February 24, 2003: Headlines: COS - Kyrgyzstan: Blogs - Kyrgyzstan: Internet: PCVs in the Field - Kyrgyzstan: Personal Web Site: Another Peace Corps Blog - Erika's adventures in Kyrgyzstan

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Kyrgyzstan: Peace Corps Kyrgyzstan : The Peace Corps in Kyrgyzstan: February 24, 2003: Headlines: COS - Kyrgyzstan: Blogs - Kyrgyzstan: Internet: PCVs in the Field - Kyrgyzstan: Personal Web Site: Another Peace Corps Blog - Erika's adventures in Kyrgyzstan

By Admin1 (admin) (pool-151-196-43-253.balt.east.verizon.net - on Sunday, December 26, 2004 - 12:13 pm: Edit Post

Another Peace Corps Blog - Erika's adventures in Kyrgyzstan

Another Peace Corps Blog - Erika's adventures in Kyrgyzstan

I discovered another Peace Corps blog:
Mr. Dutton goes to Mozambique.
He also left for his service in October of 2002. His blog starts earlier, but the Peace Corps adventures start in the October archive page.
recipe for plov
a recipe for Plov!
it's an Uzbek recipe, but I'm guessing it's similar if not the same as the Kyrgyz version.
(Erika mentioned this dish in her email about Kyrgyz culture day.)

19. October, 2002

Hello from Bishkek!
My language cross cultural facilitator took my group to Bishkek today. It was very kind of her to invite us to spend the night in her apartment. It's great to be in a city. What last week felt like major culture shock now feels like a return to civilization, after our first week in the village.

I'm living with a family that consists of a grandmother and grandfather who are about Mom and Dad's age. They have several children and many grandchildren. Four grandchildren live there, and a married son and wife are there on the weekends. The family lives in two houses, but the house where everyone eats is where life happens. I have a room to myself. There is an outhouse, and baths only happen once a week because there is a water "problem" and a fire has to be lit to heat the water. The cooking is done outside in a big stove, or inside in a little oven. There is also a hot plate to boil the water for all the tea we drink. Meals are eaten on the floor. It's very cosy when the stove is lit. Otherwise it's pretty chilly.
There is a cow and a horse- horse drawn carriages are common forms of transport for farmers. There are also ducks, geese, and chickens.
We had our first snowfall this week! But it's all melted away. The mountains are covered with snow now. It's still a shock to look at them.

My mother- i call her "apa" is wonderful! Full of energy. She has big plans for all the cooking, singing, and handiwork I will learn. It's amazing how much communication happens despite the fact that I can't speak any Kyrgyz.

Sometimes the days get long. We spent 4 days this week learning Kyrgyz all day with our LCF. It's difficult because we have learned quite a bit of grammar, but our real communication skills are mostly single words and pointing. Yesterday we met all the other trainees at the hub - Kant City- where we talked about medical issues and started talking about our community projects. We are supposed to identify some community need and then implement a project, kind of as a practice run for when we get to our permanent sites. We are thinking of doing some kind of play or performance, because some of our mothers have told us that since the Soviets left, there have been no plays, so children don't even know what they are.

This brings me to a request. If anyone has any easy songs on hand - in English- like camp songs, it would be great if you could photocopy them and send them to me. If you sent music I could play the tune on my flute first. Everyone wants us to teach them American songs, only we don't know any! Singing is a major form of entertainment. They can't be religious, but that's really the only restriction.

We will also watch some English classes this week, and we'll have to each teach a 15 minute lesson, which will be watched by some of the trainers.

The streets are dirty, with many potholes. Drivers zigzag across the roads. When I walk down the street, children say "hello" and older people stare. The village is pretty quiet.
Every day, class is held in a different home that is hosting a trainee, and we are fed tea breaks and huge lunches. The women are in competition- i know this because everyday my apa asks what the hostmother of the day fed us. Everything is homemade- bread, noodles, dumplings. There are also tomatoes, apples and pears, potatoes, onions, and homemade preserves. It is all delicious.

This was maybe a dry report. Let me know if you want to hear about anything in particular, and let me know how you are. And please, can someone tell me what Bush is doing in Iraq? My hostfather was trying to tell me something about bombs, Iraq, and November. It was very frustrating.

