While in Mongolia, Alexandra Castellanos had her 20th birthday. The whole team went out to eat a fantastic meal at a restaurant named City Nomads. A few of us stayed afterward in order to hear a Mongolian concert complete with traditional instruments and throat singing. The whistling sound that you hear is actually coming from the same singers that are making the deep chanting sounds. It was truly amazing! Here is a glimpse of what we saw.
Not 3 hours ago we were all sleeping in the Beijing Airport after a night of adventuring. We had just walked off our 14th-and-a-half hour of flying into the Ulanaan Baatar airport. Our group of 37 Rounders had a healthy blend of jetlag, lack of sleep, and unfiltered excitement for a journey that we had just scratched the surface of. We had just finished signing paperwork to enter Mongolia and were anxiously waiting by the conveyer belt for luggage.
Then all the luggage from the plane started falling from the chute: metal luggage, duffle-bags, weird luggage wrapped in saran wrap, and various other types of luggage. Large backpack after large backpack quickly followed. Professor Lee, myself and a few other Rounders just start grabbing backpacks. We toss them to the rest of the team to start walking outside.
After a few minutes, 36 big backpacks, and plenty of manly luggage-throwing later, the magical chute that so graciously provided 36 Rounders with fresh underwear neglected to provide the 37th tired, sleep-deprived, and unfiltered-ly excited Rounder with his bag. That Rounder was me. I, who so stupidly jinxed everything by even bringing up the idea of losing luggage, lost my bag.
God puts us in community to grow us. He puts us there to remind us that we can’t do anything alone. We need Him, and we also need other believers. We can’t live this life alone. We need help. Sometimes it isn’t easy to notice that. Sometimes we get too into our own process, our way of doing things, that we forget we sometimes need a little help. I realized this when I was stuck for a day without my bag. It was only a day, but in that day I felt the love this team has for each other. I felt the love that God has so graciously given these Rounders to share with each other.
Written by Nick Duerr. Photo by Nick Duerr.
On our first Saturday in Mongolia, our group visited the palace of the Bogd Khan. All of the museums and tourist spots in Mongolia have a strange rule: No cameras except for those which have been paid for. Our team decided that we wanted one camera, and since mine is the best on the trip, I was deemed camera man. And this was no small business. I was equipped with a press badge and a separate ticket for my camera. I felt very official. Every time one of the museum workers saw me operating my camera I would show them my badge and that was enough to keep them from telling me no. Of course, as the group photographer, I spent most of the trip in the back of the group taking pictures of everything from tapestries to ceiling tiles, from statues to grand architecture. Though I was not able to investigate the palace as thoroughly as I would have liked, I was presented with the chance to practice my photography in an amazing location.
As we passed through the gate, the architecture was astounding—lofty roofs held up by tall pillars; graceful walls complimented by curving ceilings; small stone critters graced some of the edges along the roofs of buildings. Almost every wall was painted with scenes and diagrams from the mythical history of Mongolia. Inside of the buildings was as impressive as the outside. Some of the first exhibits we saw were large wooden statues of what appeared to be mythical creatures. There were also large tapestries containing images which I associated with the history of Buddhism. Several rooms even contained large metal statues of Buddha and other images. As I rushed through the museum at the breakneck plod of a photographer, I did not take the time to fully comprehend any of the art. But I was able to enjoy the environment and the culture as I took notice of it between adjusting settings and setting up the right angle. Catching a glimpse into the world of a people who seem so distant from us was quite an opportunity, even if it was only through the lens of a camera.
The ATW Team had a one night layover in Beijing, China before heading on to Ulan Bator, Mongolia. The students and GAs decided to go out and explore Tian’anmen Square via subway. Mariah recounts some highlights of the night for us, including our search for a decent dinner.
The ATW Team is visiting many countries on our journey and we will encounter a variety of cultures and people groups. In order to avoid being “ignorant Americans”, students were required to take a test which assessed their basic knowledge of flags, national leaders, national capitals, currencies, languages and geographic locations for nine of the countries that we will visit.
This exam was given while we waited for our flight to Beijing, which helped to set the foundation of the academic aspect of our trip. It seems that some students were more prepared than others (note Hayden‘s clipboard)!