Sunday, January 29, 2012

Life on the Tip

So check out these accommodations.  What do you think? Prison? Post apocalyptic Siberia?  Or maybe, the residence on hardworking Mom and her five kids who are trying to keep it together by scavenging from the dump to make a living here at the end of the earth?

If you chose the last one, you would be right.  This is the one room "cabin" we visited when we were out at the dump doing community outreach for IWAM yesterday.  It was pretty grim.  Well, actually, significantly worse than pretty grim, but there are some glimpses of light in this darkest of dark tunnels.

This kind of light is both wonderful and terrible.  This lovely young man of 11 years was at home (alone!)  taking care of his 8 month old baby sister...and doing a fine job of it, I must say...although the sucker he was giving her to keep her happy definitely does not fall into the "approved" list of foods for a baby...but one does what one must.  

It was lovely to see how bonded he and his sister are...we tried to carry her for a while, but she was not having any of it!  Of course, the flip side is that this boy was alone...the rest of the family was out at the garbage dump scavenging for whatever they could find.  Oh, and did I mention it was about -25 C?
And here's another glimmer of hope.  Those of you who have been readers for a long time will remember I wrote about this group before...way early on in the blogging history and in that blog I had a lovely shot of a little girl standing by the window ( with a dog I think!)....I really should go back and get that picture to repost, but am rushing to get to the ger for the day so I can't get to it now...maybe later!  Anyway, this is her again - almost a year later, with her little brother. She is the one who was  found as an infant at the dump and brought home by the lady who found her. 
And the kids were having lots of fun playing soccer ..and wrestling with Pastor Baska who is our contact for this community.  He too was once a dump child.

But, while there were glimpses of joy and normalcy, the majority of it was just heart wrenching. This ger was likely the worst think I have ever seen.  This little girl, badly burned (no access AT ALL to medical care!) and half dressed at home with her caregiver...
Her eight year old brother.  He was lovely and sweet - cleaned up his "toys" when we came in , but the little girl just stood there sucking her finger or chewing on a toy with no real interaction with anyone or anything.  The parents, who had been up at the dump when we arrived, returned before we left.  Hard life was written all over them, from the missing fingers ( the dad lost 9  to frostbite after passing out drunk outside in the cold) to the huge scabbing burn on the mother's arm ( kind of matched the little girl's by the look of it and I wonder if the accident happened at the same time....) to the bleak vacant glaze in their eyes as they huddled close to the fire to warm hats, no mitts, thin winter jackets and running shoes.

And in this ger, the door wouldn't close..needed a little work.
It was lovely to see the pastor taking charge and letting the little boy be a boy for a change and learn something positive from an adult male. Glimmers of hope.
We had tons of donated hats and mitts made by wonderful women around the world, locally donated clothes books, pens and papers as well as an assortment of blankets, boots and other useful household items...two SUVs full!
One of the boxes spilled open and it was lovely to see the delight on the kids faces as they helped pick it back looked a lot like Christmas!
Even my driver Baira got into the fun!  He was very helpful too in getting the full story on what was going on and what the people here really need.
It turns out what they really need is a new building (bigger than a ger!) so they can have a kindergarten where the kids can go when the parents are out at the dump so that they don't have to stay home.  Alone. That it is necessary is really self evident.  Looks like another Veloo Foundation project coming up.
There are some lovely and very interested members of this dump community who can't wait to help, and I know that lots and lots of expats here in Mongolia will be up for it too.  I mean really, look at the look on this little girl's face.  She and her 4 month old sister need a safe, warm place in winter...and maybe if we get a kindergarten going we can encourage the idea of school for the kids.  None of them, at the moment, attend school.  They help out at the dump instead.
Three years old--the traditional Dell and a wonderfully caring grandma to take care of her.  This is one of the lucky least, she was that day!
One of the centres of the community, the ger where they have their community dinner, was hosting a bible study around the fire.  These are the people who are most willing to help us help them I think.
So...the goal is to have the kindergarten built and ready to go by the end of next September....It is going to cost somewhere in the neighbourhood of $10,000 USD I think - which should be very doable.  And yes, all those of you who actually know me ( and know how I delight in extracting money from people!!) in person can expect to be hit up for a contribution.  :)

So that was yesterday.  Today I am off to the ger to soak up some Mongolian sun before heading off to Canada in the a.m.  Look for some posts from the road....

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Finally.... a Use for Physics!!! Too Bad I Didn't Take it!!!

Potentially the shortest blog post in my history.  I just need the answer to one little question.  I am looking for a smart person ( a seriously smart person who knows more than google, which was tremendously disappointing!! ) to tell me why, at -40 C or so an already frozen river would liquefy, produce lots of water and "steam"...feels funny to call it steam at such a low temperature...and then refreeze.

