Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Home Safe

Just a quick note to say that I've made it home to the US safely. I've been home for 3 weeks now. I'll write more about readjusting later - when this reality sinks in. Its been an amazing journey and thank you to everyone who gave me support over the past 2+ years!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Our bonfire with the campers

The volunteers outside our cabin

Summer Camp!

August 17-21st I volunteered at my friend Martha’s Youth Summer Camp. Together with four other PVCs and four other local volunteers, we took 26 kids (between 13-17 years old) 3 hours north of Jalal Abad into the mountains. We stayed at an old soviet-built camp in a small village named Kizulunkor.

The camp was a huge success, despite the decaying condition of the camp facilities and the lack of amenities – such as running water.

Each morning we broke the group into teams and they rotated through three 1-hour sessions on topics such as: goal setting, self-esteem, nutrition and fitness, sexual health, gender roles, giving presentations, and critical thinking. Each afternoon the campers had their choice of arts and crafts, sports, games, or free time to work on preparing for the talent show. Night activities included movies, games, a talent show, and a bonfire.

On the 21st we traveled back to Jalal Abad and a married couple – Fritz and Ginger – cooked a huge delicious chili dinner for all of the camp volunteers.

It was definitely an exhausting (and dirty week – no showers!) but I’m so glad I helped out. The other volunteers and I maintained a super positive attitude all week and we had a lot of fun spending time with each other. We left with the sense that the campers all benefited from the camp too.

Above are some pictures from the camp. We took over 300 photos and videos so I’ll be happy to show more when I get home in 3 weeks!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I can’t believe it’s mid August already. This summer has been super busy and has been flying by. In June I took my cat to Bishkek to get spayed and spent some time with my PST host family. In July I traveled to every oblast to conduct TOTs for the anti-Bride Kidnapping Toolkit I helped create and revise. And this month my NGO – the Central Asian Alliance for Water had a Youth Festival. It was more like a camp because the 90 children all slept over. I helped with icebreakers and sports and pool games. Three of the K17s helped out too. On the last night my NGO invited us all for a celebratory dinner at a fancy restaurant. I got chicken with mushrooms in a cream sauce. It was yummy.

This summer I’ve also been spending a lot of time on my thesis. Draft 1 was submitted June 1st, the second draft submitted July 1st and I’m currently working on my third and final draft.

Next week I’ll be helping a volunteer friend with her summer camp. I’ve always wanted to be a camp counselor. I’ll get to co-lead sessions on self-esteem, healthy relationships, and arts and crafts! It’s a 6-day camp about 4 hours from where I live – up in the mountains at a camp facility. We’ll sleep in cabins, use outhouses, and bath in a stream. I’m looking forward to the cooler temperatures. It’s been about 100 degrees or hotter everyday here and I never knew I could sweat so much. My favorite summer activity has been cold showers! When you live in a place with no A.C. you do what you gotta do to cool off.

It’s almost time to start giving away my stuff and think about packing up. I leave Kyrgyzstan in 33 days – and will be arriving home September 16th. I haven’t been home in two years. I feel like I’ve been in Kyrgyzstan forever, but I sort of feel like I haven’t been away from the US that long. Either way though, it’s going to be a huge culture shock. So if I act a little weird when I first get home, just give me some time to readjust to that fast-paced life I used to know.

I’m already starting to get sad thinking about saying goodbye to my friends, co-workers, and community here. But I’m really excited about seeing and reconnecting with my family and friends at home.

Oh and the food! This is what I want to eat/drink upon my return to Americastan (in no particular order): Dunkin Donuts French Vanilla Iced Coffee, bagels with cream cheese, sandwiches (with kosher spears), a chicken finger sub, guacamole, sushi, Burke’s mint patty and coffee health bar frozen yogurt, chicken pot pie, salads (with lettuce and salad dressing!), good spicy Mexican food, margaritas, salmon, a lobster roll, broccoli, blueberries, bacon, spinach, nachos, quality wine, quality beers and micro brews, seltzer water, limes, and anything my dad cooks/grills. I will be poor and unemployed upon my return so if anyone wants to take me out I’ll pay you back with crazy stories and good company!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Kyrgyzstan Tour

