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

Friday, March 22, 2013


                                                          village road, Barskoon.

After a rough day I walk through the door to my home and let out a sigh of relief. I try to think of things to pick myself up. Then I remember the hot chocolate packets I received in a recent package from my mom. What better time to break into some old Swiss Miss than after “one of those days”? I tear open the corner of the packet and smell the contents. “Mmm” I hum audibly. I heat up hot water in our electric teapot and mix the contents with the steaming liquid. After the chocolate-y goodness cools just enough so I won’t burn my mouth, I sip a tiny amount and let it sit on my tongue. I’m immediately thrown back to a distinct memory from my childhood. I’m 8 or 9 years old, lying on my stomach on the grey shag carpet at my grandparent’s house surrounded by my siblings and cousins. We all have mugs of Swiss Miss hot chocolate and are watching The Little Rascals on the big screen T.V. It tasted like home and like sweet, sweet memories.

Although this blog highlights the interesting and different aspects of Kyrgyz life and culture, and seemingly always ends on a somewhat positive note, it goes without saying that life here has it’s difficulties. As an American serving in a village in Kyrgyzstan, my growing up and living the first 24 years of my life with all of the conveniences of a typical American life has not done me any favors in adjusting to my current lifestyle. All Peace Corps Volunteers experience this difficult lifestyle change to some degree regardless of where they serve. My journey certainly has been no exception.

The vast majority of volunteers, at some point during their service, question the significance of their work. Am I really helping anyone? Am I doing anything a Kyrgyz person couldn’t do? Does the work I produce make all of the sacrifice and difficulties worthwhile? Am I doing anything? Could I be doing more somewhere else, doing something else? Is it worth it? Questions surface, then more questions, and then even more complex questions. Everyday I ask myself questions regarding the significance of my work here. Some of which I will never know or see the answers to, which poses yet more difficulties. I imagine I’ll have some of these questions for the remainder of my service.

The encouraging friend or family member would tell me “if you help just one person, then you’ve done something.” Could this be the silver lining in this journey? I know that my Counterpart’s English has improved over our time working together. Is this my purpose? Some would say yes. I’m much harder on myself then anyone could be. I have a difficult time imagining the significance of my work resting with one person. This, you may say, is narrow-minded. I would agree with you. Though changing a frame of mind is a large creature to tackle. The significance of a person’s work can be interpreted in a variety of ways, as can it’s impact. I set myself up for failure when I placed certain expectations of the significance of my work here without knowing if those expectations were attainable.

The reason there’s been such a long gap between my blog posts was simply because I was waiting for something positive and lighthearted to write about. That didn’t come. So I decided to be honest. After all, this blog is about my journey here including all of it’s beauty and struggles. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

girls turn into mothers.

“How should we breath when we are doing these? She asked.” Kushtar translates one of the women’s questions. I look around the room to find where the question originated. “Great question…” I couldn’t decide what made me more proud- the fact that the women had pieced together “sports clothes” for the session on Exercising at Home or the fact that they were asking questions to make sure they did each of the stretches and exercises correctly. Probably a combination of both interest and effort, I could tell that these women really cared about becoming more knowledgeable and learning how to live a more healthy lifestyle. At 4 o clock on Thursday afternoons, our “Young Mom’s Club” gathers in either a well lighted classroom or a not so well lighted wrestling room that smells like feet to learn about nutrition, fitness, and some other gender related issues.

A problem for people living in the village, especially younger wives who do not get the opportunity to leave the village much, is a lack of information. Most women living in the village will move through their obligatory daily routines almost robotically and rarely stray from that simple routine. I touched on this idea in one of my earlier blogs regarding the demanding life of a village mother. Cooking and cleaning are performed every day and are not as easy of tasks as we know them to be in the States with Western conveniences. Kyrgyz village women are thorough cleaners and they cook everything from scratch- usually making the act of cooking a several hour-long affair. It is no wonder why they rotate through 3-4 basic meals which they know how to make better than the details of their own face- something we Western women know very little of.

Mom’s Club is a chance for some of these women to break out of their normal daily routines and explore something different and really, a chance for them to gain information they wouldn’t otherwise have access to. I speak about the importance of stretching or eating portions from the basic food groups and these women look at me in amazement and busily write notes in their copybooks like it’s the first time they’ve heard some of these things- and for some of them it is the first. I ask them if they think that walking is an exercise and many of them answered no. It’s so normal for them to walk across the village to go guesting or down the street to get water that they don’t even know they are exercising. Every word I speak might as well be gold dripping from my lips for these women- they’re so eager to gain information and all they want is more handouts so that they can share this new information with others.

