Imagine you’re at a party mingling and having a good time with friends and someone says to you, “hey, you see that guy over there? He’s from Kyrgyzstan. Have you ever even heard of that?”
You might get really excited at the chance to meet someone from such a foreign place. You might even go up to them and start chatting. “Hi! You’re from Kyrgyzstan? That’s so interesting. What’s it like there? What kind of food do you eat? Do you miss it? I know a guy in the Peace Corps there. Maybe you know him? He’s so witty and charming. And handsome too.” (Ok, you might not say that last part, but this is my hypothetical situation.)
It would be a great thing that you’d be taking advantage of the opportunity to learn about a culture and a place from someone with first hand experience of it, it really would be. But you can also imagine that lots of people at the party would be doing the same, and if that person’s English wasn’t great, and if he happened to also be rather introverted, it might be a bit overwhelming for him.
And that’s the situation for me a lot of times when I end up at parties here too. It’s part of my job to go out and interact with people, tell them where I’m from, joke with them, learn from them, and share with them things about myself, but if given the option though, I prefer to do that in small groups.
So it was with this slight aversion to parties that Aigul, the English teacher here in Kara Suu, invited me to her older sister’s wedding reception.
“Will there be a lot of people?”
“I’m not sure. Maybe.”
“Oh, Ok. Should I bring anything?”
“No, just come, you don’t need to bring anything.”
I’d heard that one before.
“Ok, so what will other people bring?” Her English is getting too good though. She knew what I was getting at and laughed at me.
“Don’t bring anything, just come at 10:00 on Saturday.”
So, at 10:20 on Saturday (appropriately and fashionably late of course) I found myself at a surprisingly familiar style wedding reception. There were party games, some karaoke, and obscene amounts of food. I got placed at the wedding party table with about fifteen others around my age – and I really had a good time with them. They almost all understood a few words of English. A couple even spoke it conversationally. So between that and my Kyrgyz we were able to have some pretty fluent conversations.
After a few hours people started trickling away and it was about time for me to take my leave as well. With my belt feeling a little tighter than when I’d arrived and with some new Facebook contacts in my phone, I said my goodbyes and headed home as happy as I ever am after a party – Kyrgyz or otherwise.
I had almost invented an excuse to steer clear of another party, but I’m glad now that I didn’t. It was only a few hours, but they’re a few hours that I’m definitely going to remember for a long time.