July 15, 2010
Today we held the last of four well ceremonies in Zuun Kharaa.
Yesterday was a beautiful day, but last night it rained torrents of rain in Ulaanbaatar. We had planned to go to Zuun Kharaa for the well ceremony, so in the morning we tried to call Governor Bayarsaikhan to see if the well ceremony was still a go, but we couldn’t get in touch with him. So, at 7:30 a.m., we drove out of the Bayanzurkh building parking lot with Elder and Sister Caldwell, Elder and Sister Powell and Azzaya in the mission SUV headed for Zuun Kharaa. On the road, we received a phone call from the missionaries in Zuun Kharaa who said there had been a lot of rain, but we said we were still coming because we wanted to be there if Governor Bayarsaikhan had arranged for the ceremony.
A couple of hours later, Azzaya received a phone call from Governor Bayarsaikhan who said he couldn’t come to the ceremony because of the rain and he didn’t think anyone else would come either. We kept going.
We drove through hard rain and saw huge puddles of run off along the highway and dirt and gravel washed across the new gravel road to Zuun Kharaa, but it wasn’t until we drove along the road overlooking the city of Zuun Kharaa that we realized how much rain Zuun Kharaa had received. Many of the flooded streets looked like the canals of Venice. We worried that Bayarsaikhan might be right. Still we hoped there would be some ground around the wells that wasn’t submerged and that the rain would let up long enough for a ceremony. We visited with the missionaries and then went to check-out the wells.
TONGALAG at Well #1 said her whole yard had been under water and that the government’s emergency trucks had been by to pump the water from her yard. She showed us her shallow, private well, which was now polluted with debris, manure, and dirt from her yard. She was extremely grateful for the well and said many people had come to get clean water from the well because their shallow wells were very badly polluted, too. They were totally without clean water. This is a sad thing for them, but a blessing for the people of Zuun Kharaa to help them realize their need for clean water from the deep wells instead of relying on their shallow wells which can be easily polluted.
We splashed in the SUV down the river-like lane to Well #2, where we were supposed to hold the ceremony. We were doubtful that anyone would come. However, when we arrived there, we found that right in front of the well there was an island of ground that wasn’t submerged. The well operator said that people had been told that there would be a well ceremony at 1:00 p.m.; it was 12:45 p.m. We decided to hold the ceremony and hope for the best. As we started setting up, she called friends and neighbors. The rain started to subside. People began gathering. By 1:05 p.m. we had a small crowd of residents. As we started the ceremony, the rain stopped.
Richard gave a brief talk. He told the residents that DIC is sponsored by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and that we try to serve our fellowmen because we are followers of Jesus Christ and that is what he taught us to do. We gave everyone handouts telling them what diseases come from not using clean water and encouraged them to use the clean water from the new wells.
Then we had a fun ribbon cutting ceremony! On a signal from Richard, Elder and Sister Caldwell, Elder and Sister Powell, Azzaya, the well operator, and two residents joined us in cutting a long red ribbon with gold bows in it and officially opening the well. Following the ribbon cutting ceremony, Richard poured up some glasses of water and drank the first cup of crystal clear water. Then we handed out glasses of water to the residents and held drawings for four water cans and a hand-push water truck. Finally, we handed out candy and drinks to the happy crowd.
We were grateful that we had made it safely to Zuun Kharaa, that the rain had stopped long enough for the ceremony to take place, that there was enough unsubmerged ground to hold a ceremony on, and that people came. In the end, the well ceremony felt more like a fun party than like a dismal, soggy rainout!