The holiday season began when I declared December 20th “Christmas in Kyrgyzstan.” My host father, who currently lives and works in another village to supplement the family income, came back to visit, so we decided to have our holiday feast early. Since my host family is Muslim, they celebrate the New Year, rather than Christmas....but the similarities are charming. The Kyrgyz New Year features a Santa Clause figure and his wife, who also happen to distribute gifts and hang around a christmas tree. Also, the bazar transforms into a tinstle wonderland, with a confusing/amusing mix of Batman costumes and citrus fruits - more on this latter. The anticipation of a gentle snow, combined with marathons of “Adin Doma” (Alone Home in Russian), helped keep the holiday spirit alive, something I was pretty worried about my first year away. The fact that our entire last week of school was centered around competitive New Year celebrations, over Christmas week, blurred any differences between our holiday calendars even more.
A quick note on my actual 2008 Christmas experience: a baby sheep was born Christmas Eve and my host family brought it into their house to sleep by the coal heater the first few nights. It cried all night long, but the timing was special (for lack of a better word). For some reason, I spent a half hour explaining the concept of a manager and the three wise men and my host brother and he named it “Christmas.” Bada-bing...and the next day we have a baby “Mary” as well. That night, mentally preparing for my trip to the outhouse, my sister came into the corridor and asked me, “Miss Erin, are you going to tiolet?” I nodded my head and she handed me my Christmas gift - an old notebook, aka substitute T.P.
Now, back to the New Year extravaganza at my school. Lessons technically ran through the last day of the semester, but our entire last week was trumped by New Year concerts in the activity room. The first day was for elementery forms. When I stuck my head in, all the little boys were dressed as Zorro, Batman or Spiderman and all the girls looked like they were competing in a little girls’ beauty pageant (but nothing as extreme as what you see on American documentaries about mom agents going nuts). They were reciting, singing, dancing and acting. The next day was for middle schoolers and the last day was reserved for 9-11th form, where the title of “best New Year performance” was taken very seriously.
As things often happen, I was publically nominated as a substitute judge for the last New Year party. I was invited to the judges’ table and told to gives scores for all 6 categories of the competition. I’m still not entirely sure, but I think I critiqued each class on a pantomime, dance, song, presentation, and a couple other categories. I kept my total scores pretty even, becuase I didn’t really feel qualified to influence the end result. However, I was given a five minute warning, that I was going to have to take the mic and say a little something on why I scored the way I did. Yikes. My counterpart helped translate my brief “I’m not going to say what was good and what was bad becuase everyone is talanted” speech, but when our senior class lost to the 10th form, some serious tears were shed.
I’m going to try and write more within the week, but now I’ve got to go. I’ve got a whole store of short stories and would also like to spend some time on reflection...and now that school is closed until March, I really have no excuse not to share more. Thanks for all the support from home! I love and miss you all!