30 August 2012

Summer in the K - 2012

Oh shit, school starts tomorrow! That means only one thing: summer is at an end. And what a second summer in country it has been. A few months (read: ages) ago, I posted that I had hoped because of how busy my summer was that it would go by quickly. That was a severe understatement. I don’t even remember ¾ of it! And I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

And since you read this blog ‘cause you like knowing what’s going on in my life, here’s a play by play (it’ll probably be a long one, so buckle in with that popcorn and Diet Coke and get ready!) of My Kyrgyz Summer 2012!

-       Mom & Tif: First visit of my service! :) Did not disappoint. Well, how can you when two of my favourite ladies on the planet trek their way to the other side of the world (literally) just to hang out with me for ten days?! Stayed in Bishkek for a few days, did my vil for a few days (unfortunately my host family was pretty much all in Taraz for medical reasons so they couldn’t meet), and then headed out to the lake for the rest of their trip. Not bad – three oblasts in ten days, missing only Naryn? Bam! Both of them were huge champs when it came to outhouses, Kyrgyz food and apartments, and Kyrgyz guest houses (before we relocated). Was surprised at how unphased they were; guess I was expecting them to think it was the hardest, craziest experience ever. Guess that’s what I get for having two outdoorsy and wilderness girls come to the K. Also didn’t realize how exhausting and sometimes frustrating it would be to be a constant tour guide and translator! By the end I was like ‘You know enough Kyrgyz, give this taxi driver your basics and I’ll answer the hard questions!’ Sad they couldn’t stay longer – there was still so much more to see and do! – but am now pumped for that next adventure we all have together.
-       PST: Ah yes, PST. Can’t forget you 20s, now, can I? Haha. Like summer, this whole experience went far more quickly than I expected it to. Maybe it’s ‘cause I really only did a week and a half of training as opposed to the 3-4 the other two sessions got…? The 20s were actually really good and receptive to what I had to say. Thank God, ‘cause I know I was a raging bitch when I had two weeks left of all those PC-mandated sessions before heading to freedom, I mean, ‘site.’ Glad that my fears of them not wanting to be friends with me went unfounded; we just needed to be able to spend time with one another to semi-break through each others’ shells. Couldn’t be happier with the group we’ve got. They’re gonna do great work here in country, I just know it. And thank Mighty Manas that I’ve got a great sitemate out in my neck of the woods to keep me sane for the next nine (!) months.
-       Jess: This reunion could not have been more needed or perfectly timed. Everything slipped right back into the way they were almost two years ago when we were walking around barefoot in Zanzibarian sand and getting our shit stolen. :) Talk about being boss. As students do when traveling, Jess really got into the feeling of all things Kyrgyz and roughed it with me (thanks again so much for putting up with that asshole on our way to Talas… <3). And, to top it all off, she spent almost the entirety of her vacation WORKING a camp with me. Luckily she loved every second of it and had a giant cry fest (don’t worry, I did as well!) and group hug with everyone before she headed to the airport. Seriously don’t know what I would’ve done without her during that. I think she’s part of the reason why El Campo was my favourite thing I did this summer. So good to have her back in my life for serious discussions, massive giggle fests, silliness, and dancing. Can’t wait to see her shining face again after service. Let’s just hope she doesn’t dash off to some far off world that quickly after she finishes uni. ;) You listenin’, Jess?
-       Ramadhan: As my last post was all about doing it, this paragraph will be the shortest for sure. Latest update on this one is that I finished it for the second year and this year’s was a bit anticlimactic. Well, aside from a few days of serious sickness and dehydration (damn Bishkek heat!). Didn’t immediately feel as fulfilling as last time, but maybe that’s the point? We’ll see if I decide to do it again next year.
-       El Campo: My favourite thing from this summer. Hands down. So, it’s gonna be the longest paragraph. So, just as a reminder of what El Campo actually is/was – it’s an 11-day creative leadership and community involvement (?) camp for 80 kids ranging from 14-25. Big age range, I know, but it was so important for that very reason. Younglings teaching the older kids how to return to their inner child and have fun, while the older kids were helping the little ‘uns with their English and critical thinking skills. Such an amazing trade off and it worked most of the time. There were about 11 PCVs (both K19s and K20s), with an equal number of local students (mainly FLEX alumni and other Bishkek university students). Guys, I don’t know how much I can express to you the dedication and enthusiasm these locals had for this project. It was beyond a doubt one of the most wonderful experiences I’ve had with locals in the year and a half I’ve been here. Seriously. You’d think that 17-18 year olds would shun work and take the easy way out… Nope, most of them were the first ones there at the beginning of the day – which started around 9 – and the last ones to leave around 8 pm. Amazing. We were headed by these two wonderfully beautiful and creative (Tif, Liz, Christian, you would’ve LOVED them!) Ukranian girls who came to Kyrgyzstan JUST to get this project off the ground. Without them, I’m sure everything would’ve fallen apart, especially after day 6 without a break. <3 Miss them already. Anyway, the students were all split up into teams by colors – I was one of the team leaders for Team Red, baby! – and the entirety of the camp was a competition between them. You’d get points by going to and participating in classes (Creative Leadership, Theatre, Music, Art, etc.), working together as a group to complete challenges (egg drops, water balloon challenges, etc.), and for rocking at dress-up days (I KNOW you all saw some of my crazy outfits – Adele, Batman, nerd – on Insta or FB; if not, check out my silliness there!). I was absolutely astounded as to how active and into it the students were. Most of the time, here in Kyrgyzstan, students are incredibly reserved and quiet; it takes forever and everything you’ve got to get them them outta their shells. It took these students a day until they were acting goofy and dressing up like Palms (love ya, girl!) and I did every day. By the end, I couldn’t have been more proud of the transformations that occurred in some of the students. Actually made me feel like I had DONE something and MADE A DIFFERENCE while being here. So wish I could have that feeling all the time. Going to work on helping Aigerim and Aizhan (the new directors for next year) to make next summer’s just as amazing and influential as this years’. Let’s get it, team! Dare to dream, dare to change, dare to…
-       BP Reunion: Are there really words to describe what it’s like being around our beloved B*^$h Pudding again (sorry if you read this, MK!)?! No, there aren’t. And I’m so glad that he made time for me while he was back on his month-long consultation job here in the K. Everything slipped right back into the way they were – as it always seems to do with good friends, I’m noticing – and we were just BP and Shortcake again. Incredibly good chats about life, vacations, future plans, and just about everything. Not sure he knows how much I value his advice and friendship… Wish I could’ve hung out with him more than just a few hours over dinner and a bottle of vino or two. Oh well, rendezvous in about a year in Chi-town? I’ll call you! xx
-       Welcome Weekend: Note to self – never have a welcome weekend with good food (and booze) when you can’t take part until after sundown. It just makes things unfair and only semi-hilarious watching all the drunkenness of others. Was so great to hang out and get to know the new Talas 20s. Gonna be a great bunch, I can tell. Not as crazy as the 18s or 19s, but that might not be such a bad thing. Haha. Will love to see ‘em grow up into Talasciraptors over the next 9 months.
-       Talas Camp: Oh, jiminy Christmas, was this a near-disaster. Was in the middle of working El Campo and my co-director Athena calls me to tell me that our venue has backed out last minute and we cannot find a place to hold this week-long camp for Talasers that we’ve been excited for since… April? Panic ensued. We tried to find other places that were open, but because the camp was going to be held so late, all the directors wanted to get their places ready for their own students or were undergoing renovations. Because of this, Athena and I were resigned to the fact that it just wasn’t meant to be; we had drafted emails to vols saying that it was canceled and had talked to our translators breaking the bad news to them. Luckily, with the phone call to one of our translators, she said ‘No, this camp is happening. I will fix it.’ And she did. She had HER director call a director of a nearby village’s school and basically ooyat (shame) them into holding our camp. STOKED. So, camp actually happened and turned out relatively well. Aside from the fact that my body basically shut down and became a cesspool of infection after Ramadhan and I had to miss 2.5 days of a 5 day camp. Yeah, I’m classy like that. *facepalm* But Athena was a STUD, as were the bazillion of volunteers who were there who stepped up when things needed to be done. Couldn’t be more appreciative for the group we had. And the kids, aside from a few shitball jigits were great. Really got the point of what we were talking about (tolerance and diversity, both in the K and out) and just knocked it outta the park. Now let’s hope the projects the students were supposed to do turn out as well as the rest of camp. Oh yeah, and that I can complete and submit this grant correctly. Fingers crossed and good vibes sent in my direction, please and thanks.

