Thursday, September 22, 2011

Missing the Little Things

As my service winds down, its the little things I realize I'm going to miss. For instance, I was in a taxi today and my driver asked me if my father was Kyrgyz. I told him most assuredly no and then the other passengers agreed with him and said my father must be Kyrgyz because I looked slightly Kyrgyz. I told them definitely no and that both my parents are American. However, this experience made me realize that its situations like that which I am going to miss. I doubt if I take a taxi in America I am going to be asked this, or even anything similar. I am not going to see large herds of sheep nonchalantly transversing down our main street while simultaneously swallowing everything in its path. I won't have the various other random encounters that make up my day, such as switching between two languages, negotiating prices, or impromptu parties and events. I will no longer experience the intriguing, and frustrating, aspect of time or have to walk around the various randomly placed piles of dirt along the roads.

Its these little nuances, from the office suddenly losing all pens to the city water being shut off for a ten minute period and randomly being turned back on to having unexpected waves of illness wash over you for a brief period only to randomly disappear. These are the things that cannot ever be fully explained to others. These are the things that enrich our lives and make every day unique and interesting. I know my experience has been better because of them and I am so thankful for them, for without them my experience, my time, would have been vastly different. So what about you? What little things make your life interesting and unique?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Old Goodbyes and New Hellos

Soon, very soon, I will finally finished with my time here in Kyrgyzstan and will move onto something else. What the future may hold, I'm not really sure. I have a lot of ideas and areas that I want to focus on and some more schooling that I'd like to get, but no concrete plans have been made. This is somewhat scary yet exhilarating also. For the first time I have nothing yet to go to and everything open for me. I know that soon my life will change and soon I will be doing something different and just as awesome but for now I'll cherish the openness.

So for now I've begun to try to wrap up my life here in Kyrgyzstan. I recently went and visited my old host family for two weeks and had an awesome time with them. They will truly be missed as they were such an integral part of my life. I also spent time visiting with other important and special people from the village. They all mean a lot me and it was so great to see them all. Now I'm currently finishing up things in Talas and beginning to say good bye to my local friends here.

I know soon my life will involve many new hellos and its those new hellos that will shape the next portion of my life. I don't know where those hellos will come from or from whom but I do know that they will be integral and will continue to mold me even further. These past three years have done that as I noticed with my good byes. I'm now excited to see the hellos.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Different Services, Different Experiences, Different Lives

Attention: this blog post is going to be random, containing many different themes all rolled together.

Recently I began to wonder about my time here in KG. The K 17s have all left and now the 19s are now at site. I have been training my replacement but won't actually leave until October, so its been a little weird being around another American everyday and speaking English so much. However, as she's been asking me questions about my work here during my third year I've begun to wonder more about it. My third year has been so very very different from my first two years. Its like I've had two entirely different experiences. Looking back I'm not sure I've been as impactful, helpful or integrated as I was in the village. I do have more local friends than I did in the village but I also interact more with volunteers than I did before. I don't know if it's living in the city, my work or living alone but at times I'm not really sure how what I'm currently doing here is that much different than it would be in the states. I think part of it is that now at my work I've finally gotten some good projects and work started, just in time for the new vol and just in time for me to leave, so looking back I wonder what did I really do? I've helped my secondary site, yes and definitely impacted my local friends, but it just doesn't feel the same. I don't feel like I've made as significant impact as I had in the village; which in some aspects has been humbling and eye opening. As a volunteer we are not here to be known; we are not here to have the spotlight. Our influence is on a much smaller scale, and usually on the relationship levels, and now more than before I see this and understand it better. Contentment comes in different forms and happens in various ways; so understanding is needed as well as openness and the ability to say, “it's not about me” and to have the foresight to know that we often never see results but they are happening, even if we never know...

Not only has my third year led to different experiences but to a greater understanding of different lives. I'm referring to after PC relationships and how the are maintained or not maintained. During service we often get close to other volunteers and try to stay connected with them after service. But life happens and so friendships change. People stay less connected and sometimes even forgotten. Also non-service friendships change. As the volunteer becomes further removed from the happenings of the US they get forgotten or left behind among their non-PC friends. This is neither good nor bad, but happens as people live different lives and partake in other experiences. It becomes harder and harder to relate and to stay connected. Priorities change, life's general busyness becomes normal and separation happens.

So I know this has been somewhat scattered and not even sure if there's really a point except that life changes and so does everything else. Thoughts?

