Hello everyone, how's y'alls week been? Sorry for the month long absence, a whole lot has happened since my last email.
First of all, transfers happened and I was moved to the Bayangol ward in UB. I was in a trio with my MTC comp and a Mongolian. This was the smallest area in the city and was pretty much all apartment buildings. It was quite an adjustment from where I was before. The people had more money, some spoke a little English, and I caught myself thinking of them as being "well off" when in reality, compared to America, they would still be among the poorest people hands down. The food was a little better since they could afford meat instead of bags of organs and dirt that sit on the side of the road for days in the summer sun before being bought for the equivalent of a few cents for their meals. However, the meat here is still pretty bad and can easily make you sick. Every single piece of meat I've ever eaten here has a unique, rotten, Mongolian taste that just makes your stomach churn. For some reason here they dont believe or just dont have the means to refrigerate or preserve any of their food. Meat sits out in the open for days and days, sometimes weeks, constantly surrounded by swarming flies before being bought and used in meals. This leads to a taste that can only be fathomed by eating the rancid meat for yourself and experiencing the immediate unsettlement of the stomach that I've never felt until being out here. Nonetheless, I found the food in Bayangol going down much easier than the dirt poor ger districts of my first area, Jargalant. Bayangol was my MTC comp's first area so he knew no different. He was really struggling with the food. I thought it was funny how we came out at the same time yet because of where we both started, our tolerance and opinion of the food was very different. I finished meals no problem that were hardly touched by my comp and even the Mongolian. I guess eating organs, heads, animals I only ever thought of as pets until now, and who knows what else for 3 months straight can really change your tolerance for bad food.
Unfortunately, my time in this "wealthier" area inside the main city was short lived. Just over a week into being in Bayongol, I got a phone call from the assistants to our mission president saying, "It's your lucky day, Jones. Theres an emergency transfer out in Songino and you're the one who gets to go out there. Pack your bags, we'll be there in 30 mins to pick you up." After the initial shock wore away I scrambled to pack my bags and all my belongings and prepared to head back out of the city but for real this time. In Jarglant there were a lot of ger districts and things outside the city but it's still considered UB and our apartment was still located in the city. Songino is quite a bit further than that. Our apartment is about 2 hours outside the city with our area spanning a vast area from our apartment to nearly Kazakhstan. No more "good" food for me anymore. There aren't even places to eat out there. Since we all knew this, the AP's(assistants to the president) were nice enough to take me to KFC while we waited for my new comp to come into the city. However, halfway through my meal I realized that my chicken was extremely undercooked and pink and I hadn't realized it because I dipped it in ketchup. The AP's looked at me, said, "good luck with that" and sent me in a taxi with my new comp out of the city to experience the countryside for my first time.
The great thing is that our area is normally one of the busiest in the whole mission. People always need help with things whether its building a ger, digging a hole for their outhouse, getting well water, something I already know all too well, or just about anything else. We got to our apartment around 11 that night and I was so tired and overwhelmed that I nearly immediately crashed without even attempting to unpack. The next morning we were up bright and early to go help someone dig a noith hole (outhouse hole). We met him at the church building along with a few other guys and he piled 7 of us and all the tools into his Prius and took off. After over an hour and a half of driving we finally arrived at the lot where his future house (and outhouse) would be built. I gained a new respect for Priuses that day. He took that thing over mountains, through small rivers, and sketchy dirt roads to get to the lot. Every time we'd come across an obstacle I'd think, "there's no way we're getting over/through this" but the Prius always made me eat my words.
We got to work digging the hole with shovels and pickaxes and after a few hours and about 2 meters of progress I all of a sudden felt like I was going to hurl so I quickly jumped out of the hole and headed for the open field. I didn't get far before I emptied the contents of my stomach everywhere. Afterwards, I grabbed my pickaxe and jumped back in the hole. We had another couple meters to go.
