“Where are you coming from?”
“We just walked in from the mountains.”
“No, where are you from? America?”
“Did you come by foot?”
“No, from the mountains.”
Moments of misunderstanding like this happen all the time. A visiting friend or relative asks “Where are you coming from?” and I stumble over what should be a simple answer, because the grammar of the question leaves its meaning open to interpretation. The “coming from” gets me every time… The person could be asking in a broad sense, looking for an answer like Ohio or Los Angeles, or they could literally be asking where it is that I just left, maybe the school or the ice cream stand. Having been here a month, I feel like I passed the “Oh you’re from America!” stage a long time ago. The way information and rumors pass through this village, it sometimes feels like common knowledge that there are volunteers living at so-and-so’s house or with so-and-so. Since this person probably has heard that there’s an American living with Mayram and Urmat, and I don’t look very Kyrgyz, when someone comes to visit and asks me where I’m coming from, I usually go with my most recent whereabouts. If a person was interested in my home state or cities I’ve lived in, they chuckle and ask again, “No, but really, where are you coming from?” After I answer, they usually redirect their interest to where I was coming from in town anyway.