Ochma and I depart the disco and head to event #2, which is at a theater. We wait at a bus stop along with some business people dressed in suits, and an old drunk guy with shoulder-length gray hair approaches me. He commences speaking a lot in Mongolian, but I don’t understand a single word. He doesn’t seem dangerous, since he’s so short. He barely reaches my shoulder, but you can never tell with sloshed folks—will they get overly aggressive quickly?

My Reaction to the Drunk Guy

I back away a few meters and leave Ochma to talk to him, since I understand nothing and cannot respond. He doesn’t go away, so after a minute I call to Ochma that we should just wait in a nearby shop until our bus arrives. She comes over to me and explains that the old drunk guy says he’s in love with me and is paying me a lot of compliments. Great, just great. Unwanted attention is never welcome, since you never know where it will end. We abandon the talkative drunkard and walk to a different bus stop nearby.

Event No. 2 – At the Theater

The Christian event is held at a theater, with support from Samaritans Purse. In contrast to the disco, this theater has a terrible sound system! Yet, physically it’s much more comfortable. The cool air feels delicious on my skin, and every man, woman, and child sits in their own red velveteen seat. Nothing is happening onstage yet, and the bored kids are fidgeting in these fancy theater seats. One little girl starts to scream her head off. Well, I’m not a fan of screaming kids or adults, so I turn to the quiet kid next to me and am soon distracted.

The Show Begins

The show begins with a clown performing antics. Ochma and her church group lead the audience through a few rounds of my favorite children’s song, the “Hokey Pokey”. The best part of the song goes like this: ‘If you’re HAPPY and you know it and you REALLY want to show it, CLAP your hands!’ Except in Mongolian, not English. I sing in English, anyway. The song is modified, so doesn’t include the line ‘do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around,’ which is smart, since it’d be bad if a kid fell off a theater step while spinning.

After the song, they do an activity where the audience guesses what is inside a shoebox-sized gift box. When all the audiences’ guesses have been heard, one man from the audience is invited onstage to open the gift box. When he opens the box he peers inside and finds his reflection in a little mirror. The man is his own gift!!! In this case, the moral is that each person is a gift from God, Ochma explains to me later. If I was in practice, I nearly could have run the show myself, but in Spanish.

Peace Corps Memories

Ha! I remember presenting this gift box act to women’s empowerment groups when I was a Peace Corps Volunteer (I served for 2 years in Guatemala with this USA agency as a volunteer), with the only difference being that the gift of their face in the mirror represents their own strength and ability. The person looking in the mirror is still the gift, just nothing to do with God or religion.

Finally, shoebox sized gift boxes are passed down all the aisles. Each kid receives one stuffed to the brim with little toys and a catechism booklet. Unfortunately, there aren’t quite enough gift boxes, so a few kids cry woefully and a few wail annoyingly (such high-pitched screams!). The poor kids are tired at this point, and frustration of not getting the treat at the end simply pushed them over the edge. A few of the church people hurry back to the church and return with more gift boxes. The gift-less kids waited an extra while, but eventually go home smiling.

Ochma told me afterwards that the reason for the lack of gift boxes is because at prior events often there were about 20 shoeboxes left over. More kids attended this event than was expected. Personally, the reason I care about this delay is because I slept only 4 hours last night and I am completely exhausted. Ahh… the joys of jetlag!


Next Chapter: Walking Home – a visit to Ulaanbaatar supermarket

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