Wednesday, August 6, 2014

P-Day Trip to Deep Countryside

Dear Family, 

Today, July 21st, 2014, was definitely one to remember. Let me get started. During this time in the summer, the Elders and Sisters in UB are doing fun activities such as hiking and siteseeing with President Benson and other leaders. Since we here in Choibalsan and are so for away and really do not have the funds to do such activities without the help of President or Senior Couples, our mission doctor, Doctor Lewis, his wife, and Ulzika, their translator, were flown out here to do church business in Choibalsan, and show us a good time. We planned a great P-Day activity in which we would all go with our member, Sister Bolor Erdene to the deep countryside of Mongolia to have a day with her sister's family, who are mostly all members. We found out from Bolor Erdene that it would take about 2-1/2 to 3 hours to get there, so we arranged for the necessary taxis that would be needed to take 9 people. (Elder Osorjamaa and myself, Elder Sims and Ulziijargal, Doctor Lewis, Sister Lewis, Uizika, Bolor Erdene, and Erdene Munkh.) Arrangements were made with the 2 taxi drivers that we would leave at 10 a.m., and return by 2 p.m. so that the Doctor and Sister Lewis could catch their flight back to UB. The Doctor, of course, would be covering the entire expense. We let the Doctor know about the entire plan, and everything was a “go.” They originally had wanted to see more “historical” sites of the Dornod province, but we informed them that those sites were 300+ kilometers away and would never fit in the time limit, so this plan was approved by the Doctor. So here we go!

We got up that morning and headed over to the church where we waited for the 2 taxi drivers. That's when we heard from one of them that the other driver would not be coming. Already off on the wrong foot! We asked him to find another driver for us and he drove somewhere and found one pretty quickly. Most taxi drivers could only dream to have this job for the day because there is no way they could make 85,000 tugs for one day's work. So we piled into the 2 cars, adults in one (and Erdene Munkh), and we Elders in the other. With an all expense paid trip to the grocery store, we loaded up on snacks, and we were soon on our way, off the pavement, and onto a tiny dirt trail. After about 5 minutes down the trail, one of the driver realized we were going the wrong way, so we turned around, got on the right path, and we were smooth sailing from there....until about an hour down that trail. Our driver decided to test his car, I guess, and took it off the trail and into a huge flooded area of Mongolian steppe. Yup, you guessed right...we got stuck. After realizing the car had no way of getting out, we four Elders ditched our socks and shoes in the car, got out into the mud and grass and started pushing. The car would not budge, but luckily some local countryside folk came to the rescue with rope and wire to pull us out. All in all, we were there for about an hour and a half.

So we got out of the mud and were on our way to Cergelthen Soum. After a while, we came upon a river crossing right before the entrance of Cergelthen Soum. So we were faced with a serious decision, well the taxi drivers were, “Do we try to attempt to cross this river, or do we turn around and give up?” We sat there and contemplated the choices and after the taxi drivers did some fine-tuning to their cars and washed them in the river, they decided to just go for it. So they both got pretty big head starts and gunned it, eventually crossing through the river and making it safely to the other side! It was so funny and awesome to watch these little 1999-ish Toyota Camry-sized cars drive through a river.

We now arrived in Cergelthen Soum and Doctor and Sister Lewis realized that it was only two hours until their plane left, and there is no way they would make it if they continued on with us. The drivers informed us that it was only 50 more kilometers, but Doctor Lewis decided to turn one of the cars back around, cross the river again, and go back to Choibalsan. So we four missionaries loaded in the back of the other car, with Bolor Erdene and Erdene Munkh in the front, and we traveled on without them. What was supposed to be only 50 kilometers ended up taking about 3 hours to get there. Along the way we drove on a road that was used by Chingis Khaan many, many years ago, and also saw a famous rock that supposedly has his footprint in it. It was really cool. The landscape was absolutely breathtaking. Greener than you could ever describe, the blue-est skies ever, and land that was flatter than a tabletop.

