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By Mark

We have been pleasantly surprised by many things that we can find in Mongolia that we were not expecting.  Just the other week at Nomin (the Mongolian version of Sam’s club) we saw bread knives- there is no guarantee they will be here next week or we could get them again but there they were.  There are many things we have found here that take longer to do, some only a few minutes extra, others are a lot longer- to give you some insight into our new world here are some things.  I want to be clear that I am not complaining that things take longer but it does take longer.   Next time you do many of the “mundane” things in your home don’t take them for granted.  Because things take longer simply accomplishing the every day living tasks can be tiresome. 

  • Food: There isn’t pre-packaged food here (except for Ramen) so everything gets made from scratch.  It tastes good but takes longer.  Also all the produce needs to get washed off before we use it so that takes longer.  One faster thing is the rice cooker we have- makes it in under an hour, just add water, rice, push the button and perfect rice every time.
  • Washing: We like our washing machine, a front loading Samsung.  Its smaller than ones in the States so you cannot wash as much and there is no dryer so everything is air dried.  With the heat on it now goes faster.  No mechanical dish washer so the dishes get washed by hand (yes, I have dishpan hands).  Our dish soap is called Farie.
  • Water: Its not recommended to drink the water here straight from the tap.  We run our water through a Berkey filter (great filter but I have rust on the weld seam and Berkey insists its mineral deposits, arrgh, another story).  It has about a 4.5 gallon capacity and takes time to refill it every few days.  When you brush your teeth you have to have a bottle of water with you to rinse- a bit more time.
  • Travel: We either take a taxi (about .34 a person per ride)  400 Tugreg or depend on friends to catch a ride or walk.  Going to the market isn’t always a matter of finding everything in one spot but it takes a while to walk around and find what you need.  Then again that’s not to different from Wal-Mart in Russellville.
  • Bills: Either people come to you to get paid (cable, garbage) or you have to go to them (everything else).  Every month it takes several hours to travel around and pay your bills, or eventually you get cut off. Nothing yet to pay by mail or via the Internet.

by Mark100_4698 

After graduating from college I was looking for a teaching job.  My requirements were simple, the school district needed to be 1 hour from a National Park or major ski area.  I sent out about 500 resumes across the West.  I got one interview and one job offer, Evanston, Wyoming.  God made it easy for me to discern where to go.  It was through many of the people at Evanston Alliance Church that we heard God’s call to ministry that has led us, eventually, here to Mongolia.  This past weekend we were able to have a team from Evanston into our home.  They came on a vision trip to pursue a possible partnership with the field here.  We were able to be in Evanston two years ago for a reunion and last year to speak at their family camp at Bear River.  In the picture from left to right is Bob Witt, associate pastor- an incredible testimony of God’s grace on display.  Lon Kenneda and his wife Teresa were one of the couples that welcomed me to Evanston – we always have fun remembering the trips to scout and hunt elk together! I keep bumping in to Pastor Ron in many different places.  I first met Ron at a hunting retreat at Pinecrest Camp, he was pastoring in Alabama at the time.  He has a heart for God and God is using him in Evanston in great ways.  Jim Manchester is next to Ron and His wife Denise is not pictured- they became believers in the past 3 or 4 years and are using their gifts and talents to serve God in leading music and multi-media.  It was a great encouragement to see them.  Thanks for the hats!  (we got Wyoming hats) We look forward to seeing others from Evanston in the future (this means you Hoovers and Thomas’ !)  We are grateful to Evanston for their love and support and look forward to forming a partnership with them. 

contributed by Mark

Yes, September 15th, known across the world, well, across Mongolia, as turn on the heat day.  Yes those rumbles and gurgles are not my stomach but the heat coming into the pipes.What does this mean?  Well we will be sleeping with the windows open for the next six months or so while our apartment is heated by radiant heat to around 85 degrees. The downside is that mosquitos seem to be breeding in our apartment.  The heat comes via super-heated water from the industrial power plant (over the hill from us) and is swirled through radiators in the apartment buildings.  Its important to look for leaks- they fix them by putting in horse hair so it can coagulate with sediment and seal off the hole.   Can we turn it off?  Well there is a valve- so why not just close off the radiator?  The problem is that they are run in series so if we turn ours off it shuts off heat for everyone above us- something they will definitely let us know.  The good thing is we will be warm, and then some. 

