It's Thursday morning, and we are up early, anticipating our last day at the remote river site. Tomorrow we will be in a different place. We rather dread the idea of moving, because our present site is so beautiful, and from what we've been told, our next site will be considerably less pleasant.
After a good breakfast, we all load into our respective vans, to be driven to our areas of service. Most of the men go out to Hongor and the CTW compound, to do more construction. Bobby decides to stay behind with Ray, and there's a grin on Bobby's face that tells us he will bedevil poor Ray all day. Although he's improving a lot, Ray still isn't up to a day in the heat out there on that construction site. His memory is gradually coming back in bits and pieces, but he still doesn't remember anything about the camel. Perhaps he never will. His hands are still swollen and his wrists are painful. I had brought along my little carpal tunnel wrist braces in case I had a flare-up while over here, and we found that by loosening the laces completely and tugging a bit, we were able to get them over Ray's hands and into place to support his wrists. Not ideal, but it works.
I think we'll suggest that a few wrist braces and knee and ankle supports in various sizes be sent over in the next container from the states. It has become painfully obvious that they could come in handy. Greg had brought a knee brace along, because he has a bad knee and sometimes needs it for security, and he graciously offered it to me. It had some rigid support, and probably would have worked very well, but it was too big. I couldn't get it fastened tightly enough to be of any help. So, I'm still wearing Bobby's knee wrap, and appreciate it very much. It's not a true brace, but it does afford some measure of stability, and keeps me reminded not to put stress on the knee.
Some of the group, both men and women, head into town to visit the apartment families and deliver whatever humanitarian aid they can. This can be in the form of bags of food, perhaps some clothing. It can also mean that the CTW staffer who accompanies the group can make notes of the areas of greatest need, and action can be taken to try to help the family in whatever way seems most expedient. The need everywhere is great, but some are worse than others. Unemployment runs about 80% in the towns, and alcoholism is rampant. The Russians, during their tenure in the country, introduced the populace to vodka, and it's the beverage of choice for a very large percentage of the adults, women as well as men. It seems incredible, to think that when there are hungry children in a family, the "responsible" adult will spend whatever meager income there might be on alcohol, but it definitely happens, and happens quite often. But of course, the same thing happens in America, so why should one be surprised? Besides, all you have to do is look around the little towns to understand the despair and hopelessness that pervades these people's lives.
As I've said before, everything is gray. There is very little color. Paint, apparently, is not an option. First of all, it would be expensive and there is no money for such non-essentials. Also, it probably wouldn't survive the winter weather, but instead would very likely just freeze and flake off. So, everything is concrete-gray. There is no grass. There are no lawns. Now and then one sees a tiny patch of struggling little flowers, but they don't seem to survive very well. No one is going to waste precious water on such as that, and the rainfall is negligible, so ornamental vegetation just doesn't make it. Even if a few blades of grass do happen to sprout, they're quickly cropped off by the livestock that roams freely everywhere. There are a few poplar trees along the roadside as one enters Darkhan, obviously planted and maintained in an effort to improve the first impression one gets upon entering the town. How they have escaped the attention of the livestock, I don't know. Their trunks are painted white, which I thought was a decorative effort, but perhaps it's something that discourages nibbling by animals.
In short, there is very little beauty to be found in the towns. The countryside is magnificent, but the towns are just plain depressing. If I had to live there, and didn't have the light and beauty of God in my life, I think I might be pretty depressed too, and the escape to be found in a bottle of vodka just might entice me, as it has done so many of the town-dwelling Mongolians.
Eloise is on the sewing team, and along with a couple of the other women, they go each day to the special sewing room that has been set up for their use. By the way, for those of you who don't know, Eloise and I are not only very good friends, but we share our grandchildren! I feel doubly blessed. My son is married to her sweet daughter, and we have all known each other for about thirty years, being members of the same church all that time.
The sewing team had expected to be teaching the Mongol housemothers how to sew, so they could make clothing for the children. Well, Eloise says they quickly found out that there wasn't a whole lot to be taught. Apparently, once the sewing machines arrived and were set up, the Mongol women became proficient on them in record time. Also, they seem to have an eye for cutting out pieces to be sewn together into a garment, and a pattern is just an annoyance. Eloise says the women will just look at a piece of fabric and start cutting, and before you know it, they have cut out the pieces for a pair of pajama pants, or a little shirt, or whatever.
They waste nothing. Scraps of fabric too small to be cut into a piece of a garment are cut into smaller pieces and used to stuff pillows. They don't throw the scraps away and then go buy a bag of fluff, like we would do in the states. They use what they have. Here are a couple of pictures from the sewing room:
IMAGINE TRYING TO SEW WITH ALL THOSE LITTLE FINGERS PRYING INTO EVERYTHING!
Eloise is not in any of these pictures, because she was the photographer! I was so glad she did it, because I would never have had pictures of what her team was doing if she hadn't taken them.
The little blanket-makers worked hard all day, cutting the fringe and knotting it to keep it from fraying. When our team arrived, they found that the kids were using double-edged razor blades to cut the fringe! When Jerry was informed of this, he was horrified, of course, but couldn't suppress a smile at the same time. True to Mongolian nature, the ever-resourceful housemothers had simply used what they had, which happened to be razor blades. Jerry saw to it that some scissors were obtained and given to the children to use, which was obviously much safer, but to my knowledge, none of the little fingers had been cut while they were using the razor blades. Guardian angels, I suppose.
Well, this installment grows lengthy, so I'll leave the account of our last day at the river for the next one. Tune in again tomorrow!
A Certain Sadness
1 day ago