Sunday, August 31, 2008

(Soon to be) Home Sweet Home

Over the last two months my communacative abilities have gone from mute/dumb to the level of a 3 year old. Its been challenging to say the least but I have muddled my way onto marshukas, the public transportation of choice, to bazaars and through meals. I even gave a toast on my host sisters birthday, no verbs were congegated, its was choppy as hell but at the end I got hugs and kisses from the family and an A for effort!

But due to this lack of communication I have been completely out of touch with national and international news. I had received clips of information here and there but no full stories on the world outside of my small town in Kyrgyzstan. Despite this lack of news I wanted to touch on two events that many friends and family have been concerned about; a plane crash in Kyrgyzstan and the war in Georgia. First of all I want everyone to know that I am safe and have not been directly affected by the war. All of Kyrgyzstan is watching this war intently with hopes of a smooth resolution. My heart goes out to everyone who has been affected by this war.

Second, there was a Kyrgyz plane that crashed at the main international airport in Bishkek. Unfortunatly several lives were lost, but the damage has been cleared and business is as usual at Manas Airport. This last Friday I flew out of the airport to explore my permanent site. The airport was just as I remembered it two months ago as we all scurried off the plane upon our middle-of-the-night arrival in Kyrgyzstan.

I am currently here in Jala abad where I am exploring the city, getting to know my next host family and introducing myself at my future NGO. So far I have found this town to be a beautiful little city. I am in the south of the country and so I will be warmer than majority of the volunteers through out the country, also Jala abad is located right on the edge of the Fargana Valley so the fruits and vegetables will be bountiful. Within the city itself there are two large universities and a major bazaar where I will be able to find whatever I need during my time in Kyrgyzstan. In addition to all this there are three internet cafes which is really exciting because I will have more access to the news and my email!!! As for the local population, there is a large Uzbek and Kyrgyz population, but significantly less Russians than there are in the northern part of the country. The people have been very hospitable and as I walk in and out of shops and through the bazaars I am finding people who are more than happy to help me in English.

As for my living quarters, I am living in a very nice compound where my host family grows grapes, apples, tomatos and walnuts. I have a bedroom where I have two beds, a wardrobe and a small table to work off of. The family that I am living with has been very hospitable and although the language barrier is difficult I am begining to see it as an opportunity to improve my russian and pick up some Kyrgyz.

Today is the first day of Ramadan and the first day of school, as a result the country has taken today as a bit of a holiday. This has been really nice for me as I have taken the day to stroll around the city with a couple who are begining their retirement by serving in the Peace Corps. As we walked around the city we saw all the boys and girls dressed in their best suits and dresses with flowers for their teachers. Ginger, the wife of the couple, is assigned to work at one of the local universities so when she met up with Fritz (her husband) and I she was carrying a bouquet of roses that one of her freshman students had given her!

Tomorrow I will be meeting with my NGO whose primary goal is to work with and promote Women's leadership within the Jala abad region. They have had volunteers previously and have done a lot of work with other volunteers in the region so I am pretty excited about working with this group!!!

Before I sign off I wanted to end with a quick note back to America; from what I have read and heard from my parents, there is a nasty hurricane headed right towards New Orleans. For all those people in that area, please know that you are in my thoughts. I hope you come back to dry homes, strong levees and the same sense of pride I know you all have down their in Louisianna.

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