My Experiences as an English Teacher and Missionary in Mongolia Ulaanbaatar (Jan 2016 – Jul 2017)

Email me at: jennifer.hansen@myldsmail.net
Mailing address:
Sister Jennifer Hansen
Mongolia Ulaanbaatar Mission
Post office box - 242
Ulaanbaatar post office - 49
Ulaanbaatar Mongolia, 13381

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Lessons from my first week in Mongolia

1) Anyone and everyone is a taxi. It's actually a great way to practice "getting-to-know-you" questions, because when I mess up and sound stupid, we just get out in 5 minutes and never see them again. Also traffic lanes- they don't exist. Or any kind of driving courtesy. Or crosswalks. We just play "don't hit 'em and don't get hit" every day.

2) Puppies are ALWAYS cute. Even if they are rabid, strayed, flea-ridden, and living in garbage, they are still puppies and I will always want to take them home.



3) What's a cold glass of water? I don't know, but after downing a whole plate of buuz it sure would be nice instead of a boiling cup of salty, milky, heram. I really hope I get use to that stuff, cause I'll be drinking it for the next year and a half. Besides that, I've actually really enjoyed all the Mongolian food I've had so far.

Buuz

4) I will never have a good enough reason to complain about my home. I've taught people whose home is the space under the stairs, like Harry Potter, but not nearly as luxurious. They raise a family there, and sometimes grandchildren. It is not clean. It is not warm. They don't even have their own bathroom. But they only are grateful for what they do have, and don't give a second thought to what they don't. That is a lesson that I am still trying to learn.



Personal study is one of my favorite times of the day, because it's when I can lose myself in the scriptures and bring myself closer to Jesus Christ in preparation for a long day of hard work. Before I came to Mongolia, I could never just read the Book of Mormon for an hour straight, but now the time passes too fast. I need that time so the Lord can set me in the right direction for the day.

One thing that has been coming to my mind since I've been in Mongolia is "you won't find fear in the attributes of Christ." or something like that. I can't remember who said it, but if we have fear, then we don't have faith. There have been times, even in just the last week, that I feel the great deceiver creeping in, trying to get me down. It works for a minute, and then that thought pops back into my head. Feeling bad for myself won't do anyone any good. Discouragement will only get it the way. It is really hard to not want to have a pity-party sometimes, cause yeah, my Mongolian still stinks. So what? Go work harder. I am immensely grateful to have been blessed with power over the adversary. He can't even scratch us if we have on the armor of God. D&C 27: 15-18. Go put it on.

байртай
Ханьсэн Эгч

[Quick email Q&A with mom and dad]

1) What ward/branch are you in?
  • I am in the сэлбэ ward (pronounced Sethib- kinda) It's the biggest ward. 
2) Are you and Gardener the only girls in your apartment, if not, who?
  • Jensen also lives with us, and we do mini splits every night and have to switch her back to her companion every morning- it's kind of a hassle, but whatevs.
3) What floor is your apartment? How many floors in building?
  • We live on the 7th of (I think) 11 floors- but there's an elevator!
4) How far do you live from the school where you will teach English?
  • I don't know where my school is- I haven't been there yet.
5) What others, besides Olsen, teach at that school?
  • Bullwinkle and Koefed also teach there. Koefed will be my teaching companion and trainer. 
6) Did you get your money exchanged? Have you needed to buy anything?
  • Yes I got my money exchanged, we're getting groceries right after we email. 
7) Are you mostly walking, buses, or taxis to get around?
  • We walk a lot and take a lot of taxis. You stand on the side of the road with your hand out then whoever wants a little extra cash picks you up and takes you wherever you want. 
8) How big was the spider that landed on your shoulder last week?
  • Also, yeah, the spider was big.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Sorry for the late email!

Sorry for the late email! I have not had one free moment since I arrived in Mongolia! You heard a bit about Sunday from Bottorff's letter. Monday was exhausting, and I got pretty sick from combination jet-lag, pollution, bad smells, and long car rides in crazy asian traffic. But I was finally able to meet my trainer! Her name is Sister Gardener, from St.George, Utah, and she finishes in only 3 months! So I could possibly be her last companion. She is so kind and patient, and I hope to learn a lot from her.

Sister Gardener (picture borrowed from Sister Harker's blog)

We are right in the middle of the city, near the office, and live in one of the nicest apartments in Mongolia! Unfortunately, our area does not cover any of the ger districts, so I was grateful to have visited a couple on Sunday with our host sisters. They are so beautiful! But I'm excited to get to know the city more and learn to navigate and maneuver like the Mongolians.

