On Friday, I officially became a Peace Corps volunteer and moved to Jalal-Abad City, my home for the next two years. The actual moment of swearing in – reciting an oath as told by the U.S. Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan – was somewhat anticlimactic, but tiny gushes of excitement and pride and nervousness hit me throughout the day.
After the ceremony, in which my training village danced our famous Kara Jorgo routine, the volunteers heading south hopped on a bus to the airport. After landing in Osh City, our tiny crew of southern volunteers was split again, with those of us heading to Jalal-Abad Oblast climbing into a sweltering marshrutka with our counterparts. The drive was beautiful; I didn’t expect this part of the country to be so green, and with the windows open, the heat wasn’t so bad. We made a pitstop for et naan (literally, meat bread; actually, a round loaf of bread with bits of meat and onions and fat baked inside; truly, delicious) before once again splitting into two smaller groups. Finally, it was just the three of us who will live in Jalal-Abad City left, though we were together for only a minute before our host families picked us up in the city center. And then, after unpacking my bags and sharing a gift of a miniature figurine of the White House with my family, the surrealness of it all hit: this room, house, family will be my home for two years.
I begin work officially on Monday, though it’s not really “work” per se – it’s the process of becoming integrated into my community, meeting those with whom I’ll be working at the university, continuing to practice my language skills, and learning to navigate my way around this place. I am so fortunate to have been placed here, in a city where Peace Corps has not worked for 5 years and at a university where I can teach and lead projects and open clubs.
My mind is spinning with ideas of what I can do here in the next two years – and I can’t wait to make those thoughts and dreams a reality. Let’s go.
[Photo credits: Ulukbek Adanaev for Peace Corps Kyrgyzstan, yours truly, Nicole Halbert on one Nicole Eng’s iPhone, and moi]