1) poor construction, except at one kiosk or hut; (2) plastic tanks that were full of sediment so that they could not be used and they would pump directly from the pipe into the buyers’ cans; (3) only about 12-20 people ever showed up to any of them to purchase the clean water each day (each person representing about 5 persons per household); (4) the government, who have signed a contract with the church to keep them in good repair and working order, never did anything to fix them.  If they needed something, the person running the kiosk did so.  At least the poor people in charge collected a small amount of money for their trouble, but it was usually only between 80 cents to $1.20 a day because they were also paying for the electricity to pump the water.  It did, however, supply them personally with clean water and a few of their neighbors.  Some had broken windows, warped doors brought about by the extreme climate (it gets 40 below in the wintertime), and of course typical third world mortar between the bricks, inferior fascia boards, twisted and partly missing, paint that peels off the cement walls inside as soon as it is put on (no one seems to know you can’t paint over raw concrete—it just doesn’t stick unless you use a primer), and various other problems.  We wondered if these projects warranted being done in the first place with so few families receiving benefits from the projects.  Many have their own dip wells, but if they need some cleaner water for drinking they use a dump station.  After our look-see, we ate a lunch/dinner at a very nice restaurant with good food and left just before 5 PM.  It rained on us the entire way home, but not hard.  It was still crowded in the city when we returned.
Although this can be rather distressing for all of us, I really enjoyed our drive so that I could see more of the country and learn about things we saw along the way.  One thing is for certain, almost everyone in Mongolia lives in Ulaanbaatar (or as they call it, UB) than anywhere else.  There are huge parcels of land for farming or ranching out of the main city.  They grow wheat and vegetables, potatoes and cabbage.  They mine coal, copper and even diamonds.  We saw herds of cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, horses, yak, and finally found a camel—a friendly little guy wanting to have his picture taken and likely to almost kiss you if not careful.

 We found this friendly camel that loved to have his picture taken.        

         Please don't kiss me!   
I saw a man riding his horse fast, dressed in traditional clothes like you see in pictures, but I was unable to get a photo of him.  The hills are mostly barren of anything but grasses, but we also saw many places loaded with trees, some still verdant green but others turning yellow in the cooling climate.  The city we visited did have a growing population, but on our way we only saw a dwelling here or there with fields for growing or for animals to graze; we also saw places with nothing at all except the landscape. 

The interesting countryside: We saw many different kinds of animals grazing--cow, sheep, goats, yak, horses, pigs, etc. all set in a backdrop of green grasses and in many places, trees turning to fall colors.

Something we have found interesting—when we first arrived and every night since then we can see and hear from our window a guy driving his car around in circles in a parking lot, tires squealing loudly as he is traveling rather fast.  He does this for about 30 minutes.  It happens at various times but he is there every night.  Last night he was joined by others and once they even bumped bumpers—go figure!

Interesting facts: *Mongolian men take an interest in and are often seen taking care of their babies—they are so very proud of them (and we ladies are very happy to see this!).  *Mongolians in general love to sing and have beautiful voices.  They are fairly light-skinned, dark haired, often with dark red highlights.  *To try and control traffic, the government issues license plates with a code that shows which day you cannot drive your car. Unless the government is feeling more generous (such as when school begins) there is one day where you cannot drive your car that week.  That’s why Elder Nay had to check out a different car today. *The traditional home is called a ‘ger’ (pronounced gear), and begins with a lattice type of fencing.  It is wrapped with thick wool felt and then canvas, which makes a very cozy, if tiny, home.  We saw many of these homes in the same area as a larger, quite modern home—do extended families stay there or are they used for storage?  *Horses here are shorter, smaller, and very, very fast!  If they use a saddle it comes up high in front and back and is carved from wood.  (I think I’d learn to ride bareback!)  *I learned my first word the other day: tukruk (roll the R).  It means money.  They usually just say ‘tuk’. *Several years ago they sent all American missionaries home, only allowing Mongolian missionaries to proselyte in their country.  They do allow American missionaries in Mongolia again though, but only because they also teach English, and they are not allowed to serve out of UB.  Mongolian missionaries can serve anywhere.  All the couples teach English as a free service.  Taking English here is very expensive so they have large classes.  The other evening Nay’s had 48 students.  *Couples wear a badge that uses the name of Deseret International Charities because they can’t use the name of our church.  *For a country that just received their independence 20 years ago, they are doing pretty well.  Even though many live in very basic conditions, they certainly don’t seem to be as poor as the poorest in Africa.  The Russians helped them in many ways, but what they left them was not so great—their Russian alphabet.  Mongolia is now a Democracy.  *Jim found a full-on grocery and department store that we could access from inside our hotel!  *We are actually in Outer MongoliaInner Mongolia is still in China

 Love, from the banished ones in Outer Mongolia.

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