So in the past 6 days I've traveled to Chui, Naryn, Karakol, and Talas. I'm back in Bishkek awaiting my flight back south so I can complete the tour with Jalalabad and Osh! Its been crazy sharing taxis - for 4 - 8 hour stints to get out to these places where PCVs live in the middle of nowhere. The purpose of my tour was to conduct trainings with PCVs on the Anti-Bride Kidnapping Toolkits I revised from last year. This has been a huge project for me and a big part of my Peace Corps/Masters International experience. It was amazing to see the different oblasts and experience the cultural and temperature differences of each place. I'm exhausted and sweaty and dirty and still have half a day of traveling ahead of me, but I'm happy that I have the support of the staff, of other PCVs, and of locals. I'm happy that I've seen almost all of Kyrgyzstan too!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Roo Post-Op

Roo's First Adventure

So this past Friday I drove up to Bishkek, the capital, cat in tow – to get her spayed. I was going to fly but the travel agency where I usually buy my plane tickets told me I’d need to buy a special crate, obtain special documents from Bishkek, and pay a ridiculous price to take my cat on board. So I took a taxi instead.

The first two hours of the 12-hour ride I doubted myself and my decision to travel to the capital at all. Roo was freaking out – clawing at the inside of her carrying case, trying to get out. She cried for 2 hours straight. By the third hour I think she wore herself out and gave into lying still and quiet. By the time we got to Bishkek, I think I was more restless than she was. We spent the night with a local friend who was very welcoming to the both of us.

Saturday morning my friend came with me to translate. I held Roo while the vet gave her a shot to put her to sleep and she went limp in my arms. It was strange because her eyes never closed. My friend and I waited outside and 30 minutes later the operation was finished. The vet gave me instructions on how to care for Roo for the next 10 days. I had to go to the pharmacy and buy some antibiotic stuff to put on her stitches. And I was instructed to change her white cotton suit every few days.

Saturday afternoon I headed out to Krasnaya Rechka to spend some time with my first host family. They told me it was fine if I brought my cat. Though I don’t think they were expecting her state. Roo was just waking up from the anesthesia when we got there and as soon as I opened her carrier, she swaggered out and fell on her side. She kept taking a few swaying steps and falling over and over until I picked her up. She was acting “drunk” the whole day. By Sunday she was walking all right but still refused to eat or drink. I think the surgery, the new environment, and the amount of people running around all day long traumatized her. She hid under the table in the corner the whole day.

On Monday we went back into Bishkek to see the vet again. The vet made sure everything was healing okay, and implanted Roo’s identification chip – which is mandatory for taking cats out of Kyrgyzstan. She also wrote up Roo’s International Passport and gave me 2 viles of vaccines and a needle and an injection schedule to bring back with me (since it would have been too much to give her the vaccines at that time).

I took Roo to the PC office, while I met with PC staff to figure out final costs of Bride Kidnapping Toolkits I’ve been developing. And then back to the village.

On Tuesday we spent some time running around Bishkek doing errands and more time at the PC office. I bought a plane ticket and strode into the airport with Roo like a person who transports animals all the time. I acted confident and no body even asked to see any of her documents. There were absolutely no problems flying with her. In fact, Roo slept the whole time through check-in and throughout the entire flight, while babies and toddlers were screaming and crying all around us. Even though the flight was short – it gave me hope for the final trip home in September.
Roo and I were both excited to be back in my apartment Tuesday night. Though it was only a 4-day trip, and everyone was extremely hospitable to us, it was still stressful and I was exhausted. We both slept all day Wednesday to recuperate. The only other thing I need to do before coming home is get a bill of health form signed and stamped from the Health and Sanitation Department in Bishkek 3 days before leaving the country. I’m glad everything else has been taken care of!

Cat Costs in Kyrgyzstan:
Sterilization – 300com = $7
Vaccines (2) – 600com = $14
ID Chip – 1,000com = $23
International Passport – 100com = $2

Taxi to Bishkek – 900com = $21
Flight back from Bishkek – 2,000com = $47

Roo’s companionship = Priceless