Friday, December 19, 2008

Here come Santa Clause

With less than a week before Christmas, I can finally say that it is starting to feel a lot like Christmas! Jalal Abad had its first snow last night, it was really only a dusting but its always fun to get out of bed in the morning and see the ground covered in snow. In addition to the snow, the whole city is covered in holiday decoration, there are Christmas trees on sale at the bazaar, the grocery store has a giant Santa in the entrance and all the students are wrapping up their classes and getting ready for the exams- just like I was this time last year! Despite the Christmas feel, the Kyrgyz are actually getting ready for New Years.

It’s quite strange, their New Years looks a lot like an American Christmas.
I can’t figure out exactly where this Christmas spirit comes from, but an interesting fact, which I believe contributed to this Christmas spirit, was when some Swedish researchers located the most strategic place where Santa’s North Pole should be; they pinpointed Kyrgyzstan! As would I if I were Kyrgyz, they are quite proud of the fact that if Santa really existed, he would live in the Tien Shan Mountains of Kyrgyzstan. But even with their enthusiasm, this is a predominantly Muslim country so they couldn’t quite fit Christmas onto their calendar and therefore decided to improvise. In Kyrgyzstan, Santa Clause delivers presents on New Year’s Day for all the good little boys and girls of Kyrgyzstan.

But in Osh and Jalal Abad, Santa will be joining us on Christmas day. This Thursday the Osh and Jalal Abad volunteers are all getting together on Christmas day and doing secret Santa. About a month ago we all drew names and decided on a cap of 200 coms (about $5) to spend on our secret santa. In addition to a gift exchange we will be putting together a Christmas dinner. And even though I was not present last weekend, when the volunteers were organizing the menu, I was nominated to make my synthetic sweet potatoes again! This time it will be a lot easier to make the dish because I have finally moved into my apartment!

The move took place this morning, the actual moving was easy but it was hard to leave the family. Because my Russian is not up to par, prior to packing I had a woman write a letter to my host family on my behalf thanking them for their hospitality and kindness. When I gave them this letter my host mother, host sister and the new wife all came to my room sat down and started asking why I was leaving. The one thing that I didn’t want them to do was to take my moving personal but to a certain extent I think it was inevitable since people don’t move away from family in this culture. For example a young woman only leaves her parents home when she gets married, the youngest son must live with his parents and take care of them as they get older. So when I said I wanted to move to an apartment by myself, they were a bit taken aback. Only after lots of reassurance that I loved their family and I would visit often would they accept the fact that I was leaving. In spite of the difficult goodbye, I am really excited to have my own place and the timing is perfect! This apartment is like my Christmas present to myself!

So as I move into my new apartment and slip and slide through the icy streets of Jalal Abad, keep me in your thoughts because this is the first Christmas I will spend away from my family!!! Happy Holidays to everyone!

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