You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2009.

by Mark

It doesn’t take much of an excuse to have a celebration.  Actually Cinda and I have reason for a little celebration, we finished our first language book- YAHOO!  We don’t get too excited because we still have another book to go.  We are now in the process of going through the first book and reviewing it all.  This is good but now that we have more language skills we have the opportunity to really know how little we know.  We are making progress – sometimes it seems more noticeable than others.


Other people were celebrating as well.  It was the Chinese new year as well as Australia Day- the day when Britain claimed Australia in 1778 (don’t quote the date).  Ali Dench, in the blue sweater, our resident Aussie and next door neighbor filled us in.  Some in Mongolia also celebrated Tsagaan Tsaar since there was some disagreement as to what the proper date was.  The majority still believe Tsagaan Tsaar is a month off- Feb. 25-26.  The photo was taken with a cell phone, so it’s a bit fuzzy.  Pictured (clockwise from the bottom) are Toby, Cinda, Kirsten Hewitt- Annika’s school teacher, Hanniki Theron, our friend and mentor from South Africa (welcome back!) Ali Dench and Pieter Theron, Director of CLTC, Christian Leadership Training Center.  Its a joy and privilege to know all of them. 

We are eating at Raja’s Curry House, formerly Asia Kitchen- the name is the only thing that changed.  Best fried rice, fried chicken and curry in Darhan.  The owners are from KL in Malaysia so its kind of like eating at the stalls in Penang, but I miss the Char-kwe-teo and Koppiping! 

100_4972 by Cinda

Thursday, December 17th, we all attended the MK School Christmas program.  Ms. Kirsten, Aunt Ali, and all the kids worked very hard to put on a great program for the parents and siblings.  There were games, music, a play, and of course, Christmas cookies.  One of the highlights for all the kids was an Australian version of “Jingle Bells” that Aunt Ali taught them.  For those who’ve asked about Mark in leopard print, that was part of a game called “what am I wearing”, something the kids play frequently at school and decided to get the parents to join in for this party.  Everyone passes around a bag of dress-up clothes; when the music stops, the person holding the bag pulls out a clothing item and has to wear it, then the music starts again and the bag goes around again.   

The play was about the perfect Christmas gift.  Jubilee ordered a gift over the phone that was advertised as the perfect gift but with no other description.  It was immediately delivered to her door in a box.  As she assembled it, it turned out to be a living nativity scene that explained the gift of Jesus Christ the Savior.  The other kids were the nativity “pieces”.  Annika was happy to be Mary, and happy she didn’t have any lines to say.  It was a very fun and memorable portrayal of the Christmas story, well-acted by all.


Introducing “what am I wearing” (wearing her new Mongolian dell)


more parents dressed in funny clothes


playing Mary Had a Little Lamb


Singing Australian Jingle Bells, with props


Toby and Edie watch the play


by Mark

Things seem to go so quickly here.  I thought that Christmas was yesterday and now realize that it was actually a month ago.  We find ourselves in the position of having several events that we want to share with you but they have gone by so quickly that the moment has passed- Toby’s Christmas program is one of them. 

We’re still trying to figure out the context of Christmas in Mongolian popular culture.  It seems that most of what we associate with Christmas is celebrated at New Year’s.  Tinsel is everywhere.  And when I say everywhere, I mean everywhere.  Its sewn onto clothes, it hangs in the market, it hangs from the ceiling, its put on cars.  Come to think of it, I don’t think there was a place I didn’t see tinsel- except on the horses, although the camels did have some. 

Toby’s tsetserlik put on a Christmas program.  They were to dress up as different animals or Santa Claus- why?  I don’t know.  The program was at 10:00 AM and thankfully we were off of language school. 



The Assembly Room-Can you spot the hidden use of tinsel in this picture?


I have no clue, don’t ask


Toby getting candy from father time- pictured behind.  Candy plays a huge part in any celebration- most importantly CHOCOLATE!  We put in some money for a gift and are still eating some of the chocolate that came in it.  (Don’t tell Toby that)


Toby mugging for the shot-He looks pretty good in a tie.  Behind Toby  is his teacher, she has a wonderful heart and seems to like Toby.  Levi is there with a wolf hat.


Class Shot- Toby on the left, than Levi (4th from left) Eli is front row (4th from right)

100_5000 100_4997 Panda reveals his 1st secret identity (he’s really batman underneath the shirt and tie)

by Cinda

Mark was pretending (or not?) the other day to be offended that there are more pictures of the new kitten on our blog than there are of him.  Well, at that time there weren’t actually any pictures of “Smokey” on the blog, so now it only seems right to post some.  Maybe I’ll put up some photos of Mark, too, just so he knows we still love him! 

100_5157 100_5134

reclining or ready to attack?   watching a movie with Annika


     100_5125Smokey enjoys her new owner

 100_5118isn’t he cute, especially when he washes dishes!

100_5149 100_5141

Mark on the ice with the kids                    1st time ice skating

100_4955 100_4995

Nice shirt!  MK school game.        Toby getting ready for school program (we’ll try to write more about the Christmas programs later, and post more pictures with it!)

by Mark


December 22 is the longest day of the year in Mongolia.  (I’m not sure why its not the 21st- if its something to do with date lines or what).  This is when winter begins.  The Mongolians say that winter is made up of Nine Nines or Nine periods of nine days each.  The nines build in coldness and then taper off.  The end of the Nine Nines, and winter, is Tsagaan Tsar  (White Month) a combination that equals Christmas, New Year and every other holiday rolled into one.  The date of Tsagaan Tsar is set by the Llams according to the (lunar?) calendar (I’m not sure about how which date gets the nod and apparently there was some disagreement this year.)  Tsagaan Tsar will begin on February 21 and run for 3 days.  Meanwhile we are working on the 3rd Nine.  Its gotten cold a few days but not really bad- I’m still bracing for the -30 F that is probably lurking around the corner and hoping the nines go quickly.

I have forwarded this article to several of you but if you have not read it I would certainly encourage you to do so.  The author, an atheist, is wrestling with what he sees around him in Africa.  It is an excellent article and I commend the author for his honesty on the subject.

by Mark


My friend Jeremy received a nice Christmas/Birthday present, a Mongolian bow.  The bows are still made by hand.  The horn of a wild goat is laminated to wood to give it outstanding strength.  This bow design was one element (in addition to tactics) that made Chinngis Khan able to conquer the world.  Its laminated design also is the reason (in addition to tactics in jungle) that he was not able to conquer humid areas such as SE Asia (Vietnam, Thailand).

100_4918 100_4914

These are the same bows shot during Nadaam Festival in the summer.  The targets are placed on the ground instead of parallel as western targets are placed. The Mongolian draw is unique in that it used a thumb ring to draw back and release- not a typical 3 finger release as used in the West.  The thumb release is very similar to trigger releases that hunters use today.

The bow maker’s family is famous for making bows.  He said at one time they made about 10 a year.  Now its around 100.  It takes quite a bit of time to make a bow.

100_4919 100_4925

The arrows are fletched with feathers from a buzzard/vulture.  The wood suspiciously looked like a dowel rod but the points were large and heavy.  They looked like they were turned from bone.

100_4923 100_4921

Bows run around $200 US (maybe a bit more).  Not bad for a hand-made bow.  The draw strength is around 55 lbs. I believe legal in most states for hunting.  For more information you can visit the website of this bow-maker

We hope at some point to visit this100_4922 guys home/factory which is between Darhan and the Russian Border.