Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Rice Cooker to you, Lifeline to me!

This blog will be dedicated to giving advise to those of you who will find themselves trying to figure out what to eat when you are in a place where you have limited food and things to cook with. I have spent the past year perfecting a short cookbook that I have written for just that. It is called Recipes for the Rice Cooker: cooking with few resources. With help from other volunteers I have been able write 14 different recipes with many of them having variations (just to spice things up a little). Who said I didn’t learn anything in Peace Corps? A couple of my favorite recipes have included Pea Soup, Chili, Grilled Cheese (got the idea for this one from another volunteer), Mac and Cheese, and various ways to make rice. Here are some previews:
When cooking with a rice cooker you need to make sure the bowl is pushed down. Some that’s all you need, and some will pop up just because it is too hot. I just take the bowl out and let it cool and then try to push the lever down again. Usually with more liquid it stays down better. I have the most problems with making grilled sandwiches and fried potatoes.
Bolded words are things I have not been able to find in my village. I bought them in Bishkek or got them sent from the states. They are spices and beans that are good to stock up on and if you cook for yourself a lot it would be smart to keep a stash of these.
Pea soup
Serves: 5
½ kg Dried Peas, cleaned and rinsed (pick through to make sure there aren’t any rocks)
1 T Oil or butter
2 Onions, diced
3-4 Cloves of garlic, minced
3-4 Carrots, peeled and diced
3-4 Potatoes, diced
1 T Oregano
2 Bay leaves
1 ½ t Salt
1 t Pepper
1 Bouillon cube (any kind works)

Heat up rice cooker and add oil. Add onions and garlic. Cook until soft. Add the rest of the vegetables and seasonings. Cook for 3-5 minutes. Add peas and enough water to cover everything. Simmer until peas are soft.

Serve alone or over rice. A small amount of soy sauce added at the end is a nice touch! (Thanks Dad!!)

Lentils could be added instead of or with peas.

Serves: 1
1 cup Rice
2 cups Water

Add rice and water to rice cooker, shut the lid, press the lever and let it go.

Plov (soviet rice dish with carrots):
Sauté 1 onion, diced; 2 cloves of garlic, minced; 1 carrot, sliced into circles in 1 tablespoon of oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook until carrots are soft. Add rice and water and cook normally.
Spanish rice:
Sauté 1 onion, diced; 2 cloves of garlic, minced; 2 tomatoes, diced in 1 tablespoon of oil. Add red pepper flakes, cumin, oregano, and basil. Add bouillon cube to water and add with rice and cook normally.

Grilled Cheese
Sliced bread
Sliced cheese

Place cheese in between two slices of bread. Put butter in bowl and let it melt. Place sandwich over the butter and shut lid to help melt the cheese. Cook for 4-5 minutes and flip.

Things like soups and stews I make very large batches and keep then for a whole week. I will usually make rice or noodles each day and then put the soup or stew over them. I don’t think I’m getting enough protein or food, but this is what I do to get by and make it. The sad thing is that I know I eat more than my whole family does in one day. It was difficult at first to cook for myself because I keep my leftovers in the fridge that is in the kitchen and I have to go in there every time I want to cook. Many times I can avoid them, but on a daily basis at least once I run into someone who is watching me take food back into my room. It’s in those moments that I feel horrible that I’m not able to share my food with them. I really would like to cook for them and if I didn’t have to buy everything to do that and they would actually eat my food I would cook for them. But I’ve learned that I have to do what I have to do to survive.
Sometimes I do end up sharing food with my nieces so they can try new things. Usually it’s for lunch when we aren’t eating as much I’ll bring out a pouch of tuna or a jar of peanut butter and we’ll share that. Most things that I’ve had my nieces try they have liked, which is not common with Kyrgyz families.
I never realized how much I ate for pleasure in America and how much that has changed since I have been a volunteer and have been forced to eat food I would have never thought I would eat. When I was traveling home for the holidays I had several meals on the airplane. As you all know, airplane food is not known for being good but I found myself scarfing it down like it was my first meal in days. I didn’t even realizing I was doing it until I had already finished and thought about what I had just eaten. It was even worse than the food that I used to eat on a daily basis before I started cooking for myself.
Just another way I have changed and grown.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