Toby helping Mommy make pizza dough100_4672 100_4673

new entryway rug100_4674

Annika and Toby’s rug100_4675

nap time 100_4676 100_4677 I spy Annika — where’s Isaiah?

by cinda

The town is not big, but the apartments have a very urban feel.  However, there are hills all around us covered in grass/sage/weeds.  Weeds are considered pretty — as long as its green, Mongolians think it’s good.  We guess this is why they don’t mow the grass . . .  This year has been excessively rainy so there’s more green than normal, but not something you would necessarily sit on for a picnic.  We did have a nice picnic by a river last weekend. 

Annika and Isaiah play in the playground area right outside our apartments.  They mostly play adventure games, using their imaginations, climbing piles of dirt.  I think they like to play spies and other such things.  There are lots of places to climb around on monkey bars, too.  There’s a children’s park across the road behind our apartment; it was probably very nice when it was new, but it has some problems now.  We still try to go there when we get time, but I don’t let them cross the road alone so they have to play on this side most of the time.

The bridge is very close to our apartment.  It goes over the main road, between the buddha statue and a Mongolian monument of uncertain significance to us.  We can’t get good pictures of it at night with our camera — it just blurs all the flashing neon lights together.  It’s just interesting that they chose to put up and light this bridge but Toscon, an outlying section of town where Lains and Fields are living, could truly use more electricity for the homes out there.

It seems like they might be getting prepared to turn on the heat before long as we have been hearing noises of repair going on in the basement below us and in our radiators.  The hot water was off yesterday which also indicates they could be preparing for the heating system to turn on, or maybe not?  We haven’t needed the heat inside at all.  It’s been cold outside off and on, but the apartment has stayed warm even through the night.  We still have mosquitos coming in so that lets you know it’s still summer.

Toby in the living room  100_4671   100_4667 beads from Michelle!

outside the church in Sukhbaatar 100_4664 100_4663

100_4669 being silly for the camera

100_4621preschool near our apartment 100_4612Annika and Emily

100_4622having a little fun before class (no, not really!) 100_4630birthday boy at breakfast

100_4560Annika and Isaiah ready to play

100_4623building we pass on the way to school

100_4643Annika stays warm

100_4624 view on the way home from class — the bridge in the distance is covered in neon purple lights at night.

We’ve heard from one or two of you that you’re not always sure who’s writing what on this blog!  We’ve been sharing the job of writing and we don’t usually remember to say who the author is — sorry for the confusion!  The last blog, “Camping”, was actually co-written.  Mark wrote most of it, but Cinda inserted a portion above the pictures (it was Cinda’s slippers that Annika wore, but Mark was the one writing about the insect hatch . . .).  By the way, this is Cinda writing at this point, in case that makes a difference for you as you read. 

We have survived Survival Mongolian class and will start our new class on Monday.  We’ve already been in our respective ongoing classrooms and groups for the past week, so Monday just brings the new book — titled “Good Luck”!  Wonder what that’s supposed to mean?  Mark and Larry are in a class together with Zeday bagsh and had two days of testing to end their Survival course.  Krista and I are with Toya bagsh; I’m happy to say we did not have two days of testing, but I think I might have preferred a written test over 2 1/2 days of conversation in Mongolian — whew, that was a stretch for me since I don’t really talk all that much even in English!  But I can say it was really helpful to be forced to just try it and not worry so much about making mistakes.  We all three laughed a lot at the crazy things coming out of our mouths so it wasn’t all drudgery.  It seems like every mispronunciation means something else, usually something you definitely  wouldn’t want to say by mistake, if you know what I mean!  Anyway, laughing does make me more relaxed about the whole thing and gives me motivation to keep at it.  I’m finding that sometimes I can’t remember how to write things in English, usually just one or two letters rather than whole words, but enough to make me realize I’m making a tiny bit of progress in Mongolian.  It helps in typing that I don’t have the Cyrillic letters on here or I might be typing some crazy things.  I hope it doesn’t interfere with my Scrabble playing . . .

