Monday, July 20, 2009

Back home at last!

Well, I'm finally back home stateside. What an adventure this last few years has been! My mom came to visit during my last weeks in Kyrgyzstan and got to meet a lot of my friends there. We went up to Song Kul in Naryn, an alpine lake where shepherds take their herds to pasture in the summer, and did a little horseback riding and stayed in a yurt! Our hosts with Community Based Tourism made us a delicious fish dinner (see photo below).

And when it was time to head out, having Mom there with me made it a little easier to leave the village. We said teary goodbyes to my Kyrgyz "moms", my counterpart Dinara and my host mother Zauresh, and took the 6 hour taxi ride to the capital. I saw Mom off and had a fun few days hanging out around Bishkek with friends. Then on Wednesday, I flew with two other volunteers until NY and took the last leg home alone. All in all a 30 hour trip that managed to fit into one day thanks to time travel--er, I mean time zones.

So I guess this is the end. It is has been wonderful to be able to share this experience with you all. Thank you for the endless support I've received for my projects and through personal correspondence. What a difference it makes to know that friends at home have got your back through all the challenges and can share in the good times too. I hope to see you and catch up in person soon! And if anyone is thinking about joining Peace Corps, I would strongly recommend it! :)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Habitat ‘09

We just finished up another Habitat work camp and this year went even smoother than last year. Fourteen Peace Corps volunteers from around the country came to my village to help out and we spent the week making cement to cover the interior walls of my neighbors’ house.

We worked hard, ate well, and even got in a little time in the mountains and at the beach. So now I pass the reigns on to my replacement Amber to organize next year’s adventures!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Goodbyes at School

“Last Bell” graduation ceremony at school
(my counterpart and director are in center)

Well, it’s hard to believe, but my time here is running out. School is over for the summer (except for seniors’ exams) and a new volunteer has arrived to replace me. We had a goodbye party with the English teachers at school today. Here you throw your own goodbye party, so I bought white wine instead of vodka and paid the cafeteria crew to make plov, the standard party dish. The teachers and school administration got me some lovely handmade Kyrgyz gifts which I’ll have to show off when I get home.

English teachers

It is so sad to say goodbye knowing this time next month I’ll be on the other side of the world…I promised everyone I’d keep in touch, which will mean tackling the Kyrgyz postal system (I’m eternally grateful to all of you who sent me things!). Hopefully our letters will get through and I can hear about how my counterpart Dinara is doing, what my students are up to, and all the exciting news from the village. My host mom is computer-savvy and has an email account she checks when she goes to the city, so I’ll have to take advantage of that connection too.

And in the meantime, there’s a busy month ahead, with another PCV Habitat camp and my mom coming to visit! Where did the time go?!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Teacher Training

This past Tuesday my counterpart Dinara and I held a teacher training seminar in our renovated classroom. The room looked great with lots of plants and, finally, the new window shades in place! Twelve English teachers from 3 different villages came, which was less than expected, but a nice group. The theme for the day was “student-centered teaching methods” and we covered topics such as lesson planning, incorporating activities and group work into the lesson, and using projects for assessment. Dinara and I took turns presenting along with 3 other volunteers who live nearby: Christa, Cuyler and Patrick. We also had a guest presenter from the US Embassy, the English Language Fellow who has been training teachers in Kyrgyzstan for the last 2 years. 

My friend Jess brought her former teacher who was visiting from the States. She was a PC Volunteer in Sierra Leone and did a short presentation on teaching in Africa. My Kyrgyz teacher Anara from training was kind enough to translate for us to make sure we were all understanding each other. 

We had a delicious lunch of “plov” (fried rice with carrots and mutton chunks) and fresh vegetable salads in the school cafeteria. Then at the end of the day, we gave out certificates signed by our school administration and a short English grammar guide (translated into Kyrgyz) that Dinara and I put together. 

Overall, I think everyone had a fun time and the teachers gave us very positive feedback. Maybe they will have enjoyed it enough to start a tradition of training seminars at our school!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Spring! and Kyrgyz Names

The spring has arrived! We’re getting lots of rain—meaning a few short showers every week—and things are starting to come back to life. The first to flower are the apricot trees, which grace just about every yard with their pink petals. The whole village is out planting their gardens. And those fruits and vegetables can’t grow fast enough! We’ve been eating stockpiled carrots and potatoes all winter. The apples ran out a few months ago and the cellars have been cleaned out of “winter salad” (canned tomato/pepper/pickle combos). It’s time for some fresh produce! Might be another month or so though…

In the meantime, give yourself a Kyrgyz name! Here are some common Kyrgyz name components that you can mix and match to suit your tastes. Depending on how creative you get, you can be guaranteed only a few thousand or so Kyrgyzstanis will share your name with you.

Kyrgyz, English meaning
Ai- (pronounced like the word eye) moon
Akilai- smart
Alma apple
Almaz diamond
Altin- gold
Bakyt, Talai- happiness
Bermet pearl
Bolot he is
Burul turn (given when the parents wish the sex of the baby would change)
El- people
Erken freedom
Esen, Aman safe (these synonyms are often used for twin boys)
Gul- (pronounced like the word ghoul) flower
Jan- soul
Jildiz star
Jirgal fun
Juma- Friday (some babies are named for the days of the week they’re born on)
Kanat wing (in hopes he’ll support his older brothers)
Kiyal dream
Kumush silver
Kushtar birds
Mahabat love
Meder hope
Meerim mercy
Nazik, Naz- feminine, graceful
Nur- ray, beam
Peri- angel, fairy
Tilek- wish
Timur- iron
Tinchtik- peaceful
Tokto- stop (when the parents hope this is the last baby)

Name Endings
-zat thing
-gul flower (feminine ending)
-bek lord (masculine ending)
-lan (masculine ending)
-bubu (traditional feminine ending)
-(n)ara (feminine ending)

examples: Altinbek, Jumagul, Aiperi, Gulnara

Friday, February 27, 2009

Winter Camp!

To help keep students occupied this winter, my friend Lorenzo wrote a grant for a week-long winter camp in a nearby town. We invited 40 kids from the surrounding villages and had a great time playing sports, dancing, learning about important health topics from the Red Crescent (the Muslim Red Cross) and doing other fun camp activities. And now its finally back to school next week!

Dancing with Lorenzo

(sorry the date on the photos is a year off)making instrumentsplaying Red Rover (or in Kyrgyz: Ak Terek, Kok Terek)the volunteer helpers

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Chillin’ Out

Due to electricity shortages, classes have officially been cancelled until March for schools using electric heating across the country. That means I’ve got some serious downtime in the village. And not the fun lets-go-swim-in-the-lake kind, but the cold holed-up-in-my-room kind. Well, lots of time for studying Kyrgyz and tunneling through the massive pile of books I’ve accumulated over the last year and a half.

It’s hard to believe I’ll be heading home at the end of the summer. There seems like so much to do between now and then! Another semester of school, a teacher training seminar, another round of Habitat camps…

Yeah, I’ll start in on it right after I finish this chapter ;)