Tuesday was one of those terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days that sneak up on a lady every once in a while. I woke up late, I’m stuck with a cough that won’t leave me alone, my little house is freezing, the streets are covered in an inch of ice that threatens my life every time I step outside, etc. etc. After dragging myself through a few lectures – the last of the semester – and getting home, all I wanted to do was wallow under a pile of blankets with the space heater blowing on my face and sleep Tuesday away. My 9-year old host brother Salman banged on my door and ruined that dream with an invitation to a cafe with the family for a “pre-Holiday dinner.” Crawling out of bed turned out to be the best decision of the day, no matter how appealing another episode of Sherlock seemed.
I could barely believe it when we rolled up to Club Mix, famous among Jalal-Abad volunteers as a den of debauchery. Eight of us fell out of the car, made to seat 5, and we made our way into a private dining room. 17-year old Nurbolot couldn’t get the karaoke program working fast enough; my host mom Nazgul, who, as it turns out, has a beautiful voice, was really excited to jam. My host dad Kubanych, whose voice doesn’t exactly rival his wife’s, was also enthusiastic to sing a Kyrgyz tune or two. The teenage boys looked up from their phones after a while, and they also got in on the karaoke fun (I tried to forget all the Russian I know while my 17-year old host brother and host dad sang a song called “Naked”).
No karaoke session is complete without a rendition of Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On. Anyone who knew me in the late 90s was statistically forced to listen to me sing this song at least once a day (thanks/sorry, again, GGP). Anyone who knows me today has statistically heard me sing it, as well, for what it’s worth. Even with a sore throat and needing to stop between verses to cough, I managed to hold my own with Nazgul on this song, a Stevie Wonder classic, and some catchy Soviet tunes I had heard before.
After a few rounds of sushi (yes, we have sushi in the world’s most landlocked country; no, I prefer not to think about where the fish comes from) and steak, the family packed back into the car to admire the New Years decorations downtown. Don’t be fooled…that may look like a Christmas tree and Santa Claus, but ask any Kyrgyz person, and they’ll tell you that it’s actually a New Years tree and Ayaz Ata/Ded Moroz (Old Man Frost). Semantics aside, I had a lovely time wandering around the square with my host siblings – watching the younger boys throw darts at balloons, taking in all the lights, and posing for a pic with Santa/Ded Moroz.
To finish off the night, I posed for a pic with my host family. These people are usually my “day makers,” whether it be a warm and enlightening conversation with Nazgul, cracking a joke with Kubanych, playing silly games with the younger boys, bonding over pop music with the older boys, or just spending 30 seconds looking at Aliya – I love my host family to death, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to live with and learn from them.
Силер баарыңарга чоң рахмат – жаңы жылдар менен ❤