The part I was most nervous about going back to Kyrgyzstan after being in Washington for 3 weeks was the cold. Well it hit me hard in the first week. The temps got down to -35*C (-31*F) last Friday and now I really understand what cold means. I found out that there are stages of cold.
1. Add scarf, hat, warm boots, long underwear, wool socks, extra layers, gloves…
2. My nose hairs freeze every time breathe in.
3. My scarf begins to freeze to my face because of the moisture coming out when I breathe.
4. My eyelashes freeze for the same reason.
5. My eyelids freeze shut in the split second I shut them to blink.
These are the things that you learn from experience. This is not something I have ever thought of. I am doing everything I can to not go outside. The problem is that is where the toilet, water, work, bank, and post office are and anything else I need on a daily basis. I hope I never take having a toilet in my house for granted ever again.
I left my room for a period of time w/o the heat on and the temperature got down to 46*F. The strangest part was that it didn’t even feel that cold because I came from outside. I have to get dressed to use the toilet. So that makes me always think hard about every drink I drink and food I eat. The struggle of keeping hydrated is not from lack of water, but the lack of wanting to be exposed to the frigid temperatures when I need to expel the water from my body.
Next reason cold is bad… tonight I was woken up by my host sister because one of the baby horses was too weak to stand up on its own. We had to go outside and try to push the horse up at 10:30 at night. This is one time where eating less food in Kyrgyzstan has caused me problems. I was not able to help her get the horse up. She went over to the neighbors to have him help us. The wife said yes he will come, but he never did. We tried one more time, but we were just too weak to help this horse stand. We put a blanket over the horse and hopefully it will make it through the night.
It has been so cold here that my entire oblast (state) doesn’t have school this whole week. It’s kind of strange that they are doing it this way because last week was much colder, but they are choosing this week to close because last week was cold. I heard rumors that kids were getting frost bite on the way to school which I don’t doubt because my face was getting really cold and even 20 minutes after I got inside from the cold I still couldn’t feel one of my baby toes.
I have learned so much over the past several months as a Peace Corps Volunteer. One thing I know I will never forget is that I don’t ever want to live in a cold place again. In college it would get down to 10*F and that was pushing it. I’ll stick with my moderate summers and winters with a lot of rain and leave the snow in the mountains for me to visit!
(Just checked on the horse, the neighbor came over and helped it up. It is alive and well!)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

List of bests, favorites, and least favorites

It’s been a while since I posted last. It has been a little more difficult to keep up on my blog posts this year. I have thought a lot about why it has been so hard for me and I honestly believe that it’s because my life has become so normal here that I rarely think, “Hmmm… this is strange, I should tell people in the States about it.” With 20+ months in and 6 months to go I think I’ll make a blog of personal bests and favorites (or least favorites). I’ll keep some of them to myself because I’m not proud of all of them.
Coldest temperature it has been (and I went outside in it): -20C (Middle of winter and had to go outside to the toilet really late at night)
Most layers of clothing: 7 (under shirt, long underwear, long sleeved shirt, sweater, fleece, and a 2 layered jacket)
Most people in one CAR: 10 to Kyzyl Tuu, my friend’s village that is 45 minutes away.
Longest ride home from Bishkek (the capital)… usually 6-7 hours: 12 hours (I was moving to site with my host parents and our car broke down halfway there. We were stuck at a rest stop for 4 hours)
Longest stretch w/o bathing: 16 days (during the winter)
Longest stretch w/o washing my hair: 8 days (I wear a ski hat most of the time during the winter so I barely noticed)
Longest time w/o out power: 3 days (that’s really good because the rest of my village my first fall here didn’t have power for 7+ days)
Grosses thing I’ve ever eaten: Meat Jello. It is exactly what it sounds like, they boil the bones and add carrots, onions, and meat. It smells and tastes like dog poop. I hate it so much I don’t want to remember the name of it!
Strangest thing I’ve learned to like: Kymyz (fermented mere’s milk)
Strangest thing I’ve ridden in a taxi with: A goat in the trunk. Well, having farm animals in the trunk is normal, but we didn’t know it was there. We just heard it start making noises and were confused.
Strangest thing that I have had said to me in English from a local: “You have beautiful eyes…. And … hair.” (My friend Heather and I were on the train in Kazakhstan and some man came up to us, said that to me and then walked away.)
Best shirt with English writing: “Funky Fresh and in the Flesh” (worn by many teenage boys in and around Bishkek) or “Save gas… Toot in a jar” (worn by my student to club on a daily basis)
There are so many other things that I could have shocking numbers for, but I just never thought to count them because it’s my normal life here. For example, I’m sure the number of days in a row that I’ve eaten potatoes is an insane number. I just don’t think about it because there really isn’t much else to eat and I don’t want to think about it because it will make me sad.
This has been an interesting time in my life. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Apa (Alma eje)- I love you and miss you!

