Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Hardest Working Women in the World

July 18th:

So here in Kyrgyzstan my host family has five children total, but only one of them currently lives at home. It’s the youngest daughter and she is twelve years old. However, she is unlike any 12 year that I’ve met. For instance she is 100% capable of running the entire household. She can clean it from top to bottom, fix all meals, wash, iron, sew, etc… all at 12! Now granted she’s had three older sisters around while she was growing up but it’s also a representation of the gender roles found here. This country is considered a patriarchal society which means the male is considered the head of the house. That’s definitely seen here… with the man doing the outside work and the woman doing all the household chores… yet, when one really looks at the family dynamics it’s the woman that runs the house. Therefore, if the mother is not happy then no one is. It’s a very interesting and illuminating site to see. In America we consider it rude if the man doesn’t help and we no longer expect women to do all the house work… here it’s not considered rude and almost considered taboo if the man does try to help. Now that’s not to say the women are only stuck in the house… on the contrary many of them have jobs too, and many of them have really good jobs… doctors, teachers, etc. Yet, they are still expected to come home and care for the kids, prepare meals, do laundry, etc and more, importantly, to pass that knowledge onto their daughters.

The girls here marry young… sometimes as early as 17. I can understand why. There are few resources for them and their entire lives, from a very early age, is one where they are taught how to care for a household.. So why not marry young? It’s a challenging question and one we as volunteers often face about why as 20 something’s, and sometimes older, we are not married and taking care of a household. I’ve never really been exposed to this type of culture before but do know that only until recently (the 20th century) America had similar views. Maybe one day too a similar revolution may happen here. The women seem happy, I am no judge, and my host sister amazes me by how much she is capable of doing, while at the same time I wonder if she misses out on other parts of life.
While she was learning how to sew, cook and clean, I had the chance to try sports, learn new things, and explore new places. So I wonder if she’ll have the same chance and what she’ll think of her life when she gets older. There’s so much more to life and I hope I’m able to show a small part of that.

No matter what happens, she will forever remain amazing to me and all the women here are truly the hardest working women I’ve ever seen. Props to them!

Until next time…

Jakshi Kal!

Things I've done during my first week in Kyrgyzstan:

July 13, 2008

Taken a shower at a Soviet Union hotel and really found out it’s a hose attached to the bathtub faucets that you spray around yourself

Taken two summer showers (water from a large barrel descends over you while you shower in the woods)

Used outhouses: not fun, aim improves; squatting makes your legs go to sleep

Ridden a martshuka and taxi and survived both

Ripped by big red bag… tear tear, sad times

Termed my floor at the hotel the shining because of fallen plaster… large holes and mysterious dark open doors that lead to nowhere

Seen inside a yurt… it’s beautiful

Drunk gallons of tea already

That’s just a few things… I’ll detail more.

Items to send quickly:
- just don’t everyone send me them… please talk to one another… I don’t need tons of them

Pack of cds to burn pictures
Café latte mix
LOST Season 3 (please pack carefully so it doesn’t get lost… its not for me but for the other volunteers)
Taeboo workout DVD (there’s a great beginner’s one on Amazon)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Soviet Hotel…it’s still standing

We arrived at the Soviet Hotel in Bishkek this morning and I can definitely say it’s seen better days. For two nights we will be staying here while we slowly get over jet lag, begin basic health, safety and language training. Also, we’ll meet the in country staff, work with current volunteers and finally (July 9th) we will meet our host family in a fun event called “Matching.” I already know my site for training because it was put onto sheets without staff realizing it. Oops.. It happens… anyway… it should be a good site. Onto the hotel…

So the hotel has beautiful grounds, a fully restored Kyrgyz turk (nomadic tent) and nice large grounds. The scenery here is beautiful… mountains, lakes, trees, etc. It’s all absolutely gorgeous. I saw the sunrise this morning… for the first time in years… granted it comes up much earlier here.

So the hotel…
It has eight floors with various different sizes of rooms. My floor… number 4... Is not in the best shape. It has no carpet in certain areas, plaster out of walls, walls falling down, wires showing and darkened hallways. The rooms are not too bad for what you’re paying. Two small Asian beds, complete with pillow. It has a patio door, no screen, and no air… so we’re all a little warm currently. It has a small tv (it doesn’t work) and a dresser and wardrobe closet. The bathroom has no shower, except for the Asian variety- sitting down in a tub while using a hose. It has a toilet and a budae- but it doesn’t work either. The water leaks continually from the faucet to help keep the pipes from freezing. The room makes me smile and is definitely part of the whole PC experience.

The facilitators here have been great. They have all worked so incredibly hard and continually do so much behind the screens. I met my language teacher today… and was somewhat sad that I am not learning Russian… but there is still hope. In a few days, I will be beginning that intensive portion while learning the other concepts as well. The conference room in the hotel is nice… especially for this area and the food has been great. There is no internet, obviously, but that’s ok. All in all this hotel would have been amazing in its hay day but has slowly fallen to ruin and despair and is a sign of what could have been.

So until the next time… enjoy time in America!

(July 7th)

The Never Ending Plane Ride....

So early this morning we arrived at Manasas International Airport here in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Yay! It only took us two days and over 30 hours to arrive and it was not without headaches. First on the way to the airport we, as group leaders, were in charge of making sure everyone got onto the bus, all luggage was loaded and everyone was accounted for. My group did this with amazing ability but sadly most of the groups had problems, causing us, as leaders, to have to drag people out of bed, find missing leaders and track down lost luggage left in the hotel. However, off we went… an hour later than planned. Then when we had problems checking our bags all the way to Bishkek. They were only wanting to check them through to Istanbul, where we were to change carriers. After much persistence, this could be corrected. Sadly, though, this happened too late for some people and they had to recheck bags once in Istanbul.

