Monday, February 27, 2012

Tsagaan Sar

Alright so let’s see if I can catch you up on the two busiest weeks of the mission so far. 
Elders Verdusco, Jolley, and Neuberger
Two weeks ago was transfers which really didn’t bring that much change.  Elder Bayartsogt and I are still here in Khailaast and everyone else in my MTC group stayed the same making it a solid 6 months in their first areas before the next transfers.  Some sisters moved around but that’s about it.  Our district has two new sisters.

If Tsagaan Sar is a week off for celebrating than the week before Tsagaan Sar is a week off for preparing.  We struggled to meet with people because everyone was about getting ready.  We were able to help with the preparation and provided a lot of service in that regard.  We helped make buuz at two houses last week.

How do you make a buuz you ask?  Pretty easy.
First go buy a sheep from the zax and mince it to nothing.  Throw that in a massive bowl with 20 chopped onions, 5 heads of cabbage and a ridiculous amount of salt.  Mix that around with your hands for a while.  Than make 50lbs of dough.  Then we cut the dough in small circles, stuff them with the mix and fold them in ornate patterns.
On Thursday I made the circles of dough which consisted of using a cookie cutter like object to press them out.  I pumped out a thousand of those and my hand was super numb.  The next night our district all went together to help a member make more buuz.  This time I was on the buuz folding team..  It was a high honor.  I was the only American to stay on the squad as the others were having trouble with the technique.  We pumped out 2000 buuz.  It was ridiculous.  It took me a while to scrub the dried blood off my hands that night, but it was a lot of fun.  The buuz making part.

We spent the rest of the week cleaning people’s houses, mostly older people, to get ready for Tsagaan Sar.  We did work!

Last week on P-day it was a bit tough.  We played basketball in the morning for 4 hours and then our district went out to the middle of nowhere to bowl.  It was fun, but we got nothing done.  It was the first time that I was legitimately miffed about anything.  We got on the internet long enough to write the mission President our weekly letters and went home. 

Tuesday morning my companion realized that I wasn’t super happy (he’s awesome).  And I tried to explain that preparation days need to be used for preparing for the week. And that as much as basketball and bowling are good intentions when done in the wrong time they become a problem.  In affect the right things at the wrong times are wrong.  However, what I learned was that doing the right thing through the wrong means is also wrong.  I wanted to do the right things, but I didn’t say anything and was super quiet.  Although I had the right intentions, I approached the situation the wrong way.  Often people will have the same wonderful goals, but the road they take to get there will make all the difference.

And then Tsagaan Sar.  The holiday started on the 21st and hasn’t stopped yet.  You just keep adding another day like Christmas Eve eve, but the other way around.  In a nutshell, we woke up and did our study.  Then at 10:00 we would get dressed in deels and get ready for the day.  For about 8 hours a day we traveled from house to house often with a group of 10 or so missionaries to eat buuz and salads and candy.  If it’s weird to see a white person in Mongolia, it’s outlandish to see one in Mongolian clothing.  People stopped me on the street to high-five me, shake my hand.  People in cars honked and waved.  I’m pretty sure I caused an accident at one point.  My companion and I just laughed and laughed.  And the deel is insanely comfortable.   It’s like walking around in a blanket all day. 

Needless to say we ate a lot of buuz and by the third day I was well into the hundreds for my total and wasn't feeling so hot.  On the morning of the fourth day around 5:45 my body started rejecting said buuz (I’ll leave it at that).  Fortunately, by 8:00 I was feeling great again and ready to go out for another day of "trick or treating" for grownups.  It seriously is.  We all dress up.  At every house they give you little gifts (usually candy) and then you go to the next house.  We probably visited 30 or so houses of members and investigators and the week was a blast, but I’m more than ready to get back to some real missionary work.  

The holiday did cause for some poor attendance in church on Sunday but we made it though.  We met again with Suuvdaa who was interviewed for baptism and will be baptized this Saturday.  This is Elder Bayartsogt and my first baptism together and we’ve worked for it so we're pretty excited. 

Finally,  in the first book of Nephi,  Laman and Lemuel tie their brother up due to their continuous rebellion.  Nephi immediately called upon the Lord for help.  Asking if he could have the strength to burst the bands with which he was tied.  But the Lord chose to answer his prayer through different means.  He loosed the bands around his arms.  Heavenly Father will often answer our prayers in ways that will humble us and allow us to know that He is God. (1 Nephi 17:12-13 also see Jacob 4:7) In the week before Tsagaan Sar we were helping carry coal to a member’s house.  My companion and I both had two 50 lb bags that we needed to carry about half a mile.  After about three hundred yards I was hurting.  I wanted to make it and I prayed to have the strength to do so.  Like Nephi my answer didn’t come in the bulging of a bicep.  No, it came as my humble companion silently picked up one of my bags added it to his own and continued onward.  The Lord knows us personally and he knows the situations and experiences that can bring us greater faith and closer to him.  I’m grateful for this wonderful experience that Im having here in Mongolia and all that I’m learning.

Have an inspired week,
Elder Neuberger 

PS Here are the answers to a few more of your questions:
Are all buuz the same or are there different recipes of things stuffed in the middle?  What's most common?
Yea it’s all the same meat and what not.

Are there any dessert items?  Or any dessert items that would interest an American?
Mostly just candy

Does the mission office keep track of everyone's English teaching schedules?  It seems like they would have to know as not to put together a companionship that had to teach at the same time.  Also, would the President know that you have a three and a half month break during which time you could serve outside of UB?
The president knows everything; everything is really well tracked

Do the Elders from UB get assigned to areas of the city that are furthest from their own homes?  Do they sometimes see their families at conferences?  It seems unavoidable.  If their families aren't members, do their families understand that they are "gone" for the two years?
Yes they try to, sometimes...a lot of the missionaries are the only members in their families...mad props.   Yea the families generally understand

Do you ever see Elder Jolley?  Obviously you saw him during Tsagaan Sar, but otherwise? 
I see Elder Jolley on Tuesdays while everyone has district meeting.  Wow what an amazing missionary!

How are you doing with the language?  How much do you understand in an average conversation?  How fluent do you feel in speaking? 
At first I got frustrated about how slow it comes along and why the heck this language has to be so hard.  But its definitely coming along and I can understand everything if I know the topic.  If I lose the topic of conversation it gets harder.  It’s just a fun challenge everyday.

PPS  I need recipes really badly
cinnamon rolls (specifically Nana’s recipe)
any kind of baked goods recipe
You can copy and paste and I can print them out.
You’re the best

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