My host mom- I think this might be the only picture I got of her smiling. It is not normal to smile in pictures here. I'm glad I was able to capture the true loving person that she is.

Some of you may have heard but I’m sure that most of you haven’t. My host mom passed away on Sunday. We all greave different ways and I need to work through my thoughts about everything. The best way I can think of to do that is to do a tribute blog about her. She was one of the most amazing people I have ever met (I hate when people only say nice things about people after they die but I honestly can’t think of one thing that I could say about her that is bad). I like to write in bullet points so I’m going to list the things that made Alma eje (eje is used in Kyrgyz for older women and it’s a sign of respect) the wonderful human being that she was.
• Apa (mother in Kyrgyz and what I called her) always made me feel like I was a part of the family. Many volunteers feel like they are guests renting out a room, but I was loved and cared for just the same as anyone else here. I would come home from long days at school and she would be there with chai and would sit with me and talk to me about my day. I always knew that I could talk to her about anything even if I didn’t know how to say it. She would sit patiently and wait for me to finish what I was trying to stay with my childlike language ability to express myself.
• My worst day of school I came home and just wanted to be alone. My head hurt from being so frustrated. I had taught the worst class in the school and they were throwing chairs, hitting one another, yelling, and just causing a ruckus. When I got home I went straight to my room and I got a knock at my door a couple minutes later telling me to come drink tea. I got up, reluctantly because I just didn’t want to think or do anything at that moment, but I drank tea with her. When I was sitting there my eyes started to well up with tears and she asked me what was wrong. I told her the whole story through my broke Kyrgyz and tears and she just listened. When I was finished she told me that she understood (she taught for 26 years and had been through it all) and that the other volunteer that lived here before me for two years had the same problems. She also told me that after a year my language will be better and I will be able to control the classroom better. She helped calm me down and made me realize that I will be able to make it though the next two years of being in a foreign country w/o my friends and family from home.
• If we were all sitting at the dinner table and everyone was having a conversation about something she would stop and take the time to explain to me in simpler terms what they were talking about. Even if it was about something that didn’t pertain to me or wouldn’t matter to me either way she always wanted me to feel included. I remember a day when they were just talking about their sheep, how many they had, and how they were going to come home and when. There was no reason that I needed to know that, but she was thoughtful enough to understand that it’s nice to know what people are talking about. I had the most interesting conversations with her at the dinner table around 9pm (because that is usually when we eat dinner here). We could sit there for 1.5-2 hours talking about anything; a tv show, elections and comparing the difference between the US and KG, military, holidays, childhood stories… she would think of a topic of the night and see where it went from there.
• I never heard her yell at anyone. I lived with three children (her grandchildren) on a regular basis and several more that came and went throughout these past 16 months and she always found other ways to guide them and teach them.
• We would listen to the children play and laugh in the other room and would talk about how a child’s laugh is one of the best sounds in the world.
• This summer we were making plans of constructing a shurdok (Kyrgyz rug) together. We picked out the colors and everything. I was really looking forward to not only sitting down and making it with her, but also spending that time with her and practicing my language. She is one of the most patient and even tempered people I have ever met.
• Ever since last summer I have witnessed her with her friends and neighbors. It has been very interesting because I will listen in on their conversations when we were all drinking tea or they were making felted wool for rugs and the friends would gossip about each other. She would just sit there, never say anything about anyone but just be a sounding board. Other times she would joke about the neighbors being drunk and not be good workers because they came late or because they worked slowly, but it was always in good humor. I would tell her stories about what they would say to me or do to me (the drunk female neighbors) and we would laugh and laugh. She had the best laugh.
• My friends who have met her all join me in saying how wonderful she is. I had a long conversation with another volunteer about how we had the best two host moms in country. We couldn’t decide between the two who was better because they were so different, but I still say that Alma eje is #1 in my book.
• I know that she impacted a lot of lives here as well as mine. Over this past year of her leaving to go to Bishkek for treatments and other things I couldn’t go a week without several people asking me if she had come home yet or when she will be coming home. She taught for 26 years at the school I now work at. She was an active member in her community and she loved everyone.
• She had been in and out of the hospital and treatment for a year and this summer she came home because she knew that my friends were coming from the US to visit. She rode in a taxi for over 6 hours to meet them. When I came through the gate it had been a couple months since I had seen her last and she hugged me so hard. She wouldn’t let go. It was at that moment I knew how much I meant to her as well.
I will forever remember my host mom for the amazing woman that she was. She made my life in Kyrgyzstan better and I will use the things she taught me for the rest of my life. The best thing I can do for her is to have her live on in me.
Alma eje (Apa), I love you and I will miss you! You will forever be in my heart. Thank you for all the love you have given me. I could not ask for a better Kyrgyz mother.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