As we traveled along, we would see random things off the side of the road….a single ger, a herd of sheep or goats, a few horses, and even a few satellite dishes. It was truly an incredible site to see all these nomadic herders in the middle of nowhere, just living. The occasional mountain (really a small hill) would come up and we would hurry and get the camera out and snap a few pictures, along with all the beautiful, crisp blue lakes. We even saw 3 or 4 Falcons!

Just when we were about to freak out because the trip was taking much longer than planned, Bolor Erdene's sister’s ger appeared in the distance. They greeted us warmly and welcomed us. Because we had traveled so far, the sister decided it would only be appropriate to kill a goat and feed us a large bowl of liver, stomach, and other intestinal-looking body parts. Good thing the Doctor and his wife didn't come, they would have freaked. Well as they put the bowl of goat on the table, she asked me the typical question, one I love to hear, “Чи Монгол хоол идэж чадах уу?” (Can you eat Mongolian food?) I looked at her and said, “Чадна ш дээ!” (the English equivalent of “Are you kidding me...OF COURSE I CAN!) So I grabbed the knife, cut off a chunk of boiled goat liver, leaned my head back and dropped it in my mouth. She just started to laugh and I looked at Bolor Erdene and said, “жинхэнэ хүмүүс!” (real people!) It is kind of a little joke we have between us because one time I told her how “real” Mongolians are, so whenever I do something that a “real” Mongolian would do, I say that to her, or her to me. We also ate some bread with this slimy milk stuff on top. The milk stuff is just a layer of curdled milk that floats to the top of their large vats when it sits for a long enough period of time, then they serve it as food. Over the thousands of years in Mongolian history, they have literally found every type of food you can make from milk...except cheese. I love it though! So I slapped that slimy, milky thing (what now almost looks like a thin fried egg) on a slice of real Buriad countryside bread, and called it a meal! The Mongolian women loved that I was just downing the food they made. Elder Sims was sick, so he would not eat it, so it made me look that much more “жинхэнэ” (real)! After eating, we went out and they showed us their animals and then we had to get out of there and head for home.

The 5-hour ride home was going to be a rough one because Elder Osorjamma had to sit practically on my lap the entire way because Elder Sims and Ulziijargal were car sick.  It was such an incredible journey, and one I will never forget. I am 100% that only American that has ever gone that far in the history of the mission. #1 I am in the farthest city away from UB, then #2 I went 7 hours out of that city north to the Bayan Doon Soum, nearly going to Russia. I am glad that I got to do it, but we also kind of ruined it for any other missionary that will follow us... So I am the first and the last. Mongolia rocks.

Elder Marc Harris

This is a "structure" alongside the ger belonging to the relatives. This is Sister Bolor Erenes' brother-in-law and nephew. 

A little porcupine along the way. 

A cool pet goat.

This is a marmot. One in six marmots in Mongolia have the black plague, I was told. This one hopefully didn't. Mongolians eat marmots and we would've eaten this one but they said it had not been "prepared" yet. I have to say, I was sad that I was not going to be able to taste marmot. You know I'm all about experiencing the culture. 

Sister Bolor Erdene's nephew, Tumee, showing us his horse. I wanted to get on the horse and ride it so bad, but it's against the rules. 

Stuck in the mud.

Had to cross this river to get to the "road" on the other side. 

Along the way we drove on a road that was used by Chingis Khaan many many years ago, and also saw a famous rock that supposedly has the foot print of the Great Chingis in it. It was really cool. The landscape was absolutely breathtaking. Greener than you could ever describe and flatter than a table.

... And this was our destination, a lone, single ger in the deep countryside belonging to Sister Bolor Erdene's sister.

This is the entire group of Sister Bolor Erdene's family who we went to visit.  

Some little boys ride horses... this one rides calves. 

1 comment:

  1. That is truly an amazing adventure! I think he is amazing.