TOP 10 TIME BABY. Everyone keeps talking about what a garbage fire of a year 2016 was but like everyone calm down. I’m gonna run through my top 10 favorite moments or things about 2016.
1. Full Year in Kyrgyzstan
It sometimes blows my mind that it’s been a full year that we’ve been here. While that doesn’t feel like a lot in the grand scheme of 27 months it’s still a lot. It’s the longest I’ve ever been away from home (without coming to visit) and it kind of blows my mind that now that we’re in 2017 this is the year I finish my service. So much has happened this last year both work wise and personally and overall putting all the bad aside it was an amazing year.
I’ve talked about camps a couple times but this is the most rewarding work I do and some of the most fun I’ve had in country. These young women mean so much to me it’s unreal. Getting to spend so much time with them one on one is just so special and it’s amazing to see what they learn in the span of a week and see what they do with that knowledge. These weeks are what I’ll remember.
3. Daycare Project
This project was something that I started working on and brainstorming the day I met my counterpart. This was the first time I wrote a grant and really had my first big project that was mine. I can’t express how much this project means to me. My school is a big target for young women to get kidnapped. Then once they’re married and pregnant they can’t finish their schooling because they don’t have anyone to take care of their kids. This solves that problem. My girls can finish their schooling and can have a better life for themselves and for their families. That to me is what this is all about.
4. Nomad Games
The World Nomad Games are easily one of the most special events I’ve ever been apart of. Everything about it was magic and I was able to help work with my favorite organization and help teach about the services the American Corner offers and how we help the community. Not only did I get to do that but I got to spend time with my favorite students on top of that and experience amazing parts of the culture of the country I live in. The whole thing was just magic. That’s the best way for me to explain it.
These guys. I talk about this quite frequently with Ethan but I don’t know how we got so lucky. To have such an amazing and supportive friend group is something that I didn’t expect. This Peace Corps business is amazing but it’s hard. While my friends at home are supportive and amazing there’s just some stuff they don’t understand. These guys do. They live the same life that I’m living and I can complain about jigeets yelling at me in the bazaar or pushy ejes cutting in front of me at the store and they get it. I assumed I would make friends in Peace Corps, they say that life long friendships come from your service and while I understood that I didn’t realize it until I met these guys. Between the Homies and Turkeys and the other amazing friends I’ve made here I know I’ve got them for life and I don’t think I would be able to do this without them.
I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. For as long as I can remember. And while that hasn’t changed I’m super thankful to have been offered the position of Teacher Trainer in Peace Corps because it opened my eyes to a new area of teaching. I’ve definitely come to learn that I love training. I feel so fulfilled helping teachers and showing them new methods and what I’ve learned and what they can do in their classroom. I think I’ll definitely continue looking for teaching positions after Peace Corps but also training positions as well.
I love this little nightmare. He’s just the sweetest. I wanted a pet the minute I moved into my own apartment but held off simply because I was so busy and I didn’t want to get a kitten and then be gone every other week for long periods of time. Until this little man walked right into Fat Cat and then I was smitten. While he’s not coming home with me (he’s got a home here lined up) I am very thankful to have him in my life. He makes coming home at the end of the day even better and just makes my day brighter.
You always need a little vacation. Peace Corps is hard and vacations help refresh. I’ve gone on two wonderful vacations this year. First to Greece with Sarah which was exactly what I needed. Resting on the beach and spending time with one of my besties in one of the most gorgeous places I’ve ever been (and could have stayed) was just the dream. Then we went on a little Homies trip to Kazakhstan for Jacob’s birthday. Even just going one country over was a nice refresh. We got to see some gorgeous sights, drink Starbucks and eat pork. THE DREAM!
9. Secondary Project Work
My first year in country was majorly focused on school and my counterpart. But over the summer and into my second school year and even more so now in the new year I’m focusing more on secondary projects. Sarah and I are doing a lot of work with Karakol organizations focusing on tourism and community outreach for youth. This kind of work has been so different from my first half of service and has been so much fun. We’re starting a Social Media Marketing Internship project in the coming months and I’m so excited to see how this pans out and what the youth in Karakol are going to do with the resources and opportunities we’re offering.
10. Feeling Like Me
I spent a lot of the beginning of my service not quite feeling like myself. I’ve talked about that a little on the blog (feel free to go into the archives and read my whiney posts) but definitely this last full year and even more so into the new year I’m feeling like me again. And honestly the best me I’ve been in a long time. Like I’ve said Peace Corps is HARD, in every sense. I think it takes a special kind of person to be a PCV and to do it right. I didn’t think I was really that person for most of the beginning of my service but I do now. Feeling pretty again, confident both about myself and about the work I’m doing and just feeling like Stephanie. It’s been amazing and I’m so excited for the end of my service and the next steps, whatever they may be.