Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Jerry and Susan's home, in time, will be built less than a hundred yards from where the chapel ger is situated now. There is a flat table of land there, and it's part of the bluff I mentioned earlier. There will be a dugout basement, with large windows on one side, facing the river. I know I've described this before, but here are some pictures to give you an even better idea of what their home will be like:



After a little time of visiting and soaking up the beauty around us, we got back in the vans and returned to Darkhan. There we had a lovely lunch, and discussed our various plans for the rest of the day.

Some of us got into a van and were driven to the Birge (phonetic) market. It's an indoor/outdoor market, and we were told one could find just about anything there. It was hot, dirty, crowded and smelly. To further enhance the experience, there had been a rain shower and we had to navigate large puddles and contend with wet people crowding against us, even inside the buildings. We had been warned by Susan to watch out for pickpockets. (Remember, we're in town, not in the country.) We pushed our way through the crowd until Eloise and Cynthia found the fabric they were wanting to buy, to make more clothing for the kids.

With that purchase made, we ventured into the outdoor part of the market. That was interesting, to say the least. It was still drizzling rain, and the vendors had erected little plastic awnings in front of their shops. The shops, for the most part, were shipping containers, with one end open. You know what a shipping container is. They're actually pretty big, like a small room. Anyway, the rain was sluicing down off the edges of those awnings, and it was a whole new experience when one would dump about a gallon of water down the back of your neck! I didn't see much that interested me. Shoes that smelled strongly of rubber, thin t-shirts, piles of hairbows and trinkets, and lots of candy. I looked for some of the Gobi Gold, but didn't find it. Evidently it's a chocolate candy that is just marvelous. I love chocolate!!

Suddenly, miracle of miracles, I spotted some of my catsup. Different from the catsup at the hotel, it's the kind we had last year when we ate on-site at the remote clinics. It's like a cross between catsup and Tabasco, and I love it. The kind we get at the hotel is good too, and I want some of it, but it's milder than the kind I found at the market. I bought a huge bottle, for about 85 cents. Now, I have to figure out how to get it home.

With my catsup purchased, and the sewing team re-supplied with fabric, we head back to the vans. The rain stops, and I decide this might be a good time to visit the Internet Cafe, since the van can drop us off there. Eloise and Tammy and a couple of others got off with us, and I'm so glad we did it. I wouldn't have missed the experience for anything.

The Internet Cafe is accessed through a little doorway at the top of some stairs on the side of a building. There is a tiny waiting area with four chairs. Inside, the computer room is about twelve feet by 25 feet. There is a row of tables along one wall, with about ten computer terminals. Rickety plastic chairs are placed at each terminal. It's very informal. When a vacancy occurs, you just sit down and log on. You don't register, or get a time ticket or anything, just go to work. I accessed my favorite website, The Front Porch on the Andy Griffith Show website, and left a message for my porch-sitter friends. That's quite a porch. It extends all the way to Mongolia!

When I was finished, after about ten minutes, I walked over to a table where a young woman sat, with a small cashbox in front of her. She glanced at the clock on the wall, and told me I owed her the Mongolian equivalent of 33 cents. I paid her and we left. I didn't see any Starbucks coffee anywhere.

We walked back to the hotel, a distance of about four blocks. We moved slowly and carefully, in deference to my cranky knee. I made it just fine, no mishaps.

In what seemed a very short time, dinner was served and we joined the group in the dining room. As usual, the food was good, and we enjoyed it, as well as the fellowship. Eloise and I returned to our room, and Rhoda joined us for a while. Right after she left, we heard some dogs yelping and barking outside our window. I went out on the balcony, and saw four boys trying to make some dogs fight, and the dogs weren't interested. One boy saw me standing there, and took his dog and left. The other three remained. One had a small brown dog that he kept kicking and shoving toward a larger dog. The little dog was yelping and crying. Obviously, neither dog wanted to fight, but the boys were determined.

Finally, unable to tolerate the abuse any longer, I yelled at the boys. Of course they couldn't understand my words, but my tone was pretty clear. They picked up their dogs and moved out of sight, but I could still hear the dogs crying. If you know me, you know I wasn't going to let that lie. I went downstairs, out the door and walked down the sidewalk until I located the boys in an over-grown garden area. They were still on hotel property, and were still abusing the helpless dogs. I found myself wishing one of the dogs would bite his tormentor, but they never did. It made me sick. I went back inside and found David Bass. I told him what was going on, and he said he'd see what he could do. He told me that they had just recently rescued a small kitten from some boys who had set some dogs on it.

David told me later that the boys had moved off of hotel property, and had broken up their little session, so there was really nothing he could do about it. I would not expect to see something like that in the countryside, and consider this little display of callous cruelty to be just another example of the dehumanizing effects of poverty and wretched city living.

