Sunday, December 28, 2008

My Christmas

My first Christmas in Kyrgyzstan consisted of going to my brother and sister’s new year’s party in the morning at the school then at night I went back to see the older students do their performances. In the afternoon I did some work and helped clean the roof of the house with my siblings. Later I explained what a candy cane was and why we use it on Christmas. The night before I opened gifts from America and gave gifts to my host family. As Erin said,” It’s been an interesting Christmas.” No formal recognition, nothing to really mark that it’s a holiday for us. We worked and treated it like any other day, because that’s really what it was. All in all it made for an interesting day and one that made me think of really what is Christmas. How was your Christmas? Anything exciting for you? Sorry this is short. I hope to send a longer blog and one with pictures in January. Until later… Jakshi Jangly Jill!!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Where Is Santa Claus


I looked at the calendar yesterday and was shocked to see that it’s less than two weeks before Christmas. I’ve been so busy working on our Christmas party and on other work projects that I didn’t even realize it. However, I think it’s more than just work that caused me not to realize it is the holiday season… it’s the lack of holiday reminders.

In the states during this time of the year there’s Christmas everywhere. In music, television, stores, everywhere. That isn’t the case here. There’s no constant commercialism. We don’t have stores here so there’s no Christmas reminders. No singing Santa Clauses, no malls with children lined up for hours waiting to get a picture with Santa. No constant run of Christmas music or Christmas trees, ornaments or children screaming for presents. It’s a different time of year.

It’s weird in the sense it’s like Christmas doesn’t exist here. I will celebrate it with my host family here and with the other volunteer, but like many other countries the new year celebration is their big holiday. They take a two weeks off and celebrate it. They go all out with patties and guesting and food. It’ll be the first time for me to have a big new year celebration. It’ll be interesting to experience it.

Many Answers


So many of you have emailed me with questions about my life here so I decided instead of answering them all individually I would answer them in a Blog because I think others might find it interesting. So I hope you all enjoy them.

1. Where does the garbage here go?
Well we don’t have dumps in most places, although in the larger cities they do have trash cans. In terms of an actual dump though like the ones that exist in the states we don’t have them here. Most of the time people burn their trash (which includes plastic, glass and everything else- which is also very harmful for the environment) or other times they just throw it away wherever they are and it’ll decompose or just lie there. There really isn’t trash collection here. It is a project we are working on here in my village though, so maybe one place will have it.

2. Are American holidays celebrated here?
No for the most part. 99% of Kyrgyz people will not celebrate the American holidays. Those that do are either Russians (and they may celebrate Christmas) or are host families of Volunteers. My family celebrates some of the American holidays (like Thanksgiving, Christmas) but for the most part they are not celebrated. One of our peace corps goals is to educate them about American culture and holidays are a great way to do that. So we always try to tell them about a holiday even if its not celebrated.

3. Do they believe in Santa Claus?
Yes. Interestingly Santa Claus is very big here and partly because scientists determined last year that for Santa Claus to supposedly be able to reach every house on Christmas Eve he would leave from Kyrgyzstan because it’s the middle of the world and would allow him access to every place. So next year has actually been declared to be the year of Santa Claus. They do not however have him out at stores and kids do not go and sit on his lap. They know he brings presents and wears a big red coat.

4. Do I cook?
Not really. I have begun to do more food preparation lately, usually around lunch, because my mom is not home then and I’m tired of just eating bread and chia. So I’ll usually make Raman then and have lately been making oatmeal in the mornings but dinners I don’t really make. Although they enjoy eating American food and so I will usually make that food with them whenever I’m inclined to make it. For the most part, though, no I do not cook.

5. How much time do I spend with my family?
That varies on the day and when I get home from work but mostly I spend about two hours every evening with them. On the weekends usually more and I’m always seeing them around and they’ll come into my room and hang out and talk, watch a movie, or whatever. I try, though, to spend at least two hours every day with them.

6. How do I wash clothes in winter?
Well winter hasn’t yet actually hit so I’m still washing them outside but twice because of rain I’ve washed them inside. I live in the big house and there is another room in that house that is a former kitchen and so I was the cloths in there. I put down a plastic tablecloth and put the buckets on there and wash my clothes. It’s actually not too bad.. What stinks is then hanging them up outside to dry because that is where it’s cold.

