Today was the second (after Community Day) big event initiated by Peace Corps staff and conducted by trainees during our two month Pre-Service Training period.
This morning I borrowed a culpac and chappan, traditional Kyrgyz hat and robe, from Kuban, met up with the rest of the Kengesh crew, and hopped a mashrutka to Krasnaya Rechka for the Culture Day festivities. When we arrived we found a big performance area laid out and maybe a hundred or so Volunteer host family members and Peace Corps staff. I had been a little concerned that all of us dressing up would be kind of hokey – something like donning a ten gallon hat and snakeskin boots for a visit to Texas – but the host families loved it and the host moms were doting on their Volunteers fixing collars, hats, skirts and anything else that might be slightly out of place all morning. The whole affair had a very distinct middle school play feel.
For several weeks the two small language groups here in Kengesh had been preparing by practicing two skits: how to prepare samsas (basically a Kyrgyz hot pocket) and a Kyrgyz style birthday party complete with musical number.
Our samsa preparation started with each of us introducing ourselves as an ingredient then explaining our role.
“Men piozmin!” (“I am an onion!”)
“Men cartoshkamin!” (“I am a potato!”)
That part went over particularly well. Then the ingredients got mixed up, wrapped up in a sheet, and put in the oven – one half of which was yours truly. No big deal. And then Angie walked out with a full plate of actual samsas that got made yesterday.
For the second skit I thought we came prepared, but have to admit that the other groups really brought the heat with choreographed dance routines, long speeches in Kyrgyz, musical instruments, and singing. Our birthday skit was still good though. Our song went off without a hitch and I got an “atta boy” (minor paraphrasing) from Kuban at dinner tonight which is good enough for me.