Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Not Enough Sunlight Hours in One Day

I have just noticed that over a month has lapsed since my last post – a good sign that I’m keeping busy. My uncle Eric came for a 3 day visit over Thanksgiving weekend, leaving me a bit homesick (I got greedy for the framiliar), but mostly refreshed and inspired! After a rediculously complicated drive to my house, he arrived on a Saturday afternoon and had rallied a neighborhood game of Nerf football in our street an hour later. It was funny because he is fluent in Russian and I only understand Kyrgyz, so all the locals (including my host family) had to address us in separate languages…they all thought this language triangle was pretty amusing. Anyways, we played American football for somewhere around two and a half hours – until the cows came home, literally. We had to step aside as cows flooded the street, mooing and wandering around aimlessly. Then came the wave of sheep and goats, kicking up a cloud of dust that you’de rather not taste, if you can help it. That night we shared gifts and my host mother made pizza and a small batch of the Kyrgyz national bread: Borsok.

Early Sunday, we got up early to start cooking the Butterball turkey that Eric had brought. I’m simply amazed that he got it through customs in that little blue backpack of his; and my family was amazed to find that it wasn’t a live turkey (they had envisioned him arriving with a live turkey under his arm, aha). So, in order to beat the afternoon power outage, we put it in the toaster oven to cook while we went to the bazar in Balikchey to buy supplies for our Thanksgiving feast. Eric got really into the scavanger hunt for food products and we ended up finding ingredients for tuna salad (with a substitute fish), chili, sweet carrots, and mashed potatoes. Plus, he brought stuff for rice krispie bars and hot chocolate…it’s like a mild form of self-torture to even write about this food right now;) So, we invited the other volunteer and her host family, along with some family friends, over for our American style feast and Eric kept everyone engaged with stoies and jokes in Russian and English. Both of our host families showered him with national gifts and our time together went so incredabliy fast. On Monday, he came to school with me, as a Guest Speaker for my English classes. He wore the Kyrgyz Kalpak (a tall whites national hat) to class and everyone got a huge kick out of it. He introduced himself in English and then went back and forth with Russian so that everyone would understand him. They had lots of questions for him and it was encouraging to see my students so engaged. It made me even more anxious for the day when I am able to hold meaningful discussions in Kykgyz…as it currently stands, my Kyrgyz level doesn’t really allow for me to go off on tangents that may very well help engage students. Eric was such a hit that we had one class yelling, “we love you,” as we were walking out the door. Of course, we also met with the school director and other important figures in the village – Eric has such a dynamic personality that everyone enjoys talking with him. We hashed out some project ideas and accomplished a whole lot more than I had thought possible in the span of three days.

After school, we went to Bishkek and met up with my host family’s eldest son (who studies in Bishkek) for an endulgant meal at New York Pizza. It was perfect.

As I understand, the cold weather is harsher back home, but I suppose our winter hardships even out because we don’t have the advantage of central heating systems and unlimited power supplies here. I’m keeping myself busy with organizing a charity holiday party this December and planning a New Year trip to Kiev to visit family for the holiday season. The idea behind the holiday party is to engage my students in a volunteer activity that will benefit members of their own community. I’ve got other volunteers committed to helping out with gifts, food, and a performance and we’ve got all major sectors of our community taking responsibily in the event as well. It’s a bit chaotic, but I have faith that eveyone will pull together and make it happen. While I’m on the topic of projects, in repsonse to requests for University advice from my students, I’ve also been working with my Program Manager and other Peace Corps staff and volunteers on compiling a first-even Higher Educaton resource book for Secondary students in Kyrgyzstan. It’s strange how ideas like this just suddenly present themselves. I suppose I had just never considered how students acquire Univerisy information/decide how to apply to University, until my students pointed out that access to this information is limited (ie. no internet access, not all instutites provide advertisement material, no college fairs). After talking with local Peace Corps staff, I found out that the most common way for students to learn about Univerisy is through relatives that recommend certain Universities or through brief newspaper advertisements that Universities publish in the spring. Therefore, in collaboration with Peace Corps colleagues, we are aiming to gather the necessary info from all Higher Education institutes in Kyrgyzstan by January and then we will compile/organize some sort of resource that can be distributed throughout the country to serve in lue of a college counselor.

It’s true, that when you stay in one place long enough, stuff accumulates: projects, paperwork, to do lists, personal belongings, all of it. I’m loving my time in Kyrgyzstan and even when I have a difficult stretch, I work hard to keep perspective. Challenges are innevitable, even if I was back home. Besides, I think challenge is a healthy part of life…it makes our accomplishments meaningful and forces us to always strive towards personal growth.

I had better be on my way; I’ve got some traveling to do and I want to get home before dark (about 6 at night). Thanks to all who have called me/send letters! I really appreciate it! Don’t even think that my lack of communication means that I don’t care, you all mean the world to me. It’s support from family and friends back home who make my Peace Corps service possible!

Oh, and this entry wouldn’t be complete without a shout of praise for our new President, Obama! I couldn’t be prouder to represent America in Kyrgyzstan! I heard the good news on a Russian radio stations in a taxi…it was memorable;) Then we explained that the work “nigger” is an innappropriate way to address the American president to all of my students the next day – most of them didn’t even know it was a derogatory word, yikes!

In case I don’t write before Christmas, HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

ps, pretty sure the word format I used didn't have spell check, so sorry about that;)