I spent this weekend in International, the village where I lived during Peace Corps training last summer. I’ve visited a few times in the past year, but for some reason it was extra surreal to be back – something about crossing the 1 year mark, I think. The village is exploding with color and the kids have grown considerably in a year, and even though I haven’t stayed more than a night since last August, I felt so at home at the kitchen table.
A visit to the village means making the rounds for chai iching (tea drinking) with neighbors and grandparents. It was great to hear the news of the village over tea, fresh bread, candy, homemade jams. Another volunteer’s host mom has a new baby with the fattest cheeks I’ve ever seen; my host aunt bought two baby goats; the heavy rain has been a boon for the gardens but a burden for my host mom’s work at a rock factory.
Kyrgyzstan has a reputation for being a gossipy place: get a haircut in Issyk-Kul and a week later a volunteer halfway across the country in Talas hears from her host mom about “that volunteer who got a haircut.”It was funny to make the rounds at all the different houses and see how gossip spreads… One of the big ticket news items required chai iching at multiple houses to get the full story. A boy who’s been studying abroad in the U.S. for the past year will be home soon. One woman said he wasn’t coming back to Kyrgyzstan at all, but would be going to China to study. One woman said he’d be back in October. I ended my chai iching parade at the boy’s mother’s house; she confirmed that the boy will be back in June and hopes to go back to the U.S. for future study. So, it turned out that almost none of what I had heard at other houses in the village was true – it makes me appreciate that everything’s in the details.