We were absolutely delighted when my mother, Lana, Julie and Robert (two of my two sisters and a brother-in-law) and Dian Thomas (a friend) told us they were coming to Mongolia for five days. We made plans for their arrival, found an apartment for them to rent, and relished the thought of them coming.
When the day came, we couldn't believe it to actually see them walk out of the Chinggis Khaan airport! What a thrill to see them again. It has been about 14 months since we have seen them or any of our family and we were delighted!
They accompanied us to check on DIC projects. We showed them where we are storing the new shipment of wheelchairs, we took them with us to visit Zayu Taij--the homeless shelter DIC is helping, they accompanied us to check on the three clean-water stations DIC is putting in Bayanzurkh’s 2nd Khoroo, and the two DIC is putting in the 23rd Khoroo.
The following is one of the clean-water stations in Bayanzurkh District:
We even got to see a ger being put up. (Above is the ger being assembled.)
That night we took them to the pink Drama Theatre where we saw the National Song and Dance Ensemble’s final performance of the season.
They were mesmerized by the Koomii (throat singing), the National Orchestra made up of classic Mongolian instruments including the morin khuur (horse head fiddle), the amazing contortionist, and the dancing and costumes.
The next day, we took them with us to Zuun Kharaa to check on the four water wells DIC put in that city this summer. While there visited the chapel, saw missionaries at work, and tasted authentic Mongolian cuisine at Modern Nomads. (Below is a plate of khuushur at Modern Nomads.)
On the way to Zuun Kharaa, we drove through Mongolia's rolling hills of grazing land, groves of golden-leaf trees accented by forest-green pine trees, and past mounds of meadow grass waiting to be harvested. Even though most of the hills have turned brown from autumn's dry, cool temperatures instead of the beautiful green of summer, it was still a beautiful drive.
We spotted a herd of yaks, so Richard pulled off the road for some photo opportunities. Everyone enjoyed having their pictures taken next to these interesting animals.
On the way back to Ulaanbaatar, Richard spotted a ger with a herd of horses by it, so we stopped and took pictures from the road. Then to our surprise, he pulled off the road to get a closer view. A couple of the men who lived in the ger came out and, in a gesture of friendship, they offered us a drink from a bowlful of a traditional Mongolian drink airig (fermented mare's milk). A couple of the adventurous among took a sip. As most of us took photos and enjoyed the sunset, Dian adventurously strolled down to where a man was milking a mare. Unbeknownst to us, the man showed her how and she gave it a try. We’re sure that milking a mare in Mongolia was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for her.
We ate American cuisine at Milley's. Robert had a Philly Cheese steak sandwich and fries and he said they were delicious. We also ate Mongolian barbeque in a ger inside Altai Barbeque—“the original since 1205.”
One of our sweetest moments was visiting Batbold's parents' ger (yurt). Batbold, who is working as one of our water-station monitors, invited us to see his parents' ger on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar. He proudly told us that they had lived in this ger for over 30 years and that he wanted to show it to us because he wanted my family to see a classic ger and because his mother is a wonderful housekeeper. He was right. It was a beautiful, clean, bright and cheery ger. It was easy to imagine their family of five children happily growing-up, warm and comfortable, altogether in this one-room ger.
On Saturday, we hired Baatar, who drives for the senior couples, to drive us to the huge stainless steel Chinggis Khaan Statue about 55 kilometers outside of town.
On the way out, we spotted some camels, so Baatar stopped so our visitors could ride the camels. We couldn't believe it when Mom said she wanted to ride a camel. After she got on, she got a little scared and said, "I think I'll just have a sit," but she was soon convinced to stay on for a ride. It was fun to watch Mom at 84-years old riding a camel.
Then we spotted a Kazak man with two eagles. We stopped and he let us take photos holding the eagles. Richard had done it before, but I decided to try it. What a thrill to hold that huge bird high over my head. That's something I never thought I would do.
My family attended Church with us at the Khailaast Branch and after that we visited Tsetsegmaa’s humble ger and took a couple of older women home. Then we visited Zaisan Hill where Julie, Robert, Richard and I climbed to the top where Neal A. Maxwell dedicated the Church in Mongolia for missionary work. The view from the top of the hill was amazing.
Finally, their trip had come to an end. We picked them up on Monday morning in what was normally plenty of time to get to the airport, but to our dismay, we found ourselves in a terrible traffic jam. We could probably have walked to the airport faster. The traffic was awful and we sat in one spot for over 30 minutes. We were really scared the group wouldn’t make their flight, but prayers were uttered and suddenly, the traffic parted. We still had a ways to go, but it was clear sailing to the airport.
They checked in their baggage and we quickly hugged and waved good-by. This is what Julie wrote after they arrived home,
We are so grateful that Richard was able to get us to the airport in time to make our flight....
The plane was taxiing out from the gate before we were in our seats!
Wow, was that a nail biter!
We made a lot of memories—more than we can relate. We didn’t think we would ever have family come to Mongolia, but we did and it was great!
Dian Thomas wrote the following article about her experience in Mongolia, which was printed in the Meridian Magazine on-line: