Sunny days and lots of concrete are some of the biggest impressions of being out and about in Ulaanbaatar (UB) that we’ve had so far. And, oh yes, the cold that will make your nosehairs freeze together…oops…TMI? More than one person has questioned why we would come at this time of year. Yet we do feel like we get glimpses of what spring and summer will bring, if not in the climate, perhaps in the warm hearts of the people we meet. After being here a little over a month, there’s much to share about, and we hope that what follows gives you a little taste.
The days are getting shorter, colder, and smoggier here in the capital. When we went to church to celebrate the Entrance of the Theotokos into the Temple, we couldn’t see the beautiful mountains to the south of the city. Frost forms quickly outside our scarves. We are thankful to have lots of layers to put on every time we leave the apartment! There are plenty of shops close by and an indoor market where booths of vegetable sellers call out for us to look at their potatoes, peppers, and cabbages. We spend a lot of time walking. Church is 20 minutes away; Mongolian International University (MIU) is 40 minutes. We can get to MIU in less than 30 minutes if we take a bus, which we’ll be doing more now that the weather is getting colder. It’s a good 15 minutes to the city’s main thoroughfare, but from there, buses come quite frequently.
Chris is getting to know people in the music scene here in the city. Already he’s gotten to sit in at the UB Jazz Club for a few tunes and play in the orchestra for a concerto piece as part of a low-brass recital at the Music and Dance College. We’re hoping that sax playing and maybe a little music teaching can open new doors for some good interaction.
Our new church home
Slowly we are getting to know more of the parishioners here. We had several over to help us celebrate Andrew’s birthday at the end of last month, which was a special time. Most of our interactions after services on Sunday are with Russian speakers, so it takes a special effort to meet non-Russian speakers during the services. We met with one newcomer to the parish for dinner last Saturday after vespers and discussed starting a Mongolian group before vespers on Saturdays to talk about spiritual things and look into the Bible together. We’ll meet with her this Saturday and are hoping the group grows to provide fellowship for Mongolian parishioners as well.
Mongolian International University
Many of you remember that our visas are with the Mongolian International University. The university is full of culture: Mongolians, Koreans, Chinese, Americans, Russians. Just being able to visit the cafeteria has enabled us to meet new people! Attached to the university are three additional schools: a language institute and two high schools. The language institute has been a blessing for us, as we began one-on-one Mongolian lessons our first week here. One of the secondary schools, designed for non-native Mongolian-speaking ex-pats, is where Jen will be teaching during the spring semester. The other secondary school, «Faith School,» designed for Mongolian high school students, is in its first year and has a need for an additional part-time English teacher. They are open to us splitting the position so that we both will have opportunities to interact with students, and we are now working with 9-11th graders three times per week in the afternoons. Afternoon lessons in the private school come with the added challenge of an undeveloped curriculum. Please pray that we may rise to the challenge and serve as unto the Lord.
The art school on the church grounds invited us to teach English once per week for 90 minutes to a small group of second-year students. We’re taking advantage of this opportunity as well. We hope to find more ways to be involved with this creative group of young people.