Tuesday, March 31, 2009


On March 21 we celebrated a holiday called Nooruz. It is the Muslim New Year and is considered a big celebration. I was a little apprehensive about this because all the parties I’d been too so far I hadn’t enjoyed. This was because of several reasons. Firstly, they are always at a house of people I don’t know where I sit around for four to five hours with no one to talk to and nothing to do. Then I feel even more stupid because I’m the guest of honor and yet just usually sit there like a bump on a log.

So leading up to this one I didn’t know what to expect except that it was going to be at my family’s house and they had to prepare lots of food. The day before they were up to all hours of the night making the food and I again felt really useless because there wasn’t much for me to do. I couldn’t help with the cooking or preparations. So I pretty much hid in my room. That morning I did help set up the tables and set out the candy, cookies and salads. But there were still lots I couldn’t. So partly to stop feeling useless and to get out before everyone came I went to the local club where they were having a concert. This concert was one of the strangest and yet best concerts that I’ve been to yet. It was very short and done completely by the children of the school and hardly any parents were there It was very Kyrgyz in the lack of people paying attention or being respectful while they were on stage yet is was still good and I did enjoy it.

As I was walking home I was nervous about the upcoming party. I didn’t want to have to sit there for hours and eat the food while the rest of my family did the preparations and everything else. Thankfully it didn’t turn out that way. There weren’t that many people there and so that helped and it was right next to my room which allowed me quick escapes whenever I needed it. Plus I have a computer that plays movies so the kids wanted to watch this Russian cartoon on my computer which was fine. That kept me gong in and out the entire time. Plus since I was in familiar settings I was able to help out more than usual and to show pictures of my family, friends and America, which they love here. The food was good and once it was done I realized I had actually had a good time. Surprise surprise.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Everyone has good days and bad days. When you live overseas this is especially true. You have days when you love everything about the country, people and culture. There are other days when all you want is for them to tell you in English what they are trying to say. There are times when you just want to say something back and just get away for a while. There are times when the brain hurts, times when the body hurts and times when everything hurts. Everyday gives more expectations and disappointments. Some days your work will treat you well and other times horribly. You will be blamed for things because language is an issue or may not be able to defend another volunteer because of cultural restraints. Miscommunication and lack of understanding are constant themes in everyday life and chaos is ever present. Some days the constant baying of the animals at all hours of the day drives you mad, yet can cause great surprises.

For every slump there is a rise. Every new challenge gives new lessons and greater outcomes. Life is not easy; the life of a Peace Corps Volunteer is even harder, yet full of amazing challenges. No two days are the same and each day provides both slumps and triumphs. What must be learned is how to deal with those challenges and not let them fester and torment. That does happen and it’s sad to see. Yet by recognizing what is really there, what is within your control and out of your control will help conquer any slump. Sure physical difficulties are different from mental which are different from emotional but each one can be conquered. Slumps are not easy to overcome and no matter where you reside can shape the course of your life. For us, as volunteers, they can be really devastating and so we learn how to cope and deal. It’s not easy and some days are just bad, no matter what you do. Other days are great and are therefore even more enjoyed. So therefore, consider the day. How will you handle problems, slumps? Just remember there is something good in each day and every slump, every challenge can be overcome… it’s the Peace Corps way!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

It's All About Sheep

Today after work and English lessons with my family I was given the chance to help bring in the sheep from the pasture. Having never lived on a farm I was excited about this opportunity because I could once and for all satisfy my unending curiosity regarding where the sheep actually come from every night. I hear them outside my bedroom during the night but then around 10 in the morning they go away with their other sheep friends to graze “far away”. Since I got to site I’ve been wondering where this “far away” place is; now I had the chance. I thought I’d only have to wait maybe ten minutes and then we’d bring them up our street and into the yard and be done. How totally and completely wrong I was, and how very typical of a Peace Corps experience it truly became- expect the unexpected and be willing to go with the flow.

So thinking I’d only be outside for about 15 minutes at the most I grab my lighter coat and no scarf; I was smart enough to grab my hat otherwise I’d be in a really bad pickle. About one hour later the sheep finally come in from the grazing field. I was shivering and cold and yet when the first batch walked past me with the setting sun and the mountains and lake in the background I couldn’t help but think it really was a beautiful site. Plus for some unexplainable reason I had a funny thought as the sheep walked past me. Here were lines and rows of sheep walking one behind the other patiently waiting to get to their destination and my brain thought of this,” it’s like Kyrgyz traffic, instead of cars like in America it’s herds of sheep.” (You all probably don’t think it’s funny but it makes me smile). What really made me smile was just how smoothly and efficient this process worked. The sheep came, stopped, and waited. Walked when told to and went to the right homes. People came out when they heard the sheep coming, opened their gates and in went the sheep. It was like magic. But the really funny thing was the looks on people’s faces that I got as I was walking with lots of sheep. My family was with me as we were making sure all of our 41 sheep safely returned to the fold. We had sticks and were looking around for our “green circled angle” sheep (the sheep have a green circle painted on their heads- each family does it to distinguish theirs). As I am walking past students that I have, neighbors and coworkers kids I kept seeing one expression, “what is the American doing with the sheep and she looks really funny holding a stick and trying to round up the sheep.” I myself couldn’t help but laugh at what must be a very humorous site.

Finally the sheep arrive at our yard and suddenly it’s realized we have one sheep missing. Uh oh, that’s a bad sign because here sheep are very valuable and can bring much money and goods to a family. So now we have the task of trying to find our lost sheep. (Sounds slightly like a biblical story, right?) We go to our neighbor’s house and nope it’s not there. We continue up and down the various streets for well over an hour. (By now the sun has set, I’m shivering and very cold and still no sheep). The entire family is out looking for this one lost sheep and even though I know it’s valuable I can’t help but think, “just give it up, it’s not use”. We finally do and proceed to the house.

My host dad then informs me that he is sending my host brother back over to the first neighbor’s house to see if they have it. I don’t understand why but my host brother comes back and says that yes they do have it and will bring it over. My host family then proceeds to tell me this neighbor is known to be “crazy” at times and has in the past stolen clothes off my family’s clothes line (why, don’t ask). Apparently because the sheep was a little one (it’s like a Billy goat) he didn’t see it and so didn’t know he had it. If that’s the real story I don’t know but it happens both here and in the States as well.

All I can say is it’s all about sheep. They help with livelihoods and are very precious to the people. They provide for adventures and gave me one that I was not expecting. Hopefully next time it won’t be such an ordeal (I think I’m supposed to go and get them tomorrow, yikes!)