A Year Without a Refrigerator

*This post is from the archives of my Peace Corps blog. I feel, with the closing of my service and commencement of my next adventure, this post has earned a reblog.

I figure a little over a year is enough time to collect information and stories to share with you all. So grab the popcorn, turn up the volume, and get ready for some crazy campfire tales.

A little over a year ago I arrived in Kyrgyzstan, and attempted to try this blog thing. As you all know, there was little success in that, especially since my village has terrible internet reception. So where do I live? I live in a small village called Kytai on the south shore of Issyk Kul Lake, the second largest alpine lake in the world, 15 minutes from the tourist town, Karakol. With a population of about 600 people, you would think there is little to do, but don’t let the small numbers fool you, the personalities, love, and warmth radiate from this village.

If you have read any other peace corps blogs, you would know it is hit or miss when you are placed with a family. Clashing cultures, different beliefs, expectations, something could go wrong right? Right. A majority of PCVs have changed housing, however, I am not one of them. I live with my mother, father, two younger sisters and brother. Along with my older sister’s children (she lives and works in Bishkek and sends money back). I have one other sister 2 years younger, that lives in a village close by and recently had her first child! The norm here is to get married in your early 20′s, so I have, on multiple occasions, been propositioned to become someone’s wife. This includes taxi drivers, store keepers, family friends, random strangers on the street, you name it.. The women normally go to live with the husband in his parents home. She then becomes a Kailene. Being a Kailene means you are responsible for the cooking, cleaning, watching the children, and all the while, not complaining and keeping a smile. But I am getting off track here, back to my family.

We have the three young children who are constantly running around, and always all together. You will rarely see just one of them alone. Their names are Gulnura (6, my sister), Ai Nazik (2, my neice), and Adishok (4, my nephew). My sister Sezeem (17) just left for Bishkek to take entrance exams for University so she won’t be around this year. Then there is my host brother, Seimuk (16), and my host mom and dad. These are the sweetest, respectful, joyful people I have had the privilege of meeting in this country. They never ask me for more money for food or rent, never ask me to do chores, never fight or argue (not just with me, but with each other too). The kindness in their eyes translates into their voices and makes me feel eternally safe in their home (now my home). We don’t have much money, nor a big house, but their personalities and energy fills the house to capacity. With their help I have learned to raise chickens, grow a garden, wash my laundry by hand, clean a tushuk (like a thick blanket to sit on), make Kyrgyz dishes, and much more. I have taught them how to make tacos, pizza, spaghetti, bruschetta, cake, brownies, cookies, and much more. They find many of my foods and products I use to be foreign so I have some explaining to do most of the time. OH! by the way, they don’t speak english so all of this is in Kygryz (a turkic language).

In this past year I have held trainings on FLEX (future leaders exchange program), conducted english and FLEX clubs, attended multiple trainings, co-taught weekly English classes in my village’s secondary school, attended large parties called ‘toy’, wrote 3 grants (2 of which were approved for funding), helped teach at sports camps, took up weekly yoga, began to mediate, learned to cook new foods, and perfect old dishes, wrote multiple poems, was a trainer at the pre-departure orientation for FLEX Kazakhstan, explored parts of Kyrgyzstan, swam in the lake, traveled to Greece, America, India, and Kazakhstan, learned a new language, shared many laughs, drank zillions of cups of coffee, made new friends, lost touch with others, drank lots of vodka (russian influence here), partied hard with friends and family, connected with another culture, and found home with a family in a developing country. (there are probably other things but I can’t think of them right now)

Now why is this post called ‘the year without a refrigerator’? Well funny you ask, I have been having to buy all of my foods twice a week from the bazaar, mostly because I prefer fresh foods. Then winter came, and there was no need for a refrigerator, because it was a literal ice box outside. Well it is summer now, and I wanted to make some smoothies and no bake energy bites that needed to be refrigerator. Usually it is unplugged to save on electricity, which is understandable. But now it is summer so time to be plugged in right? Well, I went to plug it in and I found no plug on the end, it had somehow fallen off and I was greeted to exposed wire. It was then I realized that I had gone a year without using a refrigerator. The year had led me to focus on all of the things I do have, not the things I don’t. It’s funny the things we think are necessary, until we find that we have gone so long without them, and survived.

Maybe this coming year I will have a refrigerator, maybe not, but for now, I will continue to enjoy all of the things I do have.

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