Istanbul was our layover and I decided not to go out to the city since I’ve visited once before and saw everything. Therefore, I hung around during our layover (7 hours), studied some language, talked and ate. Then we headed onto the plane to Biskek and away we went. The ride was fine until about 10 minutes out of the airport. We then hit major turbulence. This turbulence reminded me of LOST and at one point I wasn’t sure if I had landed or was going to crash. Thankfully, it’s due to the mountains in the country and so because of the way the air flows off the mountains and not because we were actually going to crash… although I did have my whole island scenario and routine ready. So another five and half hours later we arrived from Istanbul into Bishkek where Peace Corps staff was able to graciously receive us into their knowledgeable arms.

(July 7th)

Friday, July 4, 2008

In transit...

Staging is over... bags are packed... I've suddenly become a group leader (didn't see that one coming) and now I'm heading out, after hopefully one final good night sleep and a hot American shower.... to Kyrgyzstan!!!

So for now... Paka and Kosh Kaling.

I'll talk to you all soon.

Philadelphia Staging Update

Day Two of staging here in Philadelphia is half over. Yay! It's been mostly logistically and basic cross cultural training... nothing too terribly new for me. I think the main reason for staging is to meet the other volunteers and to begin familiarizing ourselves with the Peace Corps. The hotel is nice and probably will be the last hot showers and comfortable bed I see in a long time. I have a very nice roommate named Jessica. She is part of the community development group and is excited about the work. She's also only a year younger than me... so that's nice. There are three married couples in the group and one of the couples is older... probably 50ish. They are awesome and have great insight into most everything. Most of the group is in the 20s or early 30s and have many different backgrounds and experiences. Manly have recently finished undergrad and I think I'm one of the few with a master's in public health.. I haven't yet met another health worker with a master's, so we'll see how that goes. So, therefore, staging has been good so far. We have been given money for meals, although, many restaurants are not currently opened today because of the holiday. Tonight are firworks and so we're all trying to find a place close to the hotel to view them. We don't want to go down to the riverfront because we have to get up early tomorrow. (We check out at 7am- talk about early!).

My trip to staging was very eventful. My trip from St. Louis to Pittsburgh was fine, although we got in a few minutes late and I only had 15 minutes to get off the plane and onto the next one before it's supposed departure. However, I ended up having to wait an hour and half in Pittsburgh because the plane was delayed. I was supposed to arrive at noon for registration and sadly didn't even land until 1:30. Registration was open until 3 and by the time I got my luggage, waited for a shuttle van (which I had to wait 40 mns for) and got changed I was the last one to register... walked in around 2:45pm. So sadly I didn't really have time to relax or get something to eat and was exhausted. But I made it and it all worked out... that's all just part of the Peace Corps experience.

Tomorrow we head off to Kyrgyzstan. We leave the hotel at 7am and depart JFK around 4pm. Then we fly to Istanbul, Turkey, where we have a 10 hour layover. After that it's onto Kyrgyzstan.. yay! We will be in the hotel at the captial, Bishkek, for three days while we undergo some more orientation then finally after those 3 days we'll meet our families and begin PST (Pre-Service Training). So it should be an exciting next few days. I also found out I'm not the only one with a big bag and lots of luggage... there's some people, girls especially, that have lots more.. and many seemed impressed that I was able to really only have one bag... the smaller one can fit inside the bigger one if needed. Also there's a rumor floating around that the airline allows 75 pounds for baggage.. so we'll see how it goes.

It may be a while before I can speak to you all again... I've been told internet access is very limited around training. So until then begin the letters and I'll speak to you all soon.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Off to Kyrgyzstan

Tomorrow I head off to Philadelphia for a few days of Peace Corps training before I go in country. Once in Kyrgyzstan I will have about 12 weeks worth of language, culture, safety and technical training. This training occurs six days a week for about 8 hours a day... talk about exhausting. Plus we're living with a host family, so we're dealing with culture shock, living in a new society and being immediately thrust into a family dynamic. I've been told PST (Pre-Service Training) is the toughest part of the program... I'll let you know.

But before I get there let me share about my last few weeks here in America. They were done visiting family and friends. I saw my father and sister before I left the East Coast. They are all doing well and the visit was nice. I saw the nieces and nephew as well.. which was good since I won't be seeing them for another two years. They're growing and learning and being awesome kids. Soon all three will be bigger than me... ha!

After the east coast visits with family and friends I headed back to the St. Louis area. Back there resides my mother, step-father and one of my best friends. I stayed the weekend with Debbi, the friend, and we went to an animal preservation, to the drive-in and had a general good time. She will definitely be missed. I spend time with Susan, an amazing family friend. We ran errands, got some yarn for a beautiful new scarf and got some new books for my trip. Yay! I always have a nice time with her and once again did.

The week was also spent, off and on, with my mom and her husband. We all had a nice enjoyable time going out to dinner, staying at home, packing, cleaning up the place, organizing, etc. The times were sweet, nice and enjoyable. I know we all had a good time and will treasure the moments.

So all in all... craziness in coming but a nice happy few weeks just occured... all of which will be loved and remembered.