The first week of the club we made apple carrot bread for the women. I was worried that the women wouldn’t love our snacks because they are so different than what they eat on a daily basis. A few of them practically ate their piece in one bite and others took one little mouse-sized bite and set it back down on the napkin. “You win some, you lose some.” I thought to myself. The next day I was speaking to my Counterpart, Kushtar, “It’s too bad some of the women didn’t like the snack… should we make something that’s closer to Kyrgyz food so that they will enjoy it and maybe even make it for their own family?” I asked her. “What!?” She exclaimed. “The women loved the snack! Some of them even only took one bite so they could take the rest home to share with their children.” I laughed to myself and realized that I was only beginning to understand these women. They come to the club because it’s interesting for them, yes. But really, they are coming to gain new information for their children, to be better mothers and wives and women. Really looking forward to the next seven weeks with this group of women. :)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

we found love in a hopeful place.

As most of you already know, I happened to meet someone very special while serving in the Peace Corps in Kyrgyzstan. As this blog is about my journey as a whole, it seems only fair that I include this monumental aspect of my trek. Almost 3 weeks ago today I married my wonderful, bright, sweet, humorous husband and we couldn't be happier! He's been wondering when he would "make it into the blog" since we started dating- here you go bub! 

Sunday, January 6, 2013


The rays from the morning sunrise are attempting to peak through the dense fog that covers the road before us. The bus driver just stopped briefly for a quick bathroom break for the 50+ travelers. The road between Mumbai and Dehli is long but well traveled. I love watching the sunrise and the early morning unravel like this simply because, as our bike tour guide the other day put it, you get to watch the world wake up.

I'm currently backpacking through India with some fellow volunteers from Kyrgyzstan. I apologize if you were hoping to read a post about KG, those will return in late January.

India has been nothing less than a colorful, flavorful, loud at times, peaceful at times, stressful and relaxing, laughing and dancing, sandy, eye opening experience so far and I'm only a little more than halfway through my trip.

There is one particular experience I'd alike to highlight: a tour of the slums in Mumbai (previously known as Bombay), India. I had certain expectations of the tour and, frankly, they were not met. I expected the people to be suffering, starving, unhappy, grasping for more in life to no avail. I found something I could have never anticipated.

We used a tour company named Reality Tours for our adventure in the slums. Our tour guide, Akash, is a resident of the slum we visited. This particular slum called "Dharavi" is located fairly centrally in Mumbai city and is the third largest slum in the world with one million inhabitants. First and second largest are located in Pakistan and Mexico city.

As we arrive in the slum I realize how rather orderly everything seems. There are shops (owned by the residents), taxis, children wearing school uniforms (Dharavi has 2 schools), various factories, brick and cement buildings, and the list goes on.

Possibly the most impressive facet of the slum to me was the industry the people had created. Many of the poorer people in India will collect trash and sift through it hopeful of finding something of value. In Dharavi the people sift through trash to find plastic and various metals including aluminum to break down, melt, and sell for reuse. Akash showed us the plastic factory where the people of Dharavi had constructed and built a plastic crusher machine and sell the plastic pellets it produces to contractors. The aluminum and other metals can be melted down and used to make flat sheets of metal for constructing machinery.

As we passed the industrial area of Dharavi we arrive in the residential part of the slum. Narrow alleyways between cement buildings made the residential portion a bit harder to navigate. Though the people of Dharavi are living in very in very cramped conditions with limited space, we were met by smiles from old women sitting on their door steps and young children wanting to practice their English with us.

While taking in the reality of the slums triumphing over all of our Western preconceived notions of a "slum", our guide pointed something out to us. "Have you guys been approached by many beggars in India?" "Oh boy..." We exclaimed. The truth was, our white skin and certain other preconceived notions had preceded us- mainly that all white people are rich. This notion caused us to be the main attraction for beggars and we are constantly approached regardless of where we are. Akash continued "have you been approached even once by a beggar or been made to feel guilty because you are a Westerner here in Dharavi " The answer was no. We had been in the slum for a few hours and had forgotten all about the beggars on India. The people of Dharavi work hard for what little they have and aren't looking for handouts.

The tour of the slums in India opened my eyes to something- in many cases, reality lies far below the surface. I thought I would see death in the slums but instead I saw blossoming, thriving, vivacious life.