New things to which I am looking forward:
-       Being an official photog at a fancy Kyrgyz fashion show: Malana’s host-sister from PST is apparently an up and coming designer in Bishkek. So, next weekend – the 9th – there’s gonna be a high falutin’ fashion show with a bunch of dignitaries and important people. And guess who got asked to go take pics of the event? THIS KID. So stoked. Hopefully I don’t fuck it up and I’ll be able to take good pictures (that I can then put in my portfolio) and will do his sis proud. Oh, and I have to wear stilettos. I’m gonna die.
-       Figuring shit out for second year of teaching: Basically what it says on the tin. Need to really evaluate what I’m doing with my CP and school. Hoping to do a few teacher trainings for other teachers in my school, so they can learn new methodologies as well, and possibly work with the new, young English teacher that’s starting at our school this year. Just need something to do during this school year that makes me feel like I’m not wasting my experience here and I’m helping as many people as I can.
-       Australia and New Zealand with Em! Oh yeah, it’s happening. For a month. Cannot WAIT to get back to the sun and sand of both of these places. Or to see some of my amazing friends I haven’t seen in a while. Ffi, Ben, Greer, Steph, Kathryn, Fi, Pen… And then all the new experiences I’m going to have. We’re hoping to do a week or so in Melbourne, then do about a week or so on the North Island, then hoppin’ down to the South Island for some wine tasting and trekking and general awesomeness. Is it December yet?

Well, folks, you’ve just read through far too much of my babbling for one day. Hope you enjoyed it and I’ll try and post again soon – maybe with some pics from the fashion show? – but I can’t promise anything. Please know that I really do miss you all and think about you guys nonstop. And seriously, all these engagements and weddings that are happening without me HAVE to stop. I’m missing out on FAR too much. ;) But really, congratulations to you all; you know who you are.

Sending all my love to you all, wishing you the best of luck in school (whether you’re teaching or getting taught), enjoy your fall, and cannot wait to see you all in a few months!