Last night we had a get-together of the Darhan families for cake and ice cream to celebrate Toby’s 4th birthday.  We had a lot of fun, a lot of noise, and a lot of cake and ice cream. 

100_4647 simple is good for this year’s cake.  


100_4656 surrounded by friends

100_4649 getting ready for the party

100_4638 Thanks, Grandma!

100_4640they picked out their own blankets at the market.  Unique Asian spotted deer and smiling tiger. . .

This past weekend we had the opportunity to go camping with several other families- lots of kids.  Yes it was August but it was COLD- the pictures tell it all.  Beautiful stream and you can see the monastery located nearby.  We went with the Field’s and Lain’s (we all fit into the Land Rover) and the Bergevin’s drove down from Bulgan- we’re planning to head to the Bergevin’s for Thanksgiving.  We took about a 3-hour drive from Darhan to get the site; thanks to the cold and the starting of Mongolian schools, we had the place to ourselves.  We experienced first-hand the necessity of 4-wheel drive as the roads were a bit rough and required more than one water crossing.  The kids thoroughly enjoyed it, especially splashing through the mud in the car.  How many times did we 8 parents say, “okay, nobody get wet”?  More than we can count.  How many children fell/walked/jumped in the water?  All of the older kids managed to soak their shoes, socks and pant legs within about 20 minutes of arrival.  It got a little cold for them that evening, but don’t worry all you grandparent-types out there; no frostbite was incurred and we managed to bundle them all up in some way.  Annika actually enjoyed wearing my down slippers for awhile.  It gave them all an excuse to take their parents’ chairs and sit by the fire.  We can’t forget to comment on the stars — spectacular night sky.


Can you spot Annika? She is hiding in the pink camo


The view of the local monastery at sunset


What happened to the August warmth?  Did our blood grow thin from being in Arkansas?  I asked another guy we were camping with, who had been in Mongolia for several years- said he was pretty cold.


Mayfly hatch- we had a beautiful brook next to where we camped (see below)- perfect trout water but some areas were silted in and I did not see anything moving, trout or otherwise. Maybe  further up the valley? This area looked like it got allot of camping traffic.



Unfortunately Zeke (in the red blanket) fell climbing a tree and broke his arm.  We broke camp early and he took a ride to UB to get a cast.  He’s doing fine.  We saw the camel on the way out.

08 05 08 002

This was taken at field forum, a friend just sent it in.  I’m not real big into horses.  I was hoping that Toby was not going to be into it but sure enough the kid really wanted to go, he loved the ride. The horses are smaller than quarter horses but larger than ponies.


This guy is ready for winter.  His humps are full and standing up, they go flat with no fat.  Most camels are found around the southern part of Mongolia, but it is not uncommon to see them up north where we are.  We got a chance to go camping this weekend (more on that later) and on the drive out spotted this camel.  Uncle Jeremy swung the Land Rover around to get a good picture.  From a distance, because of their humps camels can look like a horse with a rider on top.  We saw the Bactrian Camels at Brookfield zoo before we left- no cages here.  In the background you can see a field that was planted, it might have had millet like grain, they call yellow rice.  In some places they will also burn off the field after harvest.  Its interesting to see the stripes of fields.  When planted they alternate wheat and millet- beautiful yellow fields.  The yellow has been harvested but the wheat remains.


Another shot of the guy, he’s got alot of fur.


Every Day is a Winding Road

This was the road out from where we camped at.  There are places with roads and no roads in Mongolia.  If one path doesn’t suit you, take another road.  Its crazy to see people driving 2 wheel drive cars over some pretty rough terrain.