home alone

Summer is starting to wind down and the beginning of a new school year is on the horizon. I look forward to teaching my second year in a foreign country. These past few weeks I have been preparing for lessons and how my counterpart and I want to run our classroom. I am really looking forward to working with her this year because last year at this time I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I thought that I was going to work with one woman and a few days before school started I was told that I was working with another one. It turned out to be a great change of plans and over the past year we have really bonded and learned a lot from each other. Each time that we get together to write lesson plans and curriculum we work for a few hours and then she takes the time to teach me how to make Kyrgyz food. It has been a great experience for me. At the end of break I plan on teaching her how to make some American food so she can make it for her family!
Over the past week things have been very different at my house. My host sister and her three children went to Bishkek for vacation, school shopping and looking for a house to buy. I guess all the houses they looked at were too expensive or too old and not worth the money. I’m sad that they couldn’t find a house, but at the same time I’m really excited because that means that they will still live here with me. This house would be way to quiet without those girls!
My host mom left to go stay at the lake for 10-20 days (that’s exactly what they keep telling me). Whenever I ask about the place she is staying at they just say it’s a house with one other woman and a doctor. She has been very sick and I think this is part of her getting better. I am excited for her to come home because my Kyrgyz life is better when she is here!
My host dad took my host mom to the lake and came back. They were very worried for me because the left me here one day alone. They had my host sister call to make sure that I was ok and I wasn’t scared. It was really sweet. I kept telling them that I lived alone for a year but they still think that I will get scared. I didn’t even stay alone. I had two friends who live nearby come over and we made pizza, banana raspberry bread, cinnamon rolls, and granola. It was a tasty evening. My host dad was supposed to stay for two days and he came back early and I think it was because they were nervous for me. While they were gone I had to take care of the animals. Feed the chickens and the horse and collect the eggs from the chicken. It took me back to when I was kid and would take care of my best friend’s family’s horses and dog. Well for the past few days it has just been my host dad and me here. I don’t know how to make Kyrgyz food and I know if I cook food that I like he won’t like it because he doesn’t like any flavor in anything. But the cute thing is that he baked the bread (it’s unheard of for men to even boil noodles so the fact that he made the bread is amazing, and it’s not too bad). We have hard boiled eggs for dinner every night and during the day we pick raspberries and black currents. My host sister and her kids should be coming home soon (or so he says), and I hope it’s sooner rather than later because I can tell he is really bored without anyone here. It’s been great for me because I get some time to myself and I have forgotten how much I like that.
While my host mom was here the neighbor women came over to prepare the wool for Kyrgyz rugs. I wanted to help them, but they were always drunk. That didn’t really sound like fun to sit with them as they were drunk and try to talk to me. I can’t ever understand them anyway. One day my host mom told me that they were bad workers because they always showed up late and when they were there they worked slowly and they always showed up drunk. Well, the day before I taught my niece comparatives and so she asked me what the English word for drunk was and then proceeded to use it in the grammatical form that I taught her. She said, “Gulanda is drunker.” I told her that she needed two things to compare to so she said, “Gulanda is drunker than Mairam.” HAHAHA. I think she understands it! I laughed so hard!!
After they finished the wool my host mom asked me what color I wanted my Kyrgyz rug to be and she told me the colors she had. We decided on sky blue and white with brown piping. When she comes back we will make the rug together. It will be a great project for me and a great thing to bring back to America with an awesome memory!
Sorry that this blog entry is a little scattered, but so has been my summer!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Amazing Kyrgyz Family! :)