Riding from airport to office (picture borrowed from Sister Bottorff's blog)

Yesterday we were able to go on a little hike to a place called Zaison, which is on top of a hill and is where Mongolia was dedicated as a mission. It was so cool to be high enough to see the whole city and the ger districts up on the hillsides. We prayed and read the dedicatory prayer by Neal. A Maxwell, which is so beautiful. (Can probably be found online) We discussed how much the Lord has been invested in the church in Mongolia, far before Chingis Khan, and how Mongolia can be found in the saving of the natural branches of Israel as recorded in Jacob 5 in the Book of Mormon. We also studied the end of the chapter how the Lord has called choice servants to gather those branches and bring them back together. (That's us) It was so nice.

New Arrivals - Hike to Mount Zaisan

Mongolia is really cool. I'm still getting use to the smells, and am not completely over my jet-lag yet, but I am so excited to meet the people and slowly be able to communicate with them. Last night I taught my first English class in Mongolia! Not at my school, but at the church. There was probably 40 people that showed up! It was so cool! We will be teaching in the church Tuesday and Thursday nights for the next 3 weeks as training before I go to my school. I really like teaching! I met a lot of really great people that I hope to get to know more.

It's been a great first week! I'm very excited to learn and grow and love Mongolia.

байртай
Ханьсэн Эгч

P.S. So the internet cafe I'm at doesn't have USB ports, so we'll try somewhere new on Monday so I can send pictures. Sorry about that.

As soon as we made it through immigration and left the airport, there was so many people and it smelled bad and immediately a man in my face saying "Taxi? Taxi?!" and I got so nervous and didn't know what to do, then another man came from the side and said "This way sister. Welcome to Mongolia." Immediately peace and relief washed over me and I knew I had made it and all was well- and all has been well since!

Glad to hear all is well! I really opened the "Welcome to Mongolia" package finally. I'm kind of regretting not having you send the snacks anyway. I still have lots, but they won't last long in Mongolia. Oh well.

Departure, Finally!

[Note from Jen's father]

Jen's group departed the MTC on Thurs (Mar 17) for Mongolia. Her flight time was almost 36 hours total and included a stop in Seoul, Korea.

Flight status of her Los Angeles to Seoul Korea leg

She spent 71 days (10 weeks) in the MTC. The Mongolians now have the longest tenure in the MTC due to the language difficulty and the necessity to certify as English teachers.



Kenna Hardy, one of our good friends and neighbors, was on her flight from Salt Lake to Los Angeles, and sent us this picture. Kenna was traveling with the Davis High Cheerleaders, which Jen classified as "The noisiest group ever."

Jen was able to telephone home from the Airport, and we talked for a while. It was great to hear her voice again. 

[Update] We got surprise call from the Korea airport. She split a $10 calling card with one of her companions and checked in during her 8 hour layover in Seoul. She said she had not slept well on the 12 hour flight, so she was incredibly tired. They got a quick shower in the airport.  One more 3 hour flight to Ulaanbaatar, then she will be in Outer Mongolia for 16 months.

Heidi and Joseph Benson (both served in Mongolia)

[Update2] On Saturday morning at 8:45 am MST (10:45 pm Mongolia time) we received a phone call from President Benson. He told us she arrived fine, but tired. He said he talked to Jen at dinner and discovered that both were rock climbers in Logan Canyon. I'm sure Jen has a new appreciation for her President. 

In addition to the 8 arriving from the Provo MTC, there were also 8 new Mongolians. They were all fed a big dinner, and put to bed. He said that in the morning (Sunday morning in Mongolia), Jen will be farmed out to some sisters and sent to church with them, then returned to the office for interviews and training. She won't receive her companion assignment until Monday. President Benson was cheerful and happy. Dispersing 16 new arrivals was a welcome problem for him.

[Letter From Jennifer]
3:10 am Sunday Morning (5:10 pm Sunday evening in Mongolia)

Hello from Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia! President Benson is giving us a few minutes today to email home and let you know that we arrived safely- although you already know that from President Benson's call last night. We joined with the new Mongolians on our flight from Korea into UB, then all came to the office together where we had dinner with President and Sister Benson and their kids. Flying into Mongolia was a bit of an out-of-body experience for me, because all we could see was the Gobi desert for ever and ever. I'll write more tomorrow when we meet our new companion.

All is well, we are tired but very excited to be here!