My theory involves the pressure created during a seriously "hard" freeze......

...any other ideas?
 No?  Well...enjoy a look at a very cold sunset in Mongolia then!!  If you do know what's going on...please, let me know via email!! The suspense is killing me!
 ...not to mention the really breathtaking snaps and whipping sound that the "bleeding" river makes...

Odd, but extraordinarily beautiful!

When they tell you to go to your "happy place"...this is mine.

Another beautiful ger moment brought to you by "Why is this Happening..."  dot com.  :)...Thanks for your help!

Monday, January 9, 2012

My Take on India. The 3rd and Final Pictorial.

The last of three photo essays on India. Well, perhaps not quite an essay - maybe more of a series of sentence fragments. These are some of my favourite photos from the trip, and, while I think they are gorgeous and illustrate the India that I experienced, they are kind of disjointed.  So...take a deep breath and hold on! You are about to tour an entire country in 38 or so photos!

Let's start  with a look at some of India's kids....and, regrettably, one of the biggest down-sides of India..

Garbage!  Everywhere except the most rural countryside was littered with well.... litter! Unfortunately, kids playing in garbage was a very very common sight.  This little one was having the time of her life and, as they all are, seemed completely oblivious to the refuse under her feet.

This was the scene every day at one of the (five star!!) resorts we stayed at.  This garbage washed up on the shore every morning, and, every morning the hotel had a flotilla of women arrive to collect it and drag it up the beach (off the hotel's property) and pile it up. Not necessarily the most effect method of keeping it out of the local town or away from the local kids.

Of course, the kids don't know any different.  Although, I have to say it  was very unsettling to watch these two play "house" using a coconut shell for plates and garbage for food.
Communities are making the effort though, as evidenced by this only moderately creepy garbage can. The rabbit version was infinitely weirder.

We had lots of fun with kids who ran up and begged us to take their photos and then shamelessly asked for candy...which we didn't have unfortunately.  Well, maybe fortunately, I hesitate to think what their dental care is like. looks pretty good from the smiles in this picture doesn't it?  As it was everywhere in India, the heart and joy of the kids who live in very tough situations just burst out of them! These guys live in an orphanage in a little village on the East coast of India....

These are some of their fellow residents.  And they're the lucky ones....relatively speaking.

I don't know how many kids we say out working, either on their own or with their parents.

And then, in a truly psychotic fashion, there were the kids who were staying at our hotel for New Year's Eve with their families who had the chance to get up on stage with a local pop star and sing and dance...

It was so beautiful to see the way that the kids were welcomed by the adults at the party, but very hard to work your head around that vs. the kids working selling beaded necklaces that they likely had to make for about 30 cents each.

Moving on....some other interesting peeks at India.

I LOVE this warning label!  It about sums it up!

Fishing nets...who knew?  They make a good bed!

Homes rebuilt after the tsunami with donations from around the world. Lovely...although, I do wonder what it is like to have a house that has a plaque on it reminding you every day that your home is a gift from someone else...odd.

More uses for those nets...wait, maybe it is the same use?
Ok, maybe it makes me weird, but I love taking pictures of international senior citizens.  I think they have the most wonderful stories written all over their faces!

...and I love this artistic shot of my eldest son!  He doesn't agree, but it's my blog!! (sorry Jared!)

Traditional stove. The design hasn't changed in thousands of years...yes, it is on the floor and the wood sticks out the front of the "burner".  You have to keep pushing it in as the lit end burns away.  The bright spot on the floor is from the sun cascading in through the hole in the roof that is the only means for the smoke to escape.  Oh, and just in case you are curious..this one was not in a museum or display of any sort. It was in the kitchen of one of the  village houses we were lucky enough to be invited into.  And yes, we had a lovely ( LOVELY!!) lunch prepared on that stove.  One of my fondest memories of the trip!
I just like this photo, so I thought I'd share
...these ones too.

I had to put this one in...these are the fishing nets in Kochin on the West coast of India. They were initially installed in the 13th century by ...can I have a drumroll please??.....Khublai Khan!!  Yes, even in far distant India the echo of Chinggis Khan and his family is still being felt.  These nets have been harvesting fish for centuries!!  Literally!  Well..Ok, I'm willing to give you that likely they have changed the nets from time to time, but you get what I'm saying ...right?  Mongolia in India.  Cool.

...Nope, not praying.  January 1st.... Need I say more?

Hope you have enjoyed these three pictorials of India.  It's a really wild and wonderful place and I hope to go back again...soon.