I have lived with one family for 14 months and I feel like it is time to dedicate one blog post to everything that is wonderful about them. I’m going to do it in bullet points because I feel that is the best way to list some of the great things that I love about them:
• They are always so happy to see me. No matter how long I have been gone on trips to do work or see friends they are always excited to have me walk through the gate and be home!
• I have many volunteer friends who have families that lecture them about silly things that shouldn’t matter (e.g. the way they wash their clothes, drinking cold water, how they cook American food…) but my family just uses those opportunities to learn about my culture and they way I function in life. I have taught them how to cook different American foods, American games, and just explained to them how our cultures may be different but it is interesting to learn about each of them. Neither is wrong or right, just different.
• I have started a few rituals with my nieces because I spend most of my time at home with them. When we eat dinner together we usually finish and then have a big group hug. They now know the word, “HUG.” When my friends were here one of the, Aidana, went up to my friend Laura and said, “hug” and then wrapped her arms around Laura. My friend was shocked by this because it wasn’t something that she was expecting, but she loved it! After our group hugs we might go into tickle wars where we all just start tickling each other and keep saying, “tickle tickle.” At the end of the night we will have a tooth brushing party together. This is great because many people in this country don’t know how important it is to brush their teeth which results in rotting teeth and eventually having to get them replaced. But I’m hoping that by starting early they will always want to brush their teeth regularly.
• My 15 month old nephew has started walking and talking and becoming his own person. Today while we were eating dinner he stumbled into the kitchen and was playing with a cell phone (his favorite thing in the world). I pretended to take it from him and he would run away. Then he started saying, “ticka ticka ticka.” It took me a minute to figure out what he was trying to say. He was trying to say, “Tickle Tickle,” like I say with his sisters. This went on for 10 minutes or so. “Ticka Ticka Ticka,” and his finger pointed out poking me. SO CUTE!!!
• Every time my nieces come to get me to eat food or drink tea they knock on my door and say, “Come eat food.” or “Come drink tea.” When I have friends over they get a kick out of it!
• Playing soccer with them is awesome. Usually it’s me against the two of them. I still usually win and for some reason they always want to come back for more. I’m not nice to them, I tease them, and throw the around a little, and they still like me. Not sure why, but I love them.
• For their birthday (they are two year apart with the same birthday) I gave them snickers and a hand lotion from America. The lotion was named, “PS I love you.” We talked about what I love you means for a little while and then after we drank tea together the younger of the two looked up and said, “I love you.” I almost cried as I said back to her, “I love you, too.” I meant every word of it.
• Aidana, 11, the older of the two, is very perceptive. She can tell when I have enough playing and need to go be by myself. She will just stop playing right then and then tell her sister that we are done and that they need to do something else. That makes me want to play with them more because she makes it easy to play with them!
• How much they love to help me cook anything: Pizza, cinnamon rolls, cookies… anything.
• My amazing host mom who has been through so much this year with her health but still always has a smile on her face and whenever she is home always makes me feel like I’m one of her own.
• My incredible host dad who reminds me every day that there are good men in Kyrgyzstan. Walking around town, having guys yell bad things to me that I don’t want to here can bring me down and then I come home and he is always there to show me that he is amazing. Everything I leave on a trip somewhere he shakes my hand and kisses me on my cheek. Whenever he meets my friends he does the same to them. He always takes time to get to know them and make them feel like they are always welcome.
• I hear so many not great stories about what other families do to their volunteers but taking advantage of them, asking to borrow money, charging them too much for things in their house, making them feel like they aren’t welcome in their house. I am so grateful that I have the family I do because they would never do any of that.
• I LOVE THEM SO MUCH!!! I am their second volunteer and they sometimes talk about when the other volunteer left and they cried. Then they usually follow it with saying when I leave they are going to cry again. I know I won’t be able to hold it in!