Sister Hansen

Dinner in Mongolia
Hansen, Guild, Bottorff, Olsen, Harker, Tao, de Ruyter, Kerby (picture borrowed from Sister Harker's blog)

[We didn't receive a follow up detailed email from Jen, but Sister Bottorff's letter provides some information]

[Sister Bottorff] When I woke up the next morning, I had breakfast, and Sister Hansen and I were picked up by two sisters, Sister Nelson and Sister Wilkins.  We went to our first lesson!  We traveled by meeker, a 10ish passenger van, to a ger district.  Then, we walked around the neighborhood to find the ger of a really nice woman and her 3 boys.  Besides a spider landing on Sister Hansen's shoulder, the visit was great!  We left and went back to the Sisters' apartment to eat grilled cheese sandwiches before church.  I only went to Sacrament meeting because after that, I needed to get in line to have an interview with President Benson.  Sacrament Meeting was great!  I understood approximately nothing, but I felt good about it.  Sister Nelson did some translating, and I just enjoyed picking out the few words I could catch.  They speak really fast....But I love them!    Afterward my interview, we ate a quick dinner of leftover Indian food and headed off to our last lesson of the night.  They gave us this milk drink in cereal bowls.  It was made of milk, water, butter, and salt and then boiled.  Sister Wilkins kept looking over and saying, "Are you drinking it?"  And Sister Hansen and I kept nodding and smiling, hoping to get out of it.  But then about the 3rd time, Sister Wilkins told us that we couldn't start the lesson until we finished.  Oops.  We finished as quickly as possible and I understood most of the lesson!  It was a great first day!  We got dropped off to the office where we slept for the night.  I was exhausted, but I loved my first full day!

Today, Monday, was also pretty crazy.  Sister Hansen and I had pancakes with the  President and his wife.  They are the best!  Then, we got picked up and went to the hospital, which is an old Russian hospital, to get some tests done before we went to the Immigration office to get our visa paperwork finished.  When we got home, I felt so car-sick!  The driving was crazy and bumpy!  I got to lay down for a little while, which was so nice!  Then, some other sisters took us out to lunch at a local Mongolian restaurant.  It tasted ok....haha  After lunch, I went back to the office to finish packing.  My new trainer picked me up.  It's Sister Wilkins!


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Fear not, Little Flock

Well, I emailed you only 3 days ago, so not much new has happened... Sister Bottorff and I were asked to sing "Coming Home" again at the senior couple arrival devotional, and that was really fun.

Olsen, Guild, Bottorff, Hansen, Heacock, Cowles, Urness, Garcia, Wilding

We still haven't received our updated travel plans, but that's just because the travel office is slow at getting the notices out. But no worries, we are all set to depart the MTC this Thursday (2 days). Besides the fact that I haven't even thought about packing yet... I'll probably start that today. Maybe tomorrow. We'll see.

In just about 4 days and many, many hours of flying, we will be in an unknown land where right at this very moment the Lord is preparing people to meet us and hear the good news of repentance- and isn't it such great news?? We get to be forgiven and start fresh, with zero burdens, every single day.



What would you think if I told you you were smarter than the smartest man in the world? You've heard of that guy, Stephen Hawking, right? Supposedly the smartest man in the world, because he knew physics and by all of his smart physics stuff thought he could prove that there is no God.
I am smarter than the smartest man in the world. We are smarter than the smartest man in the world, because we know exactly where we came from. We know where we're going. We know our purpose on earth and it's not just to eat and suffer and fall in love and die and lose everything and that's it. I know that there is a God and all the physics in the world can't convince me otherwise.

Pretty cool, huh?


Ханьсэн Эгч


D&C 6:34-37

 34 Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail.

 35 Behold, I do not condemn you; go your ways and sin no more; perform with soberness the work which I have commanded you.

 36 Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.

 37 Behold the wounds which pierced my side, and also the prints of the nails in my hands and feet; be faithful, keep my commandments, and ye shall inherit the kingdom of heaven. Amen.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Certified English Teachers

I have lots of new info. We finished our training at the ELC (English Language Center). Sister Olsen and I will both be teachers at New Generation Secondary School in Mongolia, which from what I understand is basically a k-12 public school specifically for learning foreign languages. That's pretty much all we know about it, but I'm excited!

Teaching my first real English class at the ELC (English Learning Center)


Our classes were recorded and we had to go back and watch ourselves teach and evaluate. That was weird.

Also, we got to meet both our presidents this week! President and Sister Harper are our new presidents coming end of June, and they came to the ELC while we were there! They are wonderful, and I am so excited to get to know them even more in Mongolia. Then a few days ago we got to Skype with President Benson because he had some more travel info for us.

