Friday was the day that many of us had been waiting for: It was site placement day. We were all going to find out where in Kyrgyzstan we would be spending the next two years. There was a lot of suspense and build up, but in the end I was glad to find that I, and eleven other K-23’s, will be headed to Talas.
Talas is the North-Western most oblast (state) in Kyrgyzstan. Because the Ala-Too mountain range separates Talas from the rest of the country, it is one of the most isolated oblasts, even though it’s closer to Bishkek than much of Naryn or Issyk-Kul as the crow flies. It is also a relatively small oblast. Much of Talas is defined by a single, wide, East-West running river valley with most of the population along the highway which runs to the city of Taraz just across the border in Kazakhstan.
Talas contains one town, one urban-type settlement (whatever that means), and ninety villages. The population is about 92% Kyrgyz, 2.5% Kurd, 1.9% Russian, and 2.6% small minorities of Kazkahs, Uzbeks, Turks, and Ukrainians with a total population of about 220,000.
Talas is the setting of most of the events depicted in the Kyrgyz epic poem “Manas.” Manas is the semi-mythical national hero of Kyrgyzstan and will, sooner or later, warrant a blog post of his own.
More specifically, I am going to be in the Karabuura Rayon (county) in the village of Kara Suu.
For an informational packet mine doesn’t include that much information, but at this point I know that Kara Suu has a population of about 2,500, a post office, a school, a municipal water system, cell service, and mashrutka service to Talas City (about an hour away). All good things, right? There is not, however, a bazaar, a hospital, or an internet café. What I figure so far is that Kara Suu is a lot like Kengesh.
I also know a little bit about the organization I’ll be partnered with.
The Kara Suu Village Health Committee (VHC) is a non-profit organization which implements trainings and activities to raise awareness about communicable and non-communicable diseases. Along with their routine health promotion activities, current priorities include increasing involvement with the schools and aiding in the construction of a new kindergarten building. The VHC does have a designated space for their work, but no office equipment, so there’s plenty of work to be done. Also, my Peace Corps Project Manager, the wonderful and talented Aida Estebevanova, contacted the local Water User’s Association (WUA) which may be interested in working with me on clean water access and infrastructure projects.
It’s going to be one hell of a ride.
Me (on the left in the back!) and my fellow Talas-araptors.