October 31, 2008

10/31/08 Halloween week

Saturday, I went with Davaa to Gandan Monastery. I was once here at the monastery when Lama Zopa gave a teaching there. It's a huge compound of many buildings, dormitories and temples. Gandan is one of Mongolia's most important monasteries. Built in 1838, it too was ravaged during the communist purges and was just a 'show' monastery for tourists until 1990. Now it has over 600 monks in residence. We were there to do some work but Davaa wanted me to see something first.

The Migjid Janraisig statue is huge, standing at 26m (86') made of copper with gilt gold covering and a building has been built completely around it. The original statue was built in 1911 but was carted off by Russia in 1937 (allegedly melted down to make bullets). The new statue was dedicated in 1996 and contains 27 tons of medicinal herbs, 334 sutras, two million bundles of mantras, plus an entire ger with furniture. Inside the base and the walls are covered with prayer wheels so I took some time to turn each wheel as I walked clockwise around the statue. Awesome. I was told pictures were not allowed but I found this on Flikr.com one below:

Davaa and I were there with a group of mostly women who regularly do clean-up work at the monastery every weekend. Today we were pulling weeds that had overgrown one of the back corners of the property. Even though it was a bit chilly, with the work and the sun, it was quite comfortable. At this time of the year, the vegetation was dried and easy to cut down. After a couple of hours, Davaa and I left the rest of the work to the folks (who came after we started).

Definitely had something going on at Shendrup Ling last weekend. First the power went off for the third floor, but then the boiler stopped working. It took almost 24 hours before they could get it turned back on. In the meantime, power went out for the whole neighborhood for quite a long time. But late Saturday night, all was back to normal.

Then early Monday morning about 4AM I was awakened by Otgonbayar, the guard, because a water pipe had burst in the cafe downstairs flooding both the first floor and the floor beneath (where our English classrooms are). I haven't seen a mop since I arrived in Mongolia, so we used good old fashioned rags to sop up the water. Ah, my kingdom for a shopvac. By the time I had emptied four buckets worth, Munguu arrived with her husband and a carpet vacuum - you know the kind that can vacuum up water when shampooing carpets. Yippie! Getting the water off the floor was so much easier then. About 6AM we had most of the place cleaned up. The plumber came and fixed the pipes but the water damage to the basement ceiling is going to take some work to fix, and a large section of the wood flooring in the cafe was already severely warped by the time the cafe opened that morning.

Classes have been much better this week. I think I'm getting the hang of 'how much' to teach to teach instead of 'what I thought I needed to teach' which are two very different things. One of the funner classes was WORDanary. Sort of like pictionary but instead of a picture, they have to describe a word using their English language vocabulary. They wanted to keep having another round to break the tie but we ran out of time. A good sign when they are not in a hurry to leave class.

I had my first visitors here in Ulaanbaatar, Erin & Sam Barkley. They are on a 20-month bike trip through Asia and found out about me through Daniel, a good friend and cyclist from Switzerland. It was great to show them the center and sit down to lunch in the cafe telling our respective stories. I hope I didn't talk their ears off. [smile] They've been on the road now for three months and from here, they will take the train to Beijing where they will get back on the bikes. So check out their travels on Erin & Sam's Bike Blog.

Erin and Sam

Well, my brother Tom who I worked construction for would be proud of me as I helped lay down a new parquet floor in the Stupa Cafe Wednesday night. After my classes were over, I decided Otgoo and Oogii could use a hand. It was harder than it looked fitting all the pieces together just right and then pounding them in place without chipping them. I finally went to bed at midnight but later heard they finally finished about 2am. But it does look very nice. Too bad I had a full day of teaching the next morning and no lesson plans made.

And just to end the week on a high note (no pun intended), below is a video of my young English students at the Dolma Ling Community Center. Usually I have 10-to-12 nine-year-olds, but his day I only had five which is a much more manageable number of kids. [smile]

The kids singing 'Row, Row, Row Your Boat'

PS For Friday's class I taught my students all about Halloween. They enjoyed the candy I brought for them, but I had to practically force them to take more than one piece of candy.