When I returned to the room, Eloise chided me for going after the boys, pointing out the risk, but I think she knew that I just couldn't stand by and listen to those poor dogs crying for help. I also think that if I hadn't done something, she would have.

By now, it's getting to be about bedtime, and we turn in, planning to read while there's still enough light. I wish we had thought about buying some light bulbs while we were at the market, but we didn't, so our room will be dark when the sun finally goes down. No problem, we're ready for sleep anyway, and it comes quickly, in spite of our anti-social beds.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


It's Sunday morning in Mongolia. We slept an hour later, or rather fought with our beds for an extra hour. How an inanimate object such as a bed can cause me to feel like the loser in a prizefight, I don't know, but trust me, it can. We get up and dress, and are in the dining room by 8, for breakfast. As always, it's good. Not a lot of variety from the other days, but it's filling and certainly better than what I would eat at home, because at home I usually don't eat breakfast at all!

At a smaller table, in one corner of the room, a group of Koreans are having their breakfast. This surprises us a bit. We so rarely see any other guests in the hotel, that we have rather a proprietary attitude, and it's always a bit disconcerting to see someone else staying there, too. A few of the Koreans smile and nod in our direction, and continue eating. We seat ourselves, laughing and talking, and enjoy our breakfast.

After we finish, we decide to run through a rehearsal of "How Great Thou Art," as we will be singing this for our Mongolian friends at church services later on. Everyone stands up, then we begin looking at each other, waiting for someone to lead off. No one moves. Several people look at me, knowing that in years past, I sang in the church choir. Little do they know that whatever meager voice I might have had back then is now long gone. There's nothing left. We shuffle our feet, and I finally realize that the only person who just might lead off is a tenor and will start it so high that the rest of us would need ladders, so I give in. So help me, if these people don't join in and take it away from me on about the second note, I'll hunt them down like varmints.

Very tentatively, I start out. "Oh, Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder....." Sure enough, the group picks up immediately and sings along, mercifully drowning me out. Then a wonderful thing happens. At "consider all the worlds thy hands have made", we become aware that we are not singing alone. The Koreans have joined us. They are singing in perfect unison with us, but in their language. It is absolutely beautiful, and emotionally moving beyond description. I can feel the chills in my spine, and there are tears just ready to spring forth. What a lovely moment! Two totally different cultures, different languages, one love song to the Lord. We finish the verse, and with everyone a bit choked up, we decide that one run-through is enough. I don't think we could have held up for a second one. Several of us approach the Koreans' table, smiling, and thank them. They stand and bow, and we find ourselves bowing in return!

We load into our vans and begin the short trip out to Hongor, where we will have worship services with the Mongols in the new chapel ger that has been set up there. As more and more of the local people and the CTW children became Christians, it became obvious that a house of worship was a must. Until recently, they have met on the riverbank, sitting on benches, boards and blankets. I've heard reports of those services, and how beautiful they are, in that gorgeous natural setting. However, winter will arrive soon in Mongolia, and that will end the outdoor services. Rather than have his little flock feel displaced, Jerry envisioned a worship center, to keep everyone together as a church family. Long-range plans are for a large geodesic dome on the property, a permanent structure. However, gers have proven usable and effective for centuries, and the Mongols would see nothing wrong with using a large ger for a church until that dome becomes a reality.

While it's true that gers (or yurts, the Russian word for ger) are plentiful in Mongolia, it's also true that word of their practicality and relatively low cost has spread to the states, and there are a couple of companies making them there now. They're being purchased in significant numbers, especially in the Pacific northwest, where people are using them for vacation homes in the mountains, for hunting camps, for storage buildings, and numerous other purposes. They're very well made, using the strong points of traditional construction, and reinforcing them with a few additional refinements. Here's a picture of the one where we had church services:


This picture shows some of the refinements in the construction of a ger that the U.S. companies have incorporated. Note the sturdy vertical slats every couple of feet. They're attached in such a way that the section can still collapse like a child-gate, but they add strength when the sections are expanded. The roof poles are attached with metal plates to these uprights, instead of being tied with thongs to the V where the slats come together at the top. Also, notice the zigzag of wire that runs between the roof poles. This wire can be tightened, and certainly gives a lot of stability to the roof.

The smiling, silver-haired man in the light blue shirt is David Bass. He's Jerry's right hand, and keeps the home fires burning when Jerry and Susan are away. He was a police officer in his "other life", but is now fully committed to the mission in Mongolia. I asked him once how long he thought he'd remain there. His answer was simple. "Until God moves me." I guess you can't do better than that.