Back Row: My best friend from HS Laura, Aichuruk (niece, 9), Diana (exchange student who lived with Laura and Krissy 7 years ago who is from KG), Aidana (niece, 11), Azia (their mom and my host sister), My host mom
Next Row: Begiam (host sister who lives in Bishkek) and her son Erjan, Krissy (friend and Laura's sister), Me holding my nephew Nurmo
hammad (Nikolish), Aideme (niece, 5... Begiam's daughter), My host dad!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

I'm still here and ALIVE!!

I have been told by a few different people that I need to write a new blog entry because the last one was not a happy one. Well, the great news is that the reason I haven’t been writing blogs is because I have been so busy with doing great things this summer. I just finished a great week on lake doing a leadership camp for boys and girls in Kyrgyzstan. This was an AMAZING camp where we had the best students we had in our schools come together and learn about many different topics and then create a plan for a project to share the information with their community. My students decided to do a series of seminars on nutrition. It made me so proud that the information that I have been giving them for the past year has been sticking and they want to share it with their friends and community members!!
At this camp we covered many topics including self-esteem, nutrition, critical thinking, self defense, yoga, our bodies and how they function, LGBT, project planning and many other things. Every volunteer took a few sessions to teach in pairs or by themselves and some of the best lessons and activities I have ever seen were presented at this camp. We had students interested and participating better than I have ever seen before at a camp.
We really realized how much we made a difference and how much they appreciated the camp when after we came back from visiting a waterfall in a nearby village all of the kids went into a room and wouldn’t let us in there. They were planning something. We had a campfire that night (w/s’mores which by the way were one of the first food items in country that had actually made me homesick) and they all sang Kyrgyz songs for us. We sang American songs for them and had a great time. After the campfire they told us that we needed to come back to the conference hall and they had prepared something for us. After we all sat down and were ready, they all came out in a line and introduced themselves. They were each one of the volunteers or translators and said a little bit about themselves. The girl who was me was dancing around and making funny noises. It was amazing how well they nailed each of our personalities. It was hilarious. They did a few skits while in character and then gave short little speeches again. After each speech they said if I misrepresented you I’m sorry. I think they were afraid we would be offended, but it was great. They were able to use American humor so well! Then after they were finished they asked us if they would have a dance party and there was no way we could say no at that point.
The next morning after they presented their projects and we gave them their certificates they said they had something else for us. They all got in front of us again and gave us each metals of achievement. Mine, of course, was the “Most Joking Around.” I am so glad that we did this camp and brought the kids we did. They were great!
Now to jump backward in the summer. I have done so much and now half of the summer is over. I have stayed in a yurt five nights, I have gone to many different bodies of water, I have hiked several miles over a pass and back down the other side, I have gotten several blisters on my feet in the strangest places (between the toes).
Here is a schedule to date of my summer:
May 23 Went to Bishkek to help with training the newbies and to prepare for a camp (the one I just finished)
June 1 Friends came from America (AMAZING)
June 3 To my village- we went to jailoo (where the animals go for the summer to hang out, eat great food and get exercise), then to tash rabat (more about that later), and hung out with my family where my friends gave presents and bought a Kyrgyz rug from my host mom (she got an offer from the President of Kyrgyzstan but she saved it for Krissy because she said she would).