Back in the noith hole after throwing up
As the evening rolled around we had finally finished and began the long car ride to the bus stop that would take us another hour back to our apartment. Long story short, I threw up many times and had a pretty bad bout of the runs so the mission doctor told me to come into the city to see him. It took forever cause I kept throwing up and having to get off at nearly every stop to use the restroom. At this point I couldn't even keep water down and was feeling pretty dehydrated from working in the hot, summer sun all day. Around 8 or 9 o'clock that night I made it to his office where he checked me out and tried to give me medicine but I couldn't keep anything down. He wasn't exactly sure what I had and didn't really have the resources to treat it but he recommended I spend the night there in his office. That was the longest night of my life. He estimated that I actually threw up close to at least a hundred times with many many stops to the bathroom. I couldn't remember much from that night, it was all kind of a blur to me. I had the worst headache from dehydration and the fever I had developed, I was sick to my stomach, I was so thirsty but couldn't keep any water down to satitate my thirst, and I was hallucinating and seeing and experiencing things that weren't there and didn't happen. I just wanted it to end. This continued consistently for about a week. In the course of that week I couldn't eat anything and could just barely keep water down towards the end of it. All in all I lost close to 15 pounds. Luckily, the sickness eventually wore away the next week and I was back to eating and drinking again. 2 weeks after it started I was pretty much completely back to normal and I've been able to eat and go to the gym consistently and gain back nearly all the weight I've lost. Just as I was getting better we had the chance to build a ger which was really cool. Its incredible how they can just build their "house" in a couple of hours wherever they want to. Some people put theirs next to family and friends' gers, others put them as far out as possible, away from everyone else. It's really interesting.
The framework of a гэр
Also around the time that I was getting better Mongolia celebrated its traditional holiday, "Naadam". This is a few day celebration of their independence from China. They have horse races, wrestling and archery competitions, and lots and lots of fermented horse milk that if they actually drink enough of can get them wasted. The perfect, family-friendly holiday. Although, I still definitely prefer America's Independence Day.
In my Mongolian цамц outside the
wrestling competition at наадам.
Also, during the midst of all of this we had a progressing investigator named Enkhjin who was baptized. She's 17 years old and was really excited. The thing with Nadaam is that the whole country celebrates it at different times so it really takes up about the whole month of July. While in Ulaanbaatar they celebrate it the first week of July, different countryside areas celebrate it before and after that. Enkhjin was going to the countryside the week after Nadaam to visit family for a few weeks and she didn't want to wait until August to be baptized so she decided to be baptized during the weekend of Nadaam here in Ulaanbaatar. We were hesitant because we knew that probably no one would show up since it's a holiday and just about everyone goes out of town. I haven't even met my current ward's bishop yet because he's been out of town the whole time I've been here. But, we honored her wishes and set the date for that weekend. Well a pretty cool experience actually happened because that afternoon as we arrived at the church to set everytbing up for that night's service, Enkhjin came with a bunch of friends, and one of those friends was the first girl I ever baptized in my first ward, Jargalant. She was as surprised as I was to see her and we got to talking. She asked what I was doing way out here and I asked her the exact same thing. The place we were at was at least a solid 4 hour ride by bus from her house with good traffic. She said that she met Enkhjin and this thing called "FSY" which is a youth camp they have here for a week in the summer. It was a really good thing that Enkhjin went because she made a ton of friends and they all came out to support her.
Энхболд and I with Энхжин
The baptism was a success and she had tons and tons of friends there to encourage her and make her feel welcome. It was a really cool thing to see, not only another really solid, passionate investigator get baptized, but also to see my first investigator turned new member and how far she's come and how active and involved she is in the church community. Now she has lots of church friends and is being that great friend and anchor to another new member, being there for her and helping her grow and develop just as she has. As I talked to other people that showed up a surprisingly large number of them had only been baptized in the last year. It blew my mind. I've never seen anything like this before. To have all these faithful, adamant young church members, most of them just teenagers, be so involved, friendly, and unhesitant to help others come into the church and stay active. A lot of these people don't really have supportive families and come into it basically blind, knowing nobody and having no friends. But, because that seems to be how almost everyone comes into the church, the members are so understanding and embrace them with open arms. This really is a big family. To have people come from hours and hours around to see someone get baptized during one of the biggest holidays of the year is more than friendship. These people are family and are all just trying their best to be their best, keeping each other accountable and helping each other along the way. It's a wonderful feeling when you can see the fruits of your labors and how things pan out for those you've helped and loved.