Another of the refinements over the traditional ger can be seen at the top of this one. All gers have a hole in the roof, which when left open and the sides raised or windows opened allows for a chimney effect and causes air circulation. This also allows combustion gases to escape, when stoves are in use - much like the smoke-hole in Native American tepees. In the traditional ger, when it rains the hole is covered by canvas, which results in a hot, dark interior. In the gers made in the U.S., the hole has a Plexiglas cap, which admits light even when closed, but can be opened a little or a lot by means of a cranking rod, to allow for air movement. It's pretty ingenious. Also, in the U.S. model, there are windows, which traditional gers don't usually have. The U.S. model has a plain jane door, though, unlike the colorful, beautifully decorated doors one sees in a traditional ger.

Incidentally, t
hat's our Dr. Tom in the light blue pants, basking in the attention from some of the children. Just to the right, that's Jerry, in the long green shirt with the writing on the front. Note that he is standing with his arm around the shoulder of one of the children, a very typical pose for him. I don't think I've ever seen him without a child attached, if the children are nearby. They all run directly to him when he appears. He loves them, and they instinctively know it.

The worship service was impressive. We sang our one verse of "How Great Thou Art" in English, then using some song sheets painstakingly put together by David Bass, we tried to sing other hymns along with the Mongols. David had written the words out phonetically to the best of his ability, but there just aren't any phonetic spellings for some of the sounds in the Mongolian language, and we spent more time laughing at ourselves than we did singing. The Mongols, true to their kind nature, tried very hard to suppress their laughter at our efforts, but there were a lot of smiles to be seen. The "joy of the Lord", no doubt.

Jerry then preached a brief, simple but effective sermon. He preaches through a translator. He's working on learning Mongolian, but it's an extremely difficult language to learn. Rather than confuse or mislead someone by preaching in his version of Mongolian, he just uses a trusted translator. Very wise.

Certificates of Baptism were presented to each of the children and adults who were baptized in the river earlier in the week. No group presentation here, with one collective round of applause. No, indeed. Each individual received applause and congratulations as they accepted their certificate, and each returned to his or her seat beaming like an angel. It was just lovely.

After a couple of hymns and a benedictory prayer, we were dismissed. We stood around on the deck outside the chapel, just absorbing the beauty around us. I wish I could describe it adequately. The deck and chapel are on top of a small bluff, above a little meadow that just sweeps down to the river. A few cows were grazing down there, and the scene was one of such grace and peace that you could just literally feel the presence of God.

I'm going to break right here, and save the rest of this installment for another blog entry. You will remember that I'm taking these entries from the original email installments that went to family and friends soon after we returned home. Some were a bit long for blog entries, so I'm dividing them. More on our church service in the next entry, and more pictures of the site as well.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


Picking up where we left off last time, I will add a little footnote. The egg that I pushed off the top of my meatloaf was not wasted. After it had remained untouched on my plate for several minutes, the two translators who were seated at my table finally concluded that I really wasn't going to eat it, and one shyly inquired if I minded if they shared it. Of course I didn't mind, and one eagerly scooped it off my plate, gave half to the other girl and kept half for herself. A couple of bites each, and the egg was gone.

I should also note here that at the end of our meals, any plate still containing food was passed to the table where our drivers were eating, and was swiftly consumed. In Mongolia, absolutely nothing is wasted.

We finished eating, and returned to our vans. Back at the clinic, Bulgan told us that the line would be closed at 2:30, and that we were not to see anyone who wasn't there to receive a new number before then. This seemed simple and straightforward enough, and we knew from experience that the plan would let us finish by 4 p.m, and our doctors would then finish by around 5 p.m. At 2:30, new numbers were passed out to the people who were waiting, and anyone who came after that was given a different colored number and asked to return on Monday.

Everything went smoothly, and at around 4 p.m. we saw our last client and were preparing to close the triage area down. Suddenly a woman appeared, brandishing a ticket and demanding to be seen. It was a ticket in the color that was used yesterday. Those people had been asked to return this morning, and would have been seen first. This woman apparently had not shown up until now, and still expected to be seen. Barb and I were perfectly willing to see her, and saw no point in making a scene about it, but Bulgan was adamant. The woman didn't follow instructions, came strolling in after we had closed for the day, and was insisting on being seen anyway. This just wasn't acceptable, according to Bulgan.

At first, I couldn't see the point, but Bulgan soon made it clear. She very tactfully explained that some of the town people can be very pushy and will take advantage, and that it's important for us to do what we say we're going to do. She gently hinted that there are dynamics at work that we don't understand, being outsiders, and that it's best to stick with the plan and not let someone run over us. Besides, she said, what you do for one, you must do for others. We didn't see any others around, but still we moved on outside the tent, while the woman raged and stomped around, demanding that somebody see her.