Saturday, June 4, 2011


Recently I was told by a fellow volunteer that I am a very genuine
person. For me, I felt that was an amazing comment; one of the best
I've received but it also made me wonder- what exactly is genuineness
and how can a person be genuine? Is it a state of mind? Actions? Is it
something that is exuded from someone? Can a person learn it? Can it
be obtained or are they born with it? I don't have any of these
answers but would love to hear thoughts. So far the closest that I've
been able to determine is that genuineness is truth. Its being real
and not presenting yourself in any other way. Showing the world that
hey, this is me, accept me or not. I also think genuineness can be
achieved. I think we all have snippets of it throughout our lives but
don't really ever live in it until we are fully confident and free
with who we are. I'm not sure I was always a genuine person and I know
not everyone I've met would agree that I am but I think its an
underlying aspect for who I am.

I'm not sure its any one thing nor is it always present all the time.
I think it can be shown thought actions, words, deeds and many other
things and oftentimes a genuine act goes unnoticed... which is
probably the point. Anyways, I have no answer to this question but was
glad to have received the compliment non the less.Thoughts?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Separate Experiences

Sometimes I think I've had two completely different experiences here in Kyrgyzstan. For two years I lived in a village on the lake with a host family. I had daily interactions with the people and community. I spoke Kyrgyz everyday and ate Kyrgyz food everyday. I did a lot of guesting and work on a very community based level to combat health problems. Now is completely different. I have my own apartment, cook for myself, live by myself and live in a city. I have less interaction with people and sometimes no interactions with people and I speak much more English than Kyrgyz. I work now on a state level and see less of the community impact than before. So sometimes that makes me wonder...

I sometimes feel that my time here has not been one large accumulation of time (3 years) but two different experiences: village and city. People have asked me which I've liked better and because they are so different I can't even really compare. I think on one hand it’s really interesting in a country this small to have had such varied experiences but on the other why should it be so different. The work is similar so why else? Is it really because one was a city and the other a village or is it something more? Is it the difference of community interaction and integration or something else entirely? I do not think I'll ever truly know. Thoughts?

Monday, February 28, 2011

Escaping Vortexes

In my old village I didn't have too many local friends. I had my host mom, who was more like an older sister then a host mom, work colleagues and my American site mate. It wasn't really until midway through my second year did I really develop a local friend. Around my age. That is mostly due to the kyrgyz vortex. This vortex is very common especially for women. Basically young girls from the age of 16-24 are sucked into marriage, children, and home. Many times their education is forgotten, discarded, or bought. Even if they do work their family comes first. It’s a hard life. They get up early and go to bed late caring for the family, working, running the household, etc. sadly, especially in villages, it is very difficult to escape this vortex. So as a volunteer, and an american, this vortex can be difficult to deal with. It's oftentimes difficult for women volunteers to have local friends because the girls their age are married, planning to be married, have children, have no time to socialize or are forbidden.

Yet I did end up finding a local friend who is married with a child. Her and her husband became good friends and often did a lot with my site and I. So I know it is possible to escape, or live with the vortex. I wondered, though, when I moved from the village to a city if this would change. I was hoping to have more local friends. For two years I only a two and was wanting to have more, at least more around my age. Thankfully that has happened. I have found myself having at least half a dozen local friends that I daily interact with. All of them speak English in some capacity- not all fluently, so often it’s a mix of Kyrgyz and English and all are between 22-28. Two study at the university, two are married with children and one is a full time worker. Yet despite their differences they are all trying to change their lives and work to become better. However, despite our interactions, despite their progressiveness, they too are still being sucked into the vortex. I noticed it recently with the full time worker. She is in her mid twenties (25) and by kyrgyz standards needs to get married now. For me I see a young woman who is actively working to better herself and her country. She is actively engaged with youth and works heavily in the social sector. She doesn't want to get married yet. She is a strong, independent woman that sees a future for herself. Yet, she is continually getting pressure from her family- father in particular- to step into the vortex. He is actively seeking husbands for her and in this culture she can have terrible repercussions if she says no to his choice. Yet she sees no other choice because here the vortex is stronger, its tradition, its life. There's no escaping it. My two friends whom are married had a similar experience. They were pressured around 23/24 to be married and so had to forgo their plans. My university friends see this. They don't want to have to step into it but really don't see another choice. For me this is sad, and difficult at times. I’m 28 and not married. Kyrgyz people don't really understand why we don't view this as a problem in America. They don't understand why it's ok to not be married or be married later, or to have a choice in our marriage, if we so desire. No matter how we try to explain it never truly sets in.

I’m not saying this vortex is completely wrong, nor does every Kyrgyz person believe in it. I know several amazing men and women that do not. They believe in making your own choices and living their own life but they do always admit that this pressure to “enter this vortex” exists. It can never be truly escaped. It is a part of life here, no matter how progressive you yourself may be. On a smaller scale it is still apparent in America too, especially in the south and midwest. Its not just Kyrgyzstan either, it's a worldwide thing. I'm not sure if there really is ever a way to escape it, or if we should. It’s just an observation that I’ve noticed here. I have no straight answers for it because so much affects it. Yet I do think we need to be aware of the vortex. For, no matter where we are, we are in some way affected by it.

Until next time...