Knocks on the Door

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It is 2:00 in the morning. Lots of knocks and lots of Mongolian cursing. Exit from bed but this time we check through the spyglass. There is one very drunk man looking for his apartment. Open the door very quickly and declare he is at the wrong apartment. Shocked look – sobering even? – and he staggers off. Not so sobering: 20 minutes later he is back again, still at the wrong door. Decide to ignore the knocking!

It is 2:00 in the afternoon. A lady with a spraying unit pushes an ‘official letter’ and her ID forward. Come to spray against ‘roaches’. Last time it was guys spraying against H1N1. We march her down to our ‘Dejur’ (Janitor)to get ‘clearance’. The ‘Dejur’ knows nothing of spraying today and the lady changes her story to one of a private service since the local authorities do such a poor job. We gently explain that the last private service was arrested for stealing from apartments while spraying and no one has seen them since (the police are scary as they get their man 100% of the time). The lady runs off – we wonder why.

It is 2:00 in the afternoon. Knock at the door. Three people in police uniforms ask to come in and to be allowed to let their colleague down from our window to the floor below. One of them lives there and has forgotten his keys. My wife is on the ball. Identification please – we’ll just scan it in case you are robbers. Actually we’ll take your pictures as well – stand still and look this way. And when you get to the apartment below you must let us in and show us some of your belongings as proof. They take a silk cord belt of about six metres in length (usually used around the waist of traditional Mongolian dress and never considered to be strong). The one without his key is tied to the belt and the other two lower him down from the fourth floor to the third floor. They are hanging on to the last 30 centimetres of belt as he makes it down. They let us in (via the door) and we look at family and graduation photos and have a good laugh together!

It is 2:00 in the afternoon. We’ve come to spray against ‘roaches’. We recognise the lady from the local Social Welfare office. We explain that they cannot do their normal spraying as we would have to charge them if they damaged our products or computer equipment – spraying is usually indiscriminate as in most apartments in the area there is not much to damage anyway. They agree to spray across all the doorsills gently. All goes well but white blobs remain that don’t wash off too easily!

It is 2:00 in the afternoon. The first guy asks me to open the meter box outside our apartment so he can do maintenance. I cannot be doing with the hassle so direct him to our neighbour’s door who shares the meter box with us. Another knock. The neighbour is not in so I suggest it is difficult to find a key and they should come back later when maintenance is usually done – about 11:00 in the evening. Two minutes later I hear major banging. The two guys are trying to rip open the meter box. I grab one and communicate that he should bend back into shape the lock protector he has damaged. Holding firmly by the collar seems to get the message across. He cannot do it and asks his mate to help. It is done and they both run off as I encourage them down the flight of stairs. Later the ‘Dejur’ says there was no scheduled maintenance and the guys were stealing meters – anyway, I should know maintenance only happens late evening!

It is 11:00 in the evening – early evening for Mongolians, pretty much night for us – and there is a knock on the door. Exit from bed and discover the ‘Dejur’ at the door. It’s the 24th of the month and time for the meters to be read which are deep inside our walk-in cupboard. She would come at 2:00 in the afternoon but to be honest Mongolians are either working or sleeping at that time, preparing for evening activities – like maintenance!

As Christians we are called to be alert and ready for our Lord’s return. Tongue in cheek – in Mongolia 2:00 in the afternoon is the most unexpected time for most folk and 11:00 in the evening will see everyone alert and ready! No thieves in the night here – they all use daylight hours.

-B. M.