10. October, 2002

Hi Everyone!
Thank you for your recent emails. I'm very glad to hear from you. Thanks also for the phone calls.
Please forgive the extra long, unorganized, mass email. Again, so much has happened, that I don't know where to start. And I have so much to say! The big news is that I received information about my permanent site today. I will be teaching at Chaldovar secondary school, in the Bakai-Ata region, in the village of Bulak. The oblast is Talas. It is in the Northeastern section of the country. Joe Curtain, the country director, tells me this area was part of the silk road. It is not geographically far from Bishkek, but the trip will take 5-6 hours, because there is no road that goes directly there. Because of Soviet road systems, I will have to actually cross in and out of Kazakstan in order to reach Bishkek.
I will quickly tell you what I have in my information packet- the population of the village is 2500 people. Agriculture is the main employer. The city Talas is about an hour away. At my school there are two English teachers. The senior English teacher will be my counterpart- the person I will work closely with. Peace Corps goal is that you pass on your skills to this person, to carry on your work after you leave.
My host family will speak Kyrgyz- I'll be in a Kyrgyz region.
Father, 49:Taalaibek, mother, 50: Gulzada, daughter age 15, son 28, daughter in law 28, two grandchildren, 4 and 6. There is a big and a small house (whatever that means) and I will sleep in the big house! The house is 15 minutes from the school.
It's a big relief to have this information, but there is still a lot to worry about before then. So much will happen during the training period! Tomorrow I will meet my family for the next 3 months. Next week is all language classes. Then we will start our technical training, a practicum which will involve lots of teaching time, and a community project that we will design and implement. It's a lot to think about, so I'm just thinking a few days ahead for now.
We've had some instances of cultural insensitivity or misunderstanding in our training group, which we are all talking about. It is very interesting to have Peace Corps staff who are both Americans and Kyrgyz.
Yesterday, someone had to go to a hospital, and afterwards a guy who went with him made a big point of explaining just how awful the conditions in hospitals are. It was insensitive, I think, because the Kyrgyz staff were present, and it was somehow condescending or insulting. I wish I could explain this better or in more depth. Afterwards, one of the Kyrgyz staff explained how much better living conditions were during Soviet times. Anyway, it's all very interesting. During training, groups of five will work with "language and cross cultural facilitators," who are Kyrgyz nationals. Mine, Kannekey, is helpful, and I hope to get to know her better. Since we are all still together at the hotel, American group dynamics are the rule, which is getting tiring. I'm looking forward to breaking into smaller groups so that we'll have to adapt a little bit more. I have met some great, interesting people who will be good friends, I think.
Megan is also in the Talas Oblast! It's funny. There are also other volunteers within a half hour, and maybe 6 or 7 in the Talas Oblast.
Tonight there will be a big party, they've rented a restaurant in the hotel for us. Have I told you that cows wander through the hotel yard? Or that a group of Kyrgyz teenagers presented me with a teddy bear, after our group went out with our LCF to practice Kyrgyz?

Tomorrow, everything will change when I meet my family. We will spend the weekend just with our
families, so no other volunteers. This will mean lots of hand gestures and embarassment. :)
An older woman named Susan is teaching many of us to knit. We purchased knitting needles and yarn at a bazaar for 60 som, about 50 cents!
I'm well and excited and grateful and want to succeed.
I haven't sent any letters yet, and we haven't been given any mail yet. They will do that tomorrow. Everyone says not to send anything valuable in the mail.
I will have email access during the training period once a week in Kant. The village where I'll live during this time is Telman.

6. October, 2002
Hello everyone!
Please forgive me this mass email, but I have not had time to write the wonderful long letters I meant to write, and just wanted to let you know that I'm doing fine. So much has happened, I don't know where to start. Chris has my phone number, feel free to call at any time.

Today was Kyrgyz culture day, and there was a gathering in the back of our hotel where there is a park dedicated to the hero of the national epic called "manas." they slaughtered a sheep for us (i watched and didn't faint), and then prepared the national dish plov, which was very delicious. The ambassador and many from the embassy attended. I ate lunch in a yurt with him and his wife! a yurt is the traditional nomadic tent, which they set up for the occasion. the highlight was the kyrgyz national orchestra's performance. the orchestra consists of traditional instruments. it was extremely beautiful. There were also the 3 volunteers who came back after the evacuation, as well as a volunteer who married a Kyrgyz!

This was the first day of "fun," otherwise every day has been filled with language classes and safety, health, and policy orientation. the amount of preparation that the PC has made is amazing. each training site, as well as our future permanent site, has been checked out by the directors as well as medical officers. there are many kyrgyz nationals employed by PC as well. I still don't know what my permanent site will be, but I am in a Kyrgyz language group, so it's more likely that I'll be more towards the south, and more likely that I'll not be in a city.
I'll find out my site location next week.

On Wednesday we'll be moving to our villages for the training period. 5 PCVs (Peace corps volunteers) will live in each village around the central town of Kant, (not far from Bishkek) where we will stay with families but spend the day in language training and technical (teacher training) with our teacher. My teacher (actually my language and cross cultural facilitator) is named Kanekey, and she is very nice. She is Kyrgyz. I hope to get to know her better.
They plan on giving us 136 hours of language training.

I'm looking forward to moving out of the hotel. there are signs that this is a former soviet country everywhere, even at the hotel. but all of this is very interesting. yesterday we went for a walk, through some run-down housing developments and up through some hills. though we are on the edge of the city of Bishkek, we saw lots of livestock being brought down from the upper pastures for the night.
From the hotel, we can see beautiful snow-capped mountains, as well as ugly soviet skyscrapers.
We eat all our meals in the hotel. They have been tasty, though heavy on meat.
I like the group of volunteers, though because we spend so much time together, we are beginning to behave like a large group of Americans in some (negative) ways. So I'm looking forward to the next stage.
It looks like I will have inexpensive access to email for the next several months, maybe once per week? So feel free to say hi. I would love to hear how you are. I miss you all, and hope you are well.
All my love,

When this story was posted in December 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Personal Web Site

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Kyrgyzstan; Blogs - Kyrgyzstan; Internet; PCVs in the Field - Kyrgyzstan



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