It’s only been two weeks since I arrived in Jalal-Abad, but I’ve already had a few lovely adventures in the villages around the city. This week, I joined two of the students from my English club, Aiturgan and Maripat, to visit Aiturgan’s village about thirty minutes outside of Jalal-Abad. I almost declined the invitation — it was too soon (a day’s notice is not a thing here), it was too hot, I didn’t have a change of clothes. Thank goodness I shoved those thoughts aside, though, because it’s days like this that remind me why I’m here: to make friends, laugh about vocabulary mistakes, share stories about our cultures and homes.
Confusion about marshrutka routes meant a tour of the far-reaches of Jalal-Abad City. Half of the commuters became concerned for my safety and whereabouts, and an old man (his face and eyes made me think Russian, his name made me think Kyrgyz) got off the bus early to walk me to my destination – even though I insisted I knew where I was going.
In the taxi to Aiturgan’s village, a little boy armed with a backpack, forty som, and a cellphone climbed in the middle seat. He immediately fell asleep, with his face cemented to my arm.
Sun showers and a hail storm, which everyone but two chicks survived.
After a massive dinner of plov, plov, and more plov (or should I say, ash, ash, and more ash – it’s what they call it in the south), my stomach was forced to make more room for kymyz, fried fish, and juice. Maybe my stomach wouldn’t have been so flexible if we were just sitting in the house, but we had driven to a yurt park, and so the shyrdak felt on the walls and the loud music playing outside helped.
Falling asleep to the sound of a father and daughter playing komuz together through the window, one lying in bed, the other sitting on the porch.
Enjoying my best sleep since arriving to Jalal-Abad, on a tushuk on the floor. My eyes closed the moment my head hit the pillow, and I awoke hours later to sun through the window and two girls whispering in Kyrgyz next to me.
Walking out to wash my face and finding a cat sleeping in my shoes.
Here’s to two years of many more similar outings, to enjoying the taste of kymyz,to learning the minibus routes in this city, to surprising the taxi driver by speaking Kyrgyz, to my new friendship with Aiturgan and Maripat and many more students to come. The way for these things to happen? Accept the random invitation.