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!)