Turns out there were some flight issues and we are now ALL traveling together through Seoul to Mongolia! We're all pretty happy about it. Plus, we've heard that the Seoul airport is way nicer than the Beijing airport, so that's good.


We are now certified English teachers! (with Sister Guild)

Because we spent so much time at the ELC, we didn't have much study time and weren't able to teach many lessons. But I actually really enjoyed the ELC. We got to practice teaching real English classes to real foreign students, which was super cool. All the people there are so awesome. There are students that come to study there from all over the world. It was a really unique and amazing experience. At lunch one day, we asked one of the students why he was here learning English, and he said because he wants to be able to listen to the prophets and apostles and understand them without a translator. He said "I want to learn the language of the restoration." I thought that was so amazing, and I had never though about it before. I learned a lot this week. One of the coolest things was how much trust and responsibility God has given me, and all of the Mongolian teachers. I remember in high school thinking, someday I want to change somebody's life. Well, here's my chance. Being an English teacher in Mongolia is going to do just that. I am giving these people the tools to make their lives better.

We're in a car! We haven't been in a moving vehicle for over 2 months! (On the way to ELC) 
Elders: Cowles, Wilding, Heacock
Sisters: Bottorff, Hansen

I've had many incredible experiences through my life, and some of my absolute favorites have been meeting people from every culture and background. The world is such a beautiful, interesting place full of beautiful, interesting people. The only problem with it is it makes me just want to travel so many more places! I now have a running list of like a bajillion countries I need to visit before I die. So don't be afraid to keep dropping coins in my adventure fund at home. Thanks.

I know you asked me a whole bunch of questions this week, but I can't remember any of them. We're like, really super exhausted, and very excited to get on that plane. Oh, we also will go back to our normal P-day schedule, so I'll have P-day again on Tuesday. I guess you could say we're pretty spoiled.


Have a good week,


Хайр,
Ханьсэн Эгч

Saturday, March 5, 2016

WE GOT OUR TRAVEL PLANS!!

*Drum roll please*

Dear Sister Hansen,
You have hereby been reassigned to labor in the Kentucky, Louisville mission.

Just kidding. We got our travel plans to Mongolia yesterday! It was so exciting! We didn't expect them to come until dinner, but we were eating lunch and we saw our Elders all come into the cafeteria holding those bright pink papers and we stood up and cheered from the opposite side of the cafeteria. So much hype. 10 weeks is a long time.

Travel plans!!! (Blurry for security reasons)


For reasons unbeknownst to us, they split our district into 2 travel groups. We are all departing the MTC on March 17. I will be going through Beijing. The other group goes through Korea. Then both groups will arrive in Mongolia within a couple hours of each other. We added it all up, and including layovers and everything we will be travelling for a total of 36 hours. Sounds like a 36 hour nap to me. Not even complaining.

In other news, yesterday was our last lesson with Sister Mologdalli, who is our adorable native teacher. We love her so much (even though we rarely understand what she is saying) She is one of the kindest hearted people I've ever met, and without her sweet words of encouragement and comfort, I probably would have had a lot more mental breakdowns than I did. It was so sad to say goodbye, BUT she told us that she is returning to Mongolia to finish her degree, so we will see her there!! Hearing that was like Christmas- it will be so amazing to see a familiar face in a terrifyingly unfamiliar country.

Sister Mologdalli,


This week we finished up our online English courses, and starting Monday will be at the ELC from 8-3 every day. I am actually super excited. I've really enjoyed the online course, because we have been able to practice putting together lesson plans, and learning a lot of really cool insight about teaching a language. I've also realized the last couple weeks how much God has been in the details of my life. He obviously knew years ago that I was meant to go to Mongolia, and made sure that I had some very specific experiences to prepare me for this calling. I've noticed that many of the experiences I had last summer at camp will be SO beneficial to me in this responsibility. I am very grateful and excited for the future.

Elder Wilding got a bloody nose not 60 seconds before this picture was taken. 


We've super been enjoying the warmth this week, doing our personal studies outside and getting fresh air as much as we can. I hope everyone at home is taking advantage of the beautiful world that we live in! Go on a hike for me!

Хайртаи,
Ханьсэн Эгч

p.s. I have an envelope jam packed full of all the temple names that we've completed just since being at the MTC. It's pretty cool. I'll send those all home as well.

#MTClife #mongoliaulaanbaatarmission

By the time I leave the MTC I'll have seen the whole ward come and go! Cool to see Elder Brown this week!
(We assume the photo bomber is Elder Brown's companion...)


