"If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other." -Mother Teresa

Saturday, June 16, 2012


A thunderstorm booms just outside a small corner of the world I call my room. Turning the lights on would only interrupt the natural show of luminosity unfolding before my eyes. What an incredibly powerful show of might, a thunderstorm.  Many people are easily frightened by this illustration of booming sounds and light. However, thunderstorms always cause me to think. I remember back to the most incredible thunderstorm I’ve witnessed to date. I happened to be on a plane flying down the east coast, over the Atlantic Ocean to the Dominican Republic. I watched below me as the blanket of clouds lit up in swift sparks of lightening striking one strand after another in a rapid armed battle on the ocean. I imagine this is what a nighttime battle looks like. Flashes of light as the opposing sides open fire on each other. So there I had it, the clouds at war over the ocean, with only the beams of lightening to use as ammunition. For over an hour, I gazed wondrously at the most astonishing natural light show known to man.

It is late Saturday night in Peervomaiskey, a small village in rural Kyrgyzstan, which I temporarily call home. The baby boy (whom I refer to as “tamposhka” meaning “cute, chubby baby”) wails in the room next door, I assume from the booming of the thunder. The faint sound of Kyrgyz pop music drones down the hall from the kitchen where Erbol, the 9-year-old boy and his 13-year-old cousin are almost certainly playing a game of chess. My Kyrgyz family, including the children, typically stay up late, often past midnight. The overwhelming majority of Kyrgyz families do not eat their last meal of the day until somewhere between the hours of 9pm and 1am.

My Eje (honorable term referring to women older then yourself, also meaning “older sister”) is attempting to distract the sweet Tamposhka from his tears by singing to him a sweet Kyrgyz song which I can only assume is a lullaby. In Kyrgyzstan, the women are allowed 3 years of maternity leave after they give birth. In a conversation about professions with my Eje, she informed me that she is a Russian language teacher meanwhile explaining the “3 years off” standard to me. After which, she asked me how long women in the states are allowed for maternity leave. She was astounded when she heard my response. She thought I must’ve been pronouncing my words incorrectly (which routinely happens…) or I was confusing the words for “year” and “month”. When I assured her I indeed was not, she simply gasped and shook her head.

The concept of “family” is so incredibly important in this culture. In fact, the family card trumps all others. During introductions, Kyrgyz people are more likely to ask about your family even before inquiring about your profession. I was slightly shocked (in proper pretentious American fashion) when my host family inquired about my parent’s ages in our initial, introductory conversation. This concept of age is an entirely customary inquiry in Kyrgyzstan for one very important reason: respect. In Kyrgyz culture, respect is determined by age, and age is a factor of upmost importance in well, all settings. I made the mistake only once of referring to my Eje by her first name alone before my language teacher corrected me. “Amanda, you should always refer to people older than yourself as “Eje” or “Baike”. These are terms of respect. Please only call her “Ainura Eje”.” Note taken.

I realize I promised pictures of my host family in my previous post… I must report that I have yet to capture some. I’m working on it! Stay tuned! 


Monday, June 4, 2012

Chai Eech!

Chai Eech! One of the most common, if not THE most commonly used phrase in Kyrgyzstan. These people love their tea. Chai Eech or “drink tea” is the term used for exactly that, drinking tea, or eating food, spending time with friends at your home, visiting friends at their home, and the list goes on and on. A neighbor may stop you on the street for Chai Eech or a friend may invite you over for late night Chai Eech on any given night. This collectivist culture’s focus is not hard to miss. The Kyrgyz absolutely love spending time around other people. It’s a beautiful concept that we Americans often drop the ball on. We value our space, alone time, and independence greatly- often to a fault for some. I have yet to meet someone in Kyrgyzstan who lives on their own!

There is so much more I could say about my time in Kyrgyzstan thus far… the struggles with language(s), the hospitality of the local host families, the excitable children playing in the streets, packed Marshrutka rides, the incredible “banya” (a.k.a. sauna + bucket bath), the breathtaking mountains, fried nan (bread), changing my name for children because the beginning is a dirty word in Kyrgyz (ha!), a hill conquering hike, Janul the cafĂ© lady, my wonderful freckle faced 7 year old ini (little brother), and so much more! Often, I have to remind myself I’ve only been in Kyrgyzstan just under a month… it already feels like several months!

Stay tuned, pictures of the host family to come!