Tuesday, December 29, 2009
However I realized that I've already begun to experience serious culture shock. i about flipped out when I saw an IKEA on the side of the road and almost ran out the 7 floor mall that was filled with 5 floors of clothes, it had way too many people for me. But I think the biggest shock has been language so far. The people at the hostel speak English well and my Russian is not great, which I know, but I'm able to do basic stuff mostly. However, today that was quickly exhausted and ironically, instead of replying in English, which you would think would be natural, no I'm replying in Kyrgyz! Why! So not only are people looking at me because my Russian is broken and bad but I'm throwing out these non-English words to then suddenly replying once again in English... it's like I'm possessed or have ADD. Poor people. It's interesting and strange.
Tonight, I've turned in early because I've been up for a long time and so am staying in.The next two nights I'll be out and I begin bright and early tomorrow morning. Wish me luck! Russia is what I expected and not. It's definitely first world which has shocked me and pleased me at various times. Oh all of you worried about me being cold, don't be. I'm actually hot because I'm so used to trying to stay warm in Kyrgyzstan. I get funny looks about why I'm not wearing socks! More to come from the Russian federation.
Monday, December 28, 2009
I've had several of this recently. I was on my way in a marshuka (a mini bus, which have by the way caused me to acquire motion sickness, something I never had before) and we were driving incredibly fast around the mountains. I was watching the entire time and not once did I get scared or worried that we could die. Only last year this sort of thing would have made me jumpy. But no, there I was looking at the speeding ravines, cliff drops and vaguely following a conversation some locals were having in Kyrgyz behind me. I then suddenly realized," Wow, this is surreal." Sadly I don't even do justice to what I'm trying to say because it's like living two lives yet one at the same time and not totally understanding or recognzing what one life is doing.
I've had many moments like this during my time and know several more will come, like going out at 9pm to cut down a "christmas tree" with a fellow volunteer, or starting to speak Kurgusha (a mix of Kyrgyz and Russians, which locals do all the time) or even calling it "the Kyrgyz and "the Russian" which is also done by locals. Finally, realizing that today I only wore two shirts and a sweater, plus my fleece was good... that meant it was a warm day! Those all add up to surreal moments for me.
I hope this has made some sense, if not sorry; I tried. Look out for surrealism in your life and grasp it when you can...
This year was different, the second year of a PCV always is. I understood the traditions and cutstoms of the people and understood their language and suddenly I saw a new tradition developing. Last year and this year on the 25th the school help their class wide New Years class party. Each class from 1st- 11th form is responsible with participating and doing a concert. Last year i went but didn't really understand what was happening, especially with the older classes in the evening. This year it was so much better. I understood the skits (mostly), the dances, songs and prizes. I even was part of the jury panel for the older kids (I got to say which class did best in the different categories). After it was all over I went back home any my host mom had made my favorite Kyrgyz dish, lagmann for me. It was then that I gave them their gifts, and they said they were great rememberance ones. So for me, my christmases have definitely been memorable and so I'm a little sad that I won't have this new tradition next year. Oh well... maybe we can recreate another one.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
“Your Kyrgyz is very good.” “You understand very well but they won’t understand you.” “You don’t speak with an accent.”
These are all expressions that I’ve received recently regarding my language and they’ve come from different sets of people. So sometimes I wonder why it is that people I don’t interact with on a daily basis understand me really well and those that I do interact with daily don’t. Language is such a vital part to any volunteer’s life and yet it can also be a source of worry and strife. It can be extremely frustrating when you can’t really explain yourself, or there is a lack of words to truly describe what you want to say- such is the case with Kyrgyz. Yet, locals don’t really understand it and so they often get more frustrated when you can’t clearly communicate; it, at times, is a very vicious circle.
Yet, for me, it seems that my Kyrgyz is really good, from what I’ve been told, but yet don’t understand why certain people have such a hard time with me. Maybe it’s the accent, maybe my sentence structure, who knows, but it’s interesting. I can communicate effectively most of the time and even discuss health terms usually. So I feel good about my language and where it’s at. This is why I’ve started the hard task of learning Russian, which is so incredibly hard. But, I’ve set a goal that I want to reach when I COS so hopefully I’ll make it. After my time here I’ve learned really how important language can be and how much it can help with life. We are made to communicate and we all have different forms. So understanding that form only enhances life. Language is life.
I recently did another round of Kyrgyz Ait, where I go to various houses around the village and have at least one cup of tea and some food. This is done twice a year after the end of Ramadan (for one month Muslims fast from sun up to sun down). I had only participated one other time in Ait, and that was with my family. So this time I decided to do it on my own so that I could leave when I wanted and decided the number of homes I’d visit. So I decided I’d do my work circuit… visit the 8 VHC homes and call it quits…
12 houses later I’m finally finished with a fully belly, drunken lots of china and eaten lots of bread. It wasn’t as bad as I anticipated because I knew the homes and people that I visited and as I went along I ended doing it with work people so I didn’t have to deal with formalities as much and they were just as anxious to be done as I was.
So all in all, Ait is not the greatest because it quadruples my tea intake for the day but it was nice this year to better understand what was occurring and to feel like I actually had a place. I didn’t plan on the 12 houses but it was still nice to visit.