Six days a week, I spend most of the day in language class. Outside of class, I’m spending a good amount of time with other trainees – we play volleyball games behind the village school, eat ice cream, wander around. Otherwise, I am at home, where I sit and chat with my sisters or host parents and eat mountains of bread, candy, and Kyrgyz food.
I am living in a village called International (also known as First of May) with 11 other trainees. It’s a pretty small village; I think just a couple thousand people live here, at most. International is a hop, skip, and a jump (or a taxi and bus ride) away from the village where all 60 trainees meet a few times a week for seminars and training, and it’s probably an hour or so out from Bishkek.
All kinds of people shape my daily life in Kyrgyzstan. I live with an amazing host family — my apa (host mom) Mairam is 32 years old and works as a cook just outside the village. I’m not 100% sure what my ata (host dad) Urmat does, but I do know that it involves working with animals and driving around truckloads of grass. He’s 37, but looks 26. They have four kids: Albina is 12, Almas is 10, Samira is 8, and Nurai is 3. My singdiler (little sisters) and ini (little brother) have all been really patient with me, and in exchange, I let them play Mahjong on my tablet.
There are two language groups living in International. They are each led by “Language and Cultural Facilitators” (LCFs in Peace Corps parlance); Asel Eje is my LCF, but she has been working with Peace Corps in other ways for three years now. She comes from Naryn, an eastern region of the country, and has a mean volleyball spike. I spend the majority of my day with Asel and the five other trainees in my class; we have a good time, cramming Kyrgyz words and grammar into our brains as quickly as possible.
International might be far away from the training site, but we’ve got an amazing perk that the other villages don’t have: all 12 trainees and the LCFs come together for lunch every day at a different host family’s house. We have an hour to chat, share funny stories, and eat delicious feasts – I would go crazy without this daily contact and communication in English, and I think it gives our group an extra sense of closeness.
International is my home until June 19, when I (hopefully) swear in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer and move to the village where I will serve for 2 years. When I look at a calendar, this date doesn’t seem so far away – but given the strange time-warp that comes with living without internet in a Kyrgyz village, the month I have in International feels like a year.
“A picture’s worth a thousand words” is cliché for a reason:
[JK I don’t have enough internet to upload a picture]
If you couldn’t tell from the other posts, hint: I love it here. It feels so normal to be in this village, avoiding cow poop splatters and rogue cars. It’s been a very smooth adjustment, and though some moments might be frustrating or kind of freaky, 27 months here feels very doable.