Rain on your wedding day is supposed to be good luck right? Does that mean losing your luggage when you arrive in the foreign country you’ll live in for two years is good luck? That’s the way I’m going to take it. The travel to DC was rough, with baggage that was entirely too heavy and leaving my family behind and waving to them as many times as possible past the security gate. Then of course a small plane filled with old ladies and a lot of turbulence, because of course when there’s turbulence what you want is old women screaming and yelling.
Having dinner and drinks once we got to the hotel with some of the other volunteers was perfectly timed. It’s always nice when after a long emotionally draining and stressful day if someone else immediately says, “I’d like a beer” with dinner. As a group we thoroughly enjoyed DC and braced ourselves for what was ahead of us, even though there was no way we could actually brace ourselves for the next few days we would have. With issues with luggage and tickets right away we were off to a rough start but we had a few fearless leaders who helped the situation and of course an amazing staff member who waived the fee of my luggage (If I had known this would happen I wouldn’t have left some of my favorite things in DC to lighten my suitcase). And we were off. Off to delays, rushing through airports and nowhere near enough sleep. Then you land and of course your luggage doesn’t show up with about half of the other volunteers luggage. So after being greeted by a handful of PC staff they take us up to the Turkish Airlines office to fill out information about our lost bags. Then none of that matters anymore when you look out the airport windows and see the massive mountains in Kyrgyzstan and realize missing luggage isn’t so bad.
In truth the only thing I wanted out of that missing luggage wasn’t clothes or soap or underwear, none of that. My family and closest friends wrote letters that my Mom gave me before I left and it was those specific cards that said “open when you arrive” that I missed. Nothing else mattered, it was those little pieces of home that I wanted. Luckily, friends and adventures were able to keep me distracted in the mean time. All of us so jetlagged we couldn’t even make it 10 minutes into The Devil Wears Prada and I can honestly say I’ve never slept better or longer in my life than I did that first night. You don’t know tired until you’ve traveled for three days straight, I thought I was tired after all nighters in college, I thought I was tired after writing my final paper my last year of grad school, I didn’t know tired. When we were staying in a hotel it didn’t seem real, it wasn’t until we were allowed to leave and brought to our host family ceremony that I felt like I was really away from home. The ceremony was amazing, dancing from the local children and the big smiles on the family’s faces while we met them and hugged and exchanged gifts.
The first night alone……is rough. There’s no way to explain it and there’s no way to get around it. I tried to do things that would help but I realized it just made me even sadder in the end. Normally turning on Finding Nemo does the trick but that didn’t even help and I could barely keep my eyes open to watch any of it. In those situations it’s hard to not think, what am I doing here? Why did I do this? What have I gotten myself into? I left home and I left safety and love behind me and it wasn’t until I really thought about what I had left and why I was here that I realized it isn’t about me. It’s about what I’m here to do and what I can give to these people and it’s those things that make it all worthwhile. I know this will all get easier in time and in truth each day it gets easier, the language gets better and it won’t feel so scary.
Sharing a meal with my host family while they all happily talk and attempt to ask me questions is like the most confusing game of charades I’ve ever played in my entire life. I mostly sit and smile and try to figure out what they’re saying and to add anything I can think of or attempt to string the very little bit of Kyrgyz I know into some kind of sentence. Which doesn’t usually work. My grandmother, or my father’s mother Chong Apa, plays a game with me, I tell her then English word and she tells me the Kyrgyz. My host mother makes delicious food so there’s no short of anything delicious at any point in time in my home. My host family’s home is beautiful and they’ve given me an amazing room that comes with pictures of my family members hung up on the walls.
The first day of language class in the village was an amazing day. My language teacher is actually staying with my other set of grandparents, so my Mother’s parents and my grandfather is in charge of the area where I live so he came to the house when we had class and talked to all of us and made me feel special because I’m his host granddaughter. The walk to class was probably the best part, walking with my host mother and turning the corner of the main road being greeted by those mountains. I can honestly say, I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of them. I don’t care what anyone says or what anyone else thinks. They’re too beautiful and too breathtaking to not love and appreciate every single day.
You know when they say learning a language is hard? And you think yeah I know it is but I can do it and I can make it happen. Well, it’s even harder than that, especially when you have to learn a new alphabet and numbers along with it. Learning a language in high school or college is one thing, you don’t have to communicate with the entire community around you with said language. While learning is hard and it feels like you’re speaking with rocks in your mouth it gets easier the more you try and your teaching telling you that you’re pronunciation is beautiful only helps. What I’ve learned in the whole 24 hours I’ve been here on my own is that confidence is everything and taking the time to really put in the extra effort is only going to help make things better and easier. Our lessons are broken up usually in the first half of the lesson we practice and focus on language then we have lunch as a group and then we go exploring or on a specific trip in the afternoon. So in the afternoon we’re told to walk to our houses and introduce our friends to our families so as we’re walking something amazing happens.
In American usually if a white van pulls over on the side of the road it’s a sign for you to run as fast as you can. The same goes for any kind of van pretty much anywhere in the world. Until two white vans pull over and that van has your luggage in it.
I have never been happier to see two strange men in vans in my entire life.
Then I got to open the letters. My Mom really out did herself; I didn’t even look at any of my clothes even though I had been wearing the same outfit for basically a week at this point. I went straight for the cards. At this point I was so happy it took about all of my strength not to open every single card in my suitcase but instead I went for the cards labeled when you get there and opened one from Grandma Chris labeled “whenever” simply because I wanted to read one of hers. Along with pictures in a card from Lizzie of me and Mom, my Sadie girl and Abby cat, a card from my Dad and Sandra that had pictures of them and pictures of Jack and Kelly which I now have hung up in my room along with my other pictures and just seeing their faces and reading my Dad’s perfect handwriting that I would know anywhere instantly made me feel better, there was a card that was absolutely meant for couples in long distance relationships or just a couple’s affection card from Cass that made me cry and just wish she was here more than I already did, then there was an amazing card from my Mom. It was this card that really helped get me out of those nerves I talked about. As much as I can say that I had helped myself the night before in feeling better it was really this card from my Mom that did the trick. Just knowing that she’s proud of me and knowing that she believes in me and seeing in her hand writing that I can do this was the as she would say “ass jacking” I needed. Also a Pocket Pal (see photo) just made me think of home and made me feel good.
The language is getting easier, I feel like I’m starting to understand more and more but a majority of the day is spent wondering what anyone is trying to say to me and wishing I knew what they were saying so I could communicate. Manners are huge here and I’m always so worried with the things I don’t know or what I’m doing if I’m being shameful or offending my family. Worrying if I’m not spending enough time with them or if I’m spending too much time and of course once my language gets better I’ll know these things and will be able to avoid potential shame. Until then I’ll just be as polite as possible and try to not get shunned or sent out of my village. My family is really wonderful about letting me do my homework and making sure I’m sleeping and comfortable and they are definitely feeding me enough. Every meal is filled with bread and the most amazing jam I’ve ever had in my entire life. I don’t even like jam or jelly in America but this is just unreal. In prep for Cassie’s wedding I kind of assumed and hoped that I would lose some weight here but that doesn’t seem to be what’s happening. I think I’m going to pick up running again for the exercise and also simply to give me something to do, while it’s not boring here it’s not like at home when I can do anything I want anytime I want. So running will be a good outlet both physically and mentally and I mean I know jogging is good for you but at what cost.