7. Can I shower every day?
No. Here in the village we don’t have showers. We have a banya that is fired up once a week or once every two weeks. A banya is a small house type place that has three rooms. You walk into the first room and it’s the colder room. In there you take off your clothes and walk into the steam room. In there you clean yourself by filling up with hot and cold water. There’s another room where you can sit in and relax if you want but I never do. Most Kyrgyz people are n the banya for hours but I’m usually only in there for about 30 minutes because it gets so hot. It’s heated by coal and is really warm and feels great.

That’s all for now. If you have any other questions feel free to ask.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Two Month Look Back


I’ve been at permanent site for a little over two months now. There are many things that I’ve experienced so far and at times it’s hard to believe that I’ve only been here two months. For instance two weeks ago we celebrated Halloween here and had a great time. We had costumes, games, food, music, a movie and even costume judging. It was a great time and well done by the other volunteer, Erin, and her English club. Then the following day, Saturday, we were invited to a neighboring village to partake in a Japanese holiday festival. Again we saw dancing, music was played and games were played, but they were all different and all were infused with a Japanese feel because that village has a Japanese volunteer. Again it was a lot of fun. This weekend we’re celebrating Thanksgiving with our families and Erin’s uncle. Other times I don’t do much on the weekends. It’ll usually consist of cleaning the house and doing laundry, usually watching a movie with the kids and reading.

I’ve noticed a gradual change in the weather, it’s getting colder faster, and how quickly I’ve gotten used to wearing multiple layers at a time. I haven’t yet pulled out my purple marshmallow winter coat and hope I don’t have to. Because of the cold I’m amazed at how quickly hygiene practices changes and how quickly I get used to those practices. Now it’s normal for me to wash my hair only twice a week (three times if I have a special occasion) and to only wash myself fully once a week. Socks aren’t changed daily because it’s too cold to and also because there aren’t enough warm socks for everyday of the week. Hand washing is a novelty and hand sanitizer is my best friend. Outdoor toilets are many times preferred over indoor ones but I have certain outdoor toilets that I’ll only use and will try to wait until I get to those. I’ve quickly gotten used to not having good hair days and dirty glasses and cold water to wash my face and hands in. It’s really amazing how quickly you can get used to things.

Noodles, rice, potatoes and bread are staples of my diet now and there are times when the bread gets to be too much but yet I stuff another piece in my mouth and hope it doesn’t make me fat from all the carbs I eat here. J Chia is quickly another part of my diet that I’ve learned to work around and deal with. It’s their water here and although I drink lots of water I definitely enjoy the chia while it’s cold. However, their dark tea is tasteless and requires too much sugar to make it tasty. So I’ve learned to have flavored tea green tea, or hot water whenever regular tea is served. I’ve also quickly learned what dishes are really good and which women are really good cooks. I enjoy making American dishes with my family, like making brownies from scratch (twice) and from a mix and realizing I like the scratch better. We’ve also made Kool-Aid (that was a big hit), pizza and spaghetti. Tacos have also been made from scratch. I realize I don’t mind not cooking everyday but do enjoy now whenever I do, which before I never enjoyed it. Juice is precious, and expensive, commodity but one that I’m wiling to pay for and I’ve quickly realized how much I miss pork (ham in particular) but have quickly gotten used to other types of meat (in particular sheep).

Three younger siblings have quickly become a part of my everyday routine but yet they still always challenge me and make me laugh, mad and smile at various different times. There are time when the youngest just gets on my nerves with her moods, whining and constant lack of manners or care for other. Yet, she’ll say something, do something to make me laugh and I’ll give her a hug or play an extra half hour. At other times other kids, particularly the younger ones, will get one my nerves with their constant yells of “Hello”. But they always make me smile and are so cute and so eager to just be around the American that I can’t help but let it go. Family customs have gotten used to but at times I am still amazed by them and that is great.

Work has daily challenges as well as ups and downs. The village is the same. Everyday is the same and everyday is different in so many ways. I’ve been here in site for two months and in Kyrgyzstan for about six. Sometimes the lack of power, inconsistent internet, hassle of a bazaar, no work for weeks and language can make me mad at times but for every time I’m down something within this life will get me up and that’s a great feeling; to be in a place where everyday is an adventure and never the same. Imagine what’ll happen in a year. I’m looking forward to it… are you?