She approached one of the interpreters and began to shout and berate her. Her tone was rude and overbearing, but the interpreter just answered her softly. Finally Bulgan reappeared, confronted her and told her to settle down and move on. (Our translators were quietly keeping us informed.) Bulgan kept her voice soft and gentle, but she was unbending. The woman finally quieted down, but didn't leave. She just continued to hang around, walking around the tent, occasionally walking through, and eyeing us as we stood off to one side, as though wondering why we were just standing there doing nothing. We were feeling pretty much the same way.

The woman approached Bulgan again, a little less belligerently, and Bulgan again explained to her that we could not send any more patients to the doctors, because the line was still long, and we had to finish up and leave soon. This gave the woman an opening that allowed her to feel she had won, while still complying with Bulgan's rules. The woman announced that she didn't need to see a doctor, that all she wanted was some eyeglasses and to have her blood pressure checked, and since we weren't doing anything, couldn't we just do that for her? The smart and tactful Bulgan knew a good compromise when she saw one. She explained that we didn't have any more eyeglasses, and it was too bad the woman hadn't come this morning while we still had some. However, she said she was sure the nurses wouldn't mind taking her blood pressure, and asked if we would do so. Of course we would, and did. We wrote it down for her, she took the paper and left. Now of course, the notion of not seeing a doctor had just occurred to the woman. If that had been in her mind all the time, I can't believe it wouldn't have come out during the heated confrontation earlier. The woman was simply determined to win in some way, and Bulgan was wise enough to let her, while not relaxing one inch on the explanation that she couldn't send anyone else to the doctors. It was a win/win situation, which is always best. Bulgan is a treasure.

Shortly after the demanding woman left, another woman appeared. She, too, had a number from yesterday, and wondered if it was too late for her to be seen. She was so meek and polite, not at all demanding, and looked so very tired and weary, that Barb and I just quietly took her vitals, one of the translators filled out an intake paper for her, and we took her history. Then we found Bulgan and explained the situation to her, and Bulgan walked away with her. Right about then, we were told to get into the vans to return to Darkhan, so I'm not sure whether the woman was allowed to go to the doctors' line or not, though I rather suspect that she was. Bulgan plays by the rules, but she has a big and tender heart.

It rained on us on the trip back to town, and I got some good pictures. You can see the rain falling on the road ahead of us, and we drove through it when we reached that point. It was a downpour, and the dry and thirsty earth was soaking it up like a sponge.


The highway pictured here is "the" highway in Mongolia. There is only one main road that gives some access to the country, and this is part of it. In the U.S., this patched and often cracked two-lane road would likely bear "county road" or "farm-to-market road" status, it certainly would not be a "super highway", though it is the largest, in fact the only highway in the country.

At long intervals, smaller roads veer off to go to a small town or settlement. They're usually roughly black-topped, though not always. In addition, there are numerous dirt lanes, or tracks, that head off into the unknown. In a sense, it's fortunate that rainstorms are infrequent, because after a heavy rain, those lanes are almost impassable, with washouts, potholes and mudslides you wouldn't believe. I'm sure they aren't mapped, but the locals know where they go, and seem to have no trouble finding their way around. Of course, the condition of the roads would have little impact on the local population, since they travel mainly on foot or by horseback anyway. Our vans have bumped and clambered through those holes and slides at times, and it's quite an experience.

Finally, we got back to the hotel, cleaned up a bit and went immediately in to dinner. It was good, and we had some of that wonderful creamy ice cream, with the delicious blueberry sauce.

Ray is improving a lot. He returned my little wrist braces, saying that his wrists were feeling better. They're still swollen and bruised, and he winces when he tries to use them, though he doesn't admit it. He still has a 12-hour gap in his memory that may or may not ever return, but his current short-term memory is functioning. He remembers everything that led up to that 12-hour period, and almost everything that has happened since, but he just doesn't remember anything about the camel. Probably a good thing!

It has rained here in town, too. Windows and doors are open, the air is fresh and clean, and smells just wonderful. Everything looks greener already, as we look out at the open fields behind the hotel. This is such a wild and impressive land. It's so hard to believe that the beautiful prairies and mountains, and the squalid, depressing towns are part of the same country. The towns are like open sores on an otherwise lovely face.

It's only 8 p.m. now, and some of the group is planning to walk to town to the "Wal-Mart", or to the Internet cafe. There are no vans available to drive us, and I'm a little reluctant to walk that far on my gimpy knee. Where there are sidewalks, they're broken and uneven, and now they're wet and slippery as well, after the rain. It would be about an eight-block walk, round trip, and I just don't think it would be too smart. Eloise isn't too keen on going either, so we decide to stay in the hotel. A couple of the other women come down for a while and we visit, have a few laughs as we recall some of the things that have happened, and then our visitors leave. We read for a little while, and as the light begins to fade, so do we. We fall asleep quickly, anticipating the church service we're going to attend in the morning, out in Hongor.