This is at the top of the pass on the way to Naryn.

June 6 To Song Kol (a beautiful lake where we relaxed and stayed in a yurt) This part of the trip was great because we got to do so many new cultural things: Milk a cow, make cream from that milk, set up a yurt, sleep in a yurt, make new friends while only speaking Kyrgyz…

Diana and the woman who let us help her family set up their yurt!!

June 8 To Issyk Kol (the largest alpine lake in the world) This was the part of the trip where we stayed in a hotel, went dancing, and got to see more of touristy part of the country.
June 10 Said goodbye to the girls and went back to Naryn to welcome the new volunteers (I cried when I said goodbye… it was such a great trip and I loved having them here!!)
June 12 To Ugut (Heather’s village) for a lifeskills camp. At this camp we had a blast, introduced kids to new healthy ways of eating great food, played many sports, taught girls and boys about their bodies and how to respect them, and cooked great food with other volunteers. My counterpart came to this camp to be a translator and it was so awesome. I feel like we connected so much more. We cooked together and she got to see me with my American friends and see that I’m not completely strange. All in all it was a good camp.
June 18 To my village to regroup
June 22 To Bishkek to get money because my ATM PIN stopped working. So frustrating, but I was able to order the English books for my school. The banks are electronically connected here. They are slowly moving toward that by having ATM’s and giving people cards, but the branches don’t communicate with each other. Before I got my card I could only take money out at the branch in my village. Now, I can take money out anywhere in the country as long as the ATM accepts my bank’s card. But the problem is that if it doesn’t work then I’m not able to take money out of my bank (even in my village) until I get it fixed in Bishkek and that is a 6 hour ride in a taxi and 500 som (one way).
June 24 To Song Kol for a hike from the lake to Heather’s village. We ended up getting a free ride out there. The bad part is that nothing in life is free. We had to sit in the back of a very small old soviet car with four of us back there. One girl was on Heather’s lap for over ten hours. I had a sleeping pad below my feet and had my knees at my chest and another girl was having problems with her back. We got to the place were staying at 11 pm and we showed up to a feast with the whole sheep and everything. We were so tired, but we knew that this was going to happen so it was nice to mentally prepare ourselves. We left in the morning and were driving back closer to the lake so we could hike the whole thing. The people we were with wanted us to stay with their friends because they were worried about us, but we promised to stay near a family who set up their yurts on our hike. We met some great people and had a lot of fun.
We all realized and agreed on this trip that it was so great to be able to do something like this, meet locals and completely interact with them in their local language. I was a really great moment and a good feeling about what we are doing in this country.
June 26 To my village to work again
July 2 To Naryn City to celebrate the 4th with some friends. Sometimes it’s the little things that help keep us going and not get too homesick.
July 3 Back home

This crazy storm prevented us from hiking.

July 8 To Tash Rabat (a old structure left behind from the silk road. It was thought be used a caravan. Stayed a yurt another 2 nights.
July 10 Back home
July 18 Left for camp with 2 of my students and several more from various villages in Naryn Oblast and we met up with various students and volunteers from Issykul Oblast.
July 23 Karakol to spend a night with my friends before I head back the Bishkek to pick up my books that I bought with the money that so many of you donated. Thank you so much.
I hope by July 26th I will be heading home and will be able to work with my counterpart and get some work done on our curriculum.
My summer isn’t over and there is so much more to come, but so far I have done so much and seen so much of this amazing country. Every day that I’m here I’m so happy that I was placed in a country that is so beautiful and that I get to work with such great people.
I hope this makes up for my lack of blog writing. 