Saturday, August 23, 2008

Jalal Abad, here I come!

As the K-16 group only has one opportunity to see each other per week there tends to be unofficial topics of discussion for each week. Last week people talked about culture day. Culture Day is an event sponsored by Peace Corps where each group of trainees reenacts an element of Kyrgyzstani culture. The community that I live in has a large Turkish population so we were asked to demonstrate a Turkish wedding.

Despite the trainee involvement and participation in the event, we actually have very little say in the organization or implementation of this event. This day is dominated by the host mothers. These women orchestrate the performance, prepare the food, find costumes, in fact I did not even dress myself that day, two host mothers did. In addition to all of that they took on the role of cast director, and after much discussion I was nominated to be the bride of our Turkish wedding. I was not consulted prior to this decision but I figured when in Kyrgyzstan….

The day turned out very well, there was music, dancing, singing, and costumes. One of my favorite parts of the day was walking around and seeing my peers dressed in national outfits. I had been decorated in a soft pink dress (with sparkles) and hidden under a veil all day long. I am proud to say that despite the fact that we witnessed a Kyrgyz wedding, a Russian wedding and a Turkish wedding; no goats, sheep, cows or horses were harmed in the making of culture day -- Very unrealistic. I have only attended one Kyrgyz wedding thus far and although I did not see the killing of any animals, I did see some huffs missing a cow to the side of the wedding tent.

With culture day out of the way, there was only one thing on people’s minds this week. Wednesday had been a highly anticipated day; trainees were loosing sleep over it, it was the root of all gossip and it was constantly on my mind. This Wednesday was the day we found out where we were going to spend the next two years of our life, what we would be doing there and who we would be placed with.

Seeing as this is so important to trainees, over the years peace corps has developed a site placement ceremony where each volunteer is called out on to a giant chalk-outlined map of Kyrgyzstan, one at a time, where they are handed a packet with their placement overview and told to stand in the region where they are to live for the next two years. As the trainers slowly called out all 59 volunteers excitement started to buzz and visions of 2009 and 2010 began to form in everyone’s minds. Another piece of the puzzle had been solved.

Just as important as where we are placed, is who we were placed with. Over the past 7 weeks, several friendships have solidified and romances have begun to blossom, so when the Tien Shan mountain range was placed between people, emotions began to rise. As for me, I was not disappointed. I will be working for an NGO in Jalal Abad called Women Leaders of Jalal Abad. On paper it looks great, but I'm hesitant to boast about my placement until I actually see where I'm living and what my NGO is like. Next week all the trainees will be going to their future site, I have a feeling that topic will dominate conversations for the remainder of our time in training.

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