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It is my party, and I will say when it is over...

A couple of nights ago, I went to look out the window at 10 pm at the fresh snow. When I looked out, I saw a man sweeping up the snow off the sidewalk and out of the street.

It was 10 o'clock. That meant the sun was long gone (and had been for nearly 5 hours). Which means, it was cold. Really cold.

Here I am, thinking how annoying it is to move the outlet strip from the stove in the kitchen, to the heater in the bedroom, and this man is sweeping snow. He is sweeping the snow so that I don't slip on it when it freezes, which I did, (rather ungracefully too) and so cars don't slide when they drive across it.

A funk is quite an understatement for what I've been in as of late.

My computer crashed, I got food poisoning for the second time, and I burnt myself on the hot water pipe in the bathroom.

Seriously, what is wrong with me? I've decided it is time for my little (BIG) pity party to end.

On Christmas day, we went to visit some Hospice patients. The first family I visited …

the year without a santa...

the Mongolian Christmas edition of quirks and joys:

1. We went to the black market on Monday looking for some vegetables and a kitten. There were plenty of puppies but we knew we couldn't get one because they get too big. So I decided to tell the man standing next to us, trying to give me his business card about pets, that we wanted a cat. He started making a small motion with his hands. And finally he said "mini cat." I was like, "Yes!! a mini cat!" He asked us if we wanted a man or woman mini cat, got our number, made a phone call, then he said our cat would be there in 2 hours.

Not even 10 minutes after we left, I got a phone call saying, "Your mini cat has arrived." So, we turned around and got ripped off, I'm sure. We payed 13,000 tugrugs for him, that's around 10 dollars. The guy pronounced to everyone around "arron-goro" (13) as if to tell the world how much he got from us. It was hilarious.

We named him, Dobby, after the house …

smiling.

Just a brief catch-up...the H1N1 lockdown is officially over!

Now we are working at our respective churches. I am teaching a lot of English (which bothers me some) to children, youth and adults. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed teaching. Also, I am getting to join in with some of the woman's ministries they have at the church. There is a craft class, where I learned to make felt from sheep's wool, and a mother's class. And I am going to start working with the Kindergarten some as well.

From all I have gotten to experience thus far I think I am really going to enjoy working at my church.

The church is called Gerelt UMC, which means light.

"Peace begins with a smile."
-Mother Teresa
(Liberia, Africa)

"Everybody smiles in the same language. And for that, I am so thankful."
-Jena Lee, Hope in the dark

(Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia)

"Light up the darkness."
-Bob Marley


"Those who look to Him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed."
Psalm 34…

louis and the baby lambs...

A while ago we saw a rather large building (of sorts) being erected in the main square of town (Sukhbaatar Square). We thought it was strange but then they started putting the letters on it...LOUIS VUITTON. Then we knew it was strange.



This, I am certain, is a very elaborately touched up picture. But telling nonetheless.

Every time I see the Louis Vuitton store here, I am amazed and so confused. I'm pretty sure that no one here really has the money to be spending on Louis paraphernalia.

Recently, Erin was doing some research about LV and stumbled upon this site that talks about the fashion show (complete with red carpet) that was held in the building pictured above.

Check it out.

I personally enjoy the baby lambs, they bring just the right touch of Mongolia.

Despite this ridiculous quirk, I am really beginning to like it here. Today marked 7 weeks of living in Mongolia.

That, I can hardly believe.

quirks and joys #?

it has been a little while...

1. There are trash trucks here. They make music. The music is the same as the ice cream truck. Appetizing, huh?

2. On the subject of ice cream, our friend came over the other day, after she had been here for about 30 minutes she pulled out a bag from her backpack. Inside the bag was some choco-taco like ice cream treats. They weren't melted, at all.

3. When Mongolians come to our apartment they tell us that it is cold. Today one of them put on their coat [it goes all the way to her knees].

4. Erin and I have decided that 20 degrees is the new 70. When it's 20 degrees we think it's warm.

5. We practice our Mongolian wrap. No, that has nothing to do with music. It is the way you tie your scarf carefully around your face and neck so as to block out all air.

6. This past week I caught a little stomach virus [self diagnosed] and Sun Lae brought me some get-better-snacks. She brought some bread, oranges and kidney beans. She said she brought the kidney …

wrestling matches.

"...And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day..." Genesis 32:24

Lately I have been reading through Genesis and Exodus. I am enjoying it but I just cannot stop thinking about Jacob. I have always resonated with Jacob, even though he is sometimes a little bit of a punk. But this particular story, Jacob wrestling with God, has become especially close to my heart.

I have been wrestling a lot here. Before coming, I had ample warning about culture shock but not many people warned about the mental and spiritual shocks that come with totally new experiences. I suppose it is because people don't know how to talk about it. I think I understand why they don't--they're a little harder to navigate and work through.

With all of the shifts that have been going on with me, there has come a certain tension. This tension is the colliding of what I have learned and thought I understood my entire life and the reality that I can now count on no…

music makes my world go 'round.

Recently my dear friend Melissa gave me privileged access to her grooveshark account. It was a lot of fun.

