Homestretch – I’ve made it through my last Kyrgyz winter and it’s already time to start making plans for when I go back home this fall. Then again, I may be getting ahead of myself. While I may be looking forward to warm showers, English TV channels, colorful food, and a social life that begins (rather than ends) at 9 at night, I’m going to miss the spontaneity of life in Kyrgyzstan. In fact, sometimes I feel like the fate of my entire service was to inspire a top-notch comedy routine…and I’m not disappointed by this in the least. We could all benefit from a bit more humor in our lives. When I’m lucky I’m granted the chance to play spectator; but when I’m participating it’s the clarity of a moment of separation that brings out the richest humor. To better articulate this feeling, I’ll break it down into a couple recent anecdotes:
Earlier this week I had the strangest dream. It was around 7 A.M. and I was leisurely coming out of a good night’s sleep. Then, I remember a sudden shift in my dream – a guy with a fro of curly black hair invaded the scene and I couldn’t stop staring at him. Actually, I was probably sneering at him because he was sticking out his tongue and making a rude “Baaaing” sound. Eventually I woke up because it was so disturbing. Just as I began to shake off a lingering feeling of irritation and thought to open my eyes, I heard the “Baaaing” sound again. In real life, I recognized the call of my bunk buddy – I share a clay bedroom wall with 15 sheep. I guess she was crying for her newborn, who my host family had kept warm near the earthen stove that night. What should you do when farm animals start invading your dreams?
Men’s day was February 23rd. It’s comparable to Father’s Day, except it warrants a day of pre-emptive celebrations, a day of official celebrations, and a lazy day of “recuperation.” Come to think of it, most Kyrgyz holidays follow this three stage festivities pattern. Anyways, I dutifully attended our school’s staff party the first day and found myself strategically avoiding eye contact with all uninhibited (the brand that comes with red cheeks and a thick tongue) male dancers during the “disco tech” in the cafeteria at two in the afternoon . The next day I went to school expecting some sort of student competition/celebration. I blended into the crowd for about a minute before a teacher called me forward as a guest judge. Funny thing is, I was to judge two competing student army troops, as if I were familiar with Kyrgyz military standards in marching, uniform, and standards of strength. So, I did my best to stifle the constant urge to laugh - temptation intensified by the seriousness of everyone around me - and made sure that my average scores didn’t draw any attention to myself. For round two, we moved from the playground to the activity room, where some of my favorite competitions took place. Before the potato peeling event we were instructed to judge three criteria: the thinness of the peel, the number of whole potatoes peeled, and the cleanliness of all peeled potatoes. There was also trivia, acting, and button sewing. I decided that I’m a fan of Men’s Day.
Women’s Day is March 8th….I’m overtaken with the simultaneous desire to seek out all the action the instinctual call to hole up in my room. My curiosity boasts the stronger track record.