As I lay in bed last night in a room that is now mine, I tried to replay in my mind what may have been the craziest day of my life so far. Yesterday I met and moved in with the family that will host me for the next several months of training.
But first, the day started like the previous several at the Akk Keme Hotel with the rest of the K-23 group. We did some training sessions in the morning and around lunch packed up our bags and left the big city of Bishkek for the small suburb of Kant. There we made our way to an auditorium where host families from surrounding communities were waiting to meet their Volunteer.
The matching ceremony started with dancing and singing by local kids, but not the kind of singing and dancing that’s only cute because the kid is too and their parents are sitting next to you. These kids legitimately rocked. I’m pretty sure they’ve used their nine or so years of existence to become better dancers than I could in the next sixty.
After the mind blowing, the matching began and one by one volunteers were matched up with their hosts on stage. When it was my turn I went up and met Kuban Busurmanov – a kindly, short, grey-haired guy of sixty three who reminds me of my grandpa. Kuban introduced me to his wife, Zahara, and after a few more matchings, the ceremony was over.
That’s when things got weird.
Kuban’s brother, though I had no idea who he was at the time, picked us up in a Honda hatch back, raced us to a bazaar where Zahara bought supplies for dinner, got pulled over by the police for speeding (I assume), picked up a woman on the side of the road (Kuban’s brother’s wife), and finally pulled in at Kuban and Zahara’s House in Kengesh about an hour later.
There I met Sultan, Kuban and Zahara’s son. Sultan is about my age, speaks some English, and is already becoming my best Kyrgyz friend. We spent a lot of the evening studying together, him on his English and me on my Kyrgyz (I have a lot of catching up to do).
I also met Anika, Sultan’s sister and her son, Tamerlane. Tamerlane is eighteen months old and pretty jolly. He thinks I’m hilarious.
Sultan showed me around the house, the yard, and the neighborhood. We stood out on the street for a bit where I met some of Sultan’s friends and every single man who walked by gave every single other man (including me!) a good firm handshake before passing. Handshaking is a big deal here.
We watched Kuban graze his ten or so sheep in the lot across from the house as the sun set.
We had a dinner of plove (a rice and beef dish), a kind of chewy bread, and tea. It was all really, really good. The power went out while we were eating which, from what I understand, is a pretty common experience here. Flashlights were strategically placed around the kitchen and we continued on eating with almost no hassle at all.
By the time dinner was over at 10:00 PM, I was barely standing so I said good-night and made my way to bed.
Then, in the most unlikely of environments – the home of a Kyrgyz family in a small town in rural Kyrgyzstan – I happily crashed.