Dried cheese & hurt feelings

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					Dried cheese                                                                                     The infamous aruul

        & hurt feelings
Living in a different culture
                                                                                                 Simon Monster, an Interserve
is a challenge that is
                                                                                                 Partner in Mongolia, is
often exciting, sometimes
frustratingandoccasionally                                                                       culturally caught off guard...
embarrassing. I try to be as
alert as possible to cultural    Back from the countryside

differencesandamthankful         Last August Batbayar, a student from                            other, Batbayar, will graduate next
that I have come a long way      my church whom I am mentoring,                                  summer. Unfortunately, mother’s
                                 returned from the countryside to start                          meagre wages are not sufficient to
during the six years I have
                                 his final year at university. In order to                       support them so in May some friends
been serving in Mongolia.        get back to the capital Ulaanbaatar                             and I gave some money to enable
But there are still moments      he had to travel along bumpy dust                               Batbayar and his brother, who are
                                 roads for four days and nights, sitting                         both excellent students, to pay
when I am caught off my
                                 on his small suitcase in a crowded                              their long overdue university fees.
guard!                           microbus. His family is poor: father                            Otherwise they would have had to
                                 has been unemployed for many years                              discontinue their studies!
                                 so mother works in a small cafeteria
                                 seven days a week from morning                                  When Batbayar came to see me, he
                                 until night. They have four children,                           had a big plastic bag full of aruul with
                                 two of whom are university students.                            him. Aruul is dried cheese that comes
                                 One is now in his second year and the                           in different sizes, colours and degrees

                                Please praysecond quarter 2007
                                           for all our Urban Vision Partners as they seek to show God’s love to the various faith communities in Britain
Dried cheese & hurt feelings

of hardness. This aruul           “To a foreigner he came back after a                          Most Mongolian songs
was 10 cms. long, 3 cms.                                   while, he told me he                 are either about nature
wide, brown, and as hard            aruul has a            needed to talk about                 or about mothers,
as a rock. To a foreigner                                  something that was                   so you can imagine
aruul has a sour, distinctly      sour, distinctly         bothering him. He said               how deep-seated this
unpleasant taste and if it                                 he had gone outside                  feeling for mothers
is the hard variety, it makes unpleasant taste.” because my words had                           is. I had not only said
you wonder whether you                                     hit him very hard. First he          disparaging things
are going to break your teeth on it. But     had cried (!) and then he had spent                about his country
the Mongolians love it!                      some time praying. Why? The aruul                  and the present,
                                             had been made by his granny and it                 but above all I had
Batbayar had just told me                    had been given to him by his mother                unwittingly insulted
enthusiastically that his parents had        as a present for me for the help they              his mother, which had
become Christians because they had           had received.                                      really hurt his feelings.
noticed the big changes in his life                                                             No wonder he had
and his character since he came to           Hurt feelings                                      been crying (a rather
Christ 2 years ago. Then he showed                                                              unusual thing here
me the aruul. Before he could say            I felt deeply ashamed, even though I               for a man).
anything about it, I blurted out, “Oh        had not hurt him deliberately. Trying
dear, that’s aruul! I ate it for the first   to put myself in his shoes, I realized      I told Batbayar I was thankful he had
time in 1999. It was terribly hard and       that:                                       been so frank with me! He replied
sour! I finally managed to bite off a                                                    that he knew that I had not hurt his
little but I hid the rest in my trouser           1. aruul is something the              feelings on purpose and that he could
pocket so that I could get rid of it at              Mongolians are very                 understand that not every foreigner
home!”                                               proud of;                           liked aruul, but nevertheless my
                                                                                         words had stung him. I asked him
Tears and a prayer                               2. it was a special gift for            to forgive me, which he readily did,
                                                    the help I had given;                and we prayed together. Then I
Batbayar went silent and mumbled                                                         felt I should ask him if I could have
something about having to see the                3. it had been given by                 some aruul. And believe it or not,
neighbours for a few minutes. When                  his mother.                          although it was still as hard as a rock,
                                                                                         it definitely tasted much less sour...
                                                                                         In situations like this I find the
                                                                                         following saying helpful and
                                                                                         encouraging: “If you never stumble,
                                                                                         you will never learn to walk.” Still,
                                                                                         some of the stumbles are painful!

                                                                                            Prayer pointers:

                                                                                            •   For all our Partners as they
                                                                                                face cultural challenges, and
                                                                                                for wisdom for them as they
                                                                                                adapt to new ways of life.

                                                                                            •   Give thanks for all the ways
                                                                                                they are managing to show
                                                                                                God’s love to others.

12                                                        second quarter 2007

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