Another pic from the Lassons: Companions Bottorff and Hansen



Wednesday, March 2, 2016

A Lasson Encounter

[From Jen's parents: We just received the following email from a senior couple that is currently at the MTC and ran into Jen. It was so nice of them to email us!! You can find a reference to this meeting in Jen's Mar 1st post..]

Dear Gary and Becca, 

Yesterday,  we met your darling daughter and her companion in the MTC.  We also saw them tonight at a fireside. 




We are will be serving at Church Headquarters, but we served our first in Mongolia from 2009 to 2011. 



Jennifer looked adorable and happy. She radiates the light of the gospel! She was really excited when we told her that we would [the email ended here]

Love, 
Elder and Sister Lasson 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Half-Transfers

сайн байн уу миний гэр ьүл ьас найзууд!! (Google translation: Friends often, as my family)

Last week we had to say goodbye to our good friends the Cambodians and Vietnamese. Good luck to them in the field, we love you and miss you! So now with the old Thai's gone, we are now the oldest group in our zone, and also in the MTC. We welcomed in a new group of Thai's including 2 Malay and an Indo. Our branch is very small and cozy now! 



Yesterday we were eating our dinner and out of nowhere a senior couple came up right close to my face and pushed my hair aside to look at my name tag. Then her face broke into a huge grin and she said "сайн байн уу!! I've been looking for you all day!" Turns out they served as a couple  in Mongolia 2010-2011, and are now serving again in Salt Lake! They were so excited to find the Mongolians, because they loved their mission there so much. Another witness that the people there are the kindest in the world, and that we will love the country with all our heart. 


These last couple weeks we are doing "half-transfers" meaning we're kind of splits for certain teaching appointments. Sister Guild and I are companions for a couple investigators and also TRC. Besides that we stay with our normal companion. I really enjoyed teaching with Sister Guild this week. It was interesting to try studying and preparing with someone new, but also really good because we'll be getting new companions all the time over the next 16 months! We taught well together, and were able to help each other fill gaps where our language slipped. Last night we did another Skype TRC lesson, and the sister we were talking to in Mongolia spoke SO FAST. Even one of our teachers came over during our lesson and said "Goldenflower (her English translated name-I don't remember her Mongolian name) you are speaking very fast! Slow down!" She laughed and said sorry, but then didn't really slow down at all, so we pretty much didn't understand a word of what she said the entire lesson. So that was a great taste of what we'll be getting ourselves into in 2 weeks!

Enjoying some nice rays at our temple walk! Being outside is the best!!


Another really interesting teaching experience we had this week was with our less-active member, мягмардорж (pronounced Meyigmardorj). We've been meeting with him for several weeks now, and it has been a really testing experience for me. He served a mission, and has told us many times that his mission was the happiest time of his life, and yet now he doesn't want to go to church and he says the spirit makes him feel guilty. This was so frustrating for me. Each time we met with him I only felt myself getting angry and impatient, and I was always very shaken up after each meeting. This week I made a point to pray specifically for мягмардорж, and to feel more sensitivity and love for him. Yesterday when we met, we did not really prepare a specific lesson, but instead an idea, then went to our appointment dependent on the spirit helping us. Once again, before we went in I could already feel that frustration building up. But the minute we entered, I felt the spirit take over my heart I wanted nothing more than to help this man, and I wanted nothing more than for him to recognize the spirit that I get to feel every day. I so wanted him to be happy and to feel how much God loved him. I wanted him to come back to church. When I looked at his face and saw sadness in his eyes, it made me want to cry. We somehow got through the lesson begging him to not give up, bearing our testimonies and praying that the Lord would prepare a way for him to come to church. 

After our meeting, our teacher told us that was the last time we would teach мягмардорж. I don't know why this surprised me as much as it did. If he would have told us that last week was our last meeting, I would have said hallelujah. But now I was only broken-hearted. Because of мягмардорж I can feel the Lord changing things inside me. I can see the Lord repairing my desires and outlook of being a missionary. Although this has been a very hard thing for me to experience, I'm so grateful for it. 

Just so you know, because we'll be at the ELC next week, our P-day is changing to Saturdays for the last 2 weeks... So we kind of get 2 P-days this week! Cool.  

Thank you all for the love and prayers- we need every last one of them. 
Love you and miss you, 

Хайртаи, 
Ханьсэн Эгч

Dad, 

I'm grateful for all wonderful experiences you're having in the temple. When you told me about sealing Alice Emily Boyce I almost got a little emotional- I don't really know why I feel I bit of connection to her, but I'm so happy all her temple work is complete. When you said you thought of me as well it made me grateful to have an awesome dad who would give the shirt off his back to anyone who needed it. I love you a lot.