Saturday, October 18, 2008

"Eje" and Discrimination

10/ 16/ 08

So here in Kyrgyzstan they have a society based on age. The older you are the more respect you receive. They even have titles for it: “Eje” and “Byekay”. For instance, I call my counterparts Aral Eje and Gulmyra Eje because they are older than me. However, Erin I call Erin, not Erin Eje, because she is around the same age as me. So anyone around your age, or younger, you do not have to give the titles. Those older you do. Sounds easy enough right? Wrong. The weird part is with families and school children, at least it throws me every time. My siblings call me Dawn Eje because I’m older than them and it’s a sign of respect. That’s not too weird for me because it reminds me of “Auntie Dawn” with my nieces and nephew at home. However, the weird part is when I’m at the school and I have 17 year olds calling me Eje or Dawn Eje. It just throws me every time because it makes me think of the older women. I know it’s a sign of respect but it just throws me for a loop every time. I always do a double take whenever a young person calls me that and it’s not family. Oh well, it’s something I’ll quickly get used to and probably end up liking.

So on an entirely different note I want to talk about some discrimination Erin and I received here in country. Oftentimes in other countries Americans will encounter the rich American perspective. (Those of you who have traveled to third world countries, or anywhere in general will know what I’m talking about). Here in country they get tourists from Russia, Kazakhstan, China and Germany. These tourists usually have lots of money and so we constantly hit this attitude. We kindly explain we’re volunteers and are not getting paid and are not the rich Americans. Most people get it, well we had a driver the other day that didn’t get it. We were coming back from the city after meeting with PC doctors for flu shots. The normal price for a ride back is 30 soms. We had been trying to get a ride for about 20 minutes and so when we got a driver finally to stop he said 40 soms. Since we’d been there for a while we agreed to this price. We tried to haggle it further down but he wouldn’t go. We get in the car and proceed back to the village. A few minutes later we stop and pick up another person. We find out she’s also from our village and is in fact the lady that we see whenever we go running (we run right by her house). She gives the driver 20 soms and he accepts that. We then are upset and say that we’re all from the same village and going to the same place and since she’s paying 20 we should only have to pay 20 each. The other passenger (the Kyrgyz village lady) tries to help us and get the price down but it’s to no avail. We explain we’re volunteers and not rich Americans but he won’t go for it and charges us 40 and her 20 just because we’re not native Kyrgyz. Ugh! Even speaking the local language and having her on our side was no use. Talk about frustrating! I told my family later and they were outraged and said that was just wrong, especially since there was another person from the village in the car. Erin and I later thought the driver might not have lowered the price because he didn’t want to have to admit that two non-natives were actually right about the price and did actually know what we were talking about. It’s hard to deal with sometimes but it makes you think about those who are discriminated against in America and why it happens. It’s the first time I’ve ever been discriminated against because of my skin color. It’ll happen again, I know that, but it doesn’t make it any easier. At least now I know how it feels and can better serve those that are too affected by it. So, guys, keep your eyes and ears open and be willing to accept all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like you are doing well Auntie Dawn. I like you new name. Dawn Eje. It is too bad that everyone cannot see the good you are doing there and give you a break. Such is the world here in the US. Cultural Diversity is opening my eyes anew to what you are seeing there.