So, I was thinking...wouldn't it be cool if I created one that people could log into and make playlists?

I'd love to hear what you're listening to and maybe even learn some new music...

go here: grooveshark.com
email address: holli.vining@gmail.com
username: mongolia
password: mongolia
create a new playlist.

i'm excited for my ears to hear what you choose.

agape and peace.

creepin'

Sorry about posting 3 times in one day but hopefully this one will have a little more meaning than the other two (although, they are funny).

Last week we were having dinner with two girls that are working in different capacities here in UB. They have both been here for about a year or more and they were telling us about their adjustment experiences. They affirmed our rough beginnings but then they kept talking about Mongolia, after adjustments. They said that Mongolia has a way of getting under your skin. It really grows on you and you can't help but love it.

One of the girls was talking about how for a while, and even still now, she tries to shield her skin, she's not ready to love Mongolia yet. I've been feeling that same way. I want to shield my skin because part of me is afraid of loving this place.

Today we went to Terelj National Park with the Seo's (the missionary family that is here). We went to go have a picnic and see the park. Their girls went and it was a lo…

frozen things.

I can't believe I forgot about this quirk. I think you'll understand why I decided to post it...it might even deserve the lone post. You be the judge.

7. A few times this week I've had the pleasure of getting to go to a Mongolian bathroom. If you're confused about what this means, see picture:



That is an outhouse. It is below freezing in Mongolia every day. People use out houses for tinkling and pooping. Imagine this: mounds of frozen poop.

COME-AND-GET-ON-OUR-BUS!

For your enjoyment and, the latest quirks and joys:

1. The number one thing to do on the "Things to do in UB" list is visit the post office. We visited the post office and sent some postcards, however we have no idea if the stamps we got actually are international. They just gave us two for each postcard. So, watch your mail boxes! Also, I'm pretty sure there is a little tiny person in the box that you slide your mail in, I'll be sure to take a picture next time we go.

2. At each bus station there are buses and microbuses. The microbuses (basically like a taxi-van) are the more interesting. For starters, there is a person who sits right inside the sliding door to take money and to yell some Mongolian jibberish that I say must be, "COME-AND-GET-OUR-BUS! COME-AND-GET-ON-OUR-BUS! IT-IS-BETTER-THAN-THEIRS!"(make sure you slur it all together). How's that for competition? Along with the microyeller, there are about 30 other people in each bus. Crammed in is an…

H1N1 blues...

We had our big meeting today which ended up meaning we made faces across the table with Batkhuu (he works at the church), for a while. The other missionaries bounced back and forth in a seemingly colorful, Korean conversation. The rest of us didn't know what in the world they were talking about so we waited patiently to have an explanation.

When we all came together to speak in English, we discussed all the different opportunities and ministries at the churches. We decided that Erin and I will separate and serve at two different churches. We will each serve at one church for about 8 months and then swap to the other church for the next 8 months. This way we get to know a lot of people and can really be involved in a lot of different ways.

Some of the ministries include:

visiting women at a detention center
a literacy program for children
teaching English (I think we could do this all day, everyday if we wanted to)
a youth and college aged worship service in English
daycare
after school pr…

when not-normal becomes normal

Due to outstanding approval and per the request of people like Shelley L. and Amanda Y. (people who have taught me a lot about seeing humor) I have decided to continue "quirks and joys" on a weekly basis. Here they are, the latest 5 "quirks and joys":

1. We have heard it said that the Mongolian women wear high heels because they think that their ovaries will freeze and if they freeze, they won't be able to have children. I, for one, hope that isn't true because I'm not going to wear heels.

2. Every restaurant/bar/cafe/place where people gather, closes at 9 pm due to the fear of H1N1. Did you know that the swine flu comes alive at 9 pm? I sure didn't.

3. On Saturday when we went to see Harry Potter at the movie theater, we had assigned seats. Thankfully we picked seats that were literally right next to ours.

4. On Sunday, we had a delicacy, milk tea. The Mongolians love it. I describe it like this: liquid grits...

5. In an effort not to shiver all night …

quirks and joys.

I have been thinking the past few days about all the quirks of Mongolia that Erin and I have been finding great joy in. I thought I'd share some of those with you...

First, let me set the scene for you: I am writing this while eating a rather soupy bowl of broccoli soup. It's warm, though, and that's all that matters. Right outside my window is the coldest capital city in the world, UB. It is 22 degrees out there today. And I am sitting here without having taken a shower in 2 days. I woke up this morning and could not take a shower because currently we have no hot water. And that...that's just the beginning.

Here is the mere top 11 quirks that bring us joy:

1. The days of the week are just 1st day, 2nd, etc. until you get to Saturday. Saturday literally translates to half good day while Sunday is a full good day.

2. When you text message you text in English-Mongolian (I call this Engolian) because their phones don't have the Mongolian language on them.

3. Our teacher my…

flipped-turned upside down.

Let me begin with the confession that I honestly don't know where to begin and that is ok. I have been learning that there is value in whatever feeling that you are feeling and that you should embrace it, experience and move on from it, not to dwell in that feeling. Feelings are natural, they ebb and flow.

I have been in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia for a little over a week now. Today was the very first day I began to feel comfortable here. I even felt a little at home.

Transitioning to life in Mongolia has been more difficult than I expected. I am not even quite sure I can accurately express it in words. But, to give you a tiny grasp of how I'm feeling, let me quote a little something from the respected and awfully wise...Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, "Now, this is a story all about how my life got flipped-turned upside down..."

Erin and I have had many conversations and prayers expressing our feelings that are lives have become a jumbled mess, flipped and turned upside down (and…

I live in Mongolia...

Hello!

Erin and I are here! We got to our apartment around 12:30 last night. It is nice. We unpacked and stayed up until nearly 3. We layed in the floor of my room for a while wondering if we were crazy. We came to the conclusion that we are but that our God is faithful, so we will trust.

We went shopping this morning. We needed blankets (we slept with just sheets last night...coollld) and pillows. We got some groceries too. I think we'll be using peanut butter as our main protein for a long while.

We should have internet and visas by the beginning of next week so i can talk to you all soon.

We are just going to rest tomorrow and then we will go to church on Sunday morning. One of the missionaries here, said that she would have a translator sit in between us, so that should be fun.

Monday morning we will start language classes...I foresee that being interesting and really difficult.

Right now we are just watching the tv shows that we have with us and movies, bundling up and resting befo…
we are at an internet cafe in the airport in korea. i told you i would do my best, mom :)

14+ hour flights are no fun. but they do have great movies...my sister's keeper is so sad.

when people ask us where our final destination is and we tell them Mongolia, they give us the greatest looks.

our flight boards in about an hour and then it will be another 2.5 hours of flying.

then, we will live in Mongolia.

say a little prayer for us.

peace, love and joy.

being radiant in the present.

As a fire is meant for buring with a bright and warming flame, so the church is meant for mission, giving glory to God's name. Not to preach our creeds or customs, but to build a bridge of care, we join hands across the nations, finding neighbors everywhere.

We are learners, we are teachers; we are pilgrims on the way. We are seekers; we are givers; we are vessels made of clay. By our gentle, loving actions we would show that Christ is light. In a humble, listening Spirit we would live to God's delight.

As a green bud in the springtime is a sign of life renewed, so may we be signs of oneness 'mid earth's peoples, many hued. As a rainbow lights the heavens when a storm is past and gone, may our lives reflect the radiance of God's new and glorious dawn.

-Ruth Duck "As A Fire Is Meant For Burning"

This is one of the last songs that we sang at our commissioning service last night. We had sung it earlier in the week and I thought it was beautiful then. So, I wa…

i am so blessed.

goodness gracious. i am so blessed.

although this waiting period has been incredibly difficult, it has been good. i am so thankful for the time that i had to try to allow God to prepare me for this adventure. He has taught me a lot in this time. mostly about how loved and blessed i am.

countless numbers of people have brought joy and comfort into my anxious heart with kind words and prayers. thank you.

i have had many beautiful and some very difficult conversations.

i have had time with family and friends that was fulfilling and genuine.

the list of blessings could continue on and on.

thank you for all the support, love and many prayers. thank you for reminding me that this adventure is not mine alone, it is ours as a body of believers. we all get to take part.

if i was supposed to call you and i haven't...i will.

i am leaving bright and early in the morning (well, this morning now) for new york. i will be there for 2 weeks of training.

on the 13th of october we will be comissioned.

on the…

scary awesome.

"Whether we think of; or speak to, God, whether we act or suffer for him, all is prayer, when we have no other object than his love, and the desire of pleasing him.

All that a Christian does, even in eating and sleeping, is prayer, when it is done in simplicity, according to the order of God, without either adding to or diminishing from it by his own choice."

John Wesley

One month from yesterday (September 14th) I will be going to Mongolia. I am leaving for training, in New York, on September 29th.

The most important thing that I can do now is to pray. This quote from John Wesley was shared with me recently and in response to it we decided that if we actually believed that "All that a Christian does, even in eating and sleeping, is prayer..." that our lives would glorify and they would be "scary awesome."

Our lives would point to the creator of the universe that made us capable of everything we do.

My prayer for the next month is to make my life a prayer. And I…
life ebbs and flows.
life moves forward and back.
life is joyful and difficult.
life is a balancing act.

for a little while now I have known that I will be heading to Mongolia next.

between playing with kids in Auburn and researching mysterious Mongolia, I have settled into a transitioning state.

this transition, I have come to realize, is the most monumental and challenging transition I may ever face.

part of this process requires a great deal of reflection. reflecting on my time in Auburn stirs many emotions. many things have been very difficult here. but many things have been absolutely radiant. I learned a lot about neighbors and what it looks like to love them [thank you for that.] I also learned more about living in community than I ever thought possible. my NINE beautiful roommates have blessed me with immeasurable amounts of joy, wisdom and shown me truth [thank you toomer house for holding us all so gently].

this transition has brought about so much joy through my reflections…