Is it Cool in Issyk-Kul? Getting here and Orientation

We are here!

After a more than 48 hour travel “day” (about 3 days really) that routed us from Washington D.C. to Frankfurt to Istanbul to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and then to Issyk-Kul we are finally here! The Peace Corps staff is really “easing us into” the country. We are having orientation and staying at a 5 star hotel right next to the most beautiful and largest, highest salt water lake in the country (and I think in this hemisphere, but my geography skills aren’t great).  We have heated bathrooms, hot showers, and most of the amenities we will miss later on in service (as in 2 days from now). I’ve also been told the food here is better than average Kyrgyz food, which makes me suspicious about what I might be encountering later.

(I was planning on uploading a photo here, but the internet connection is too slow)

So far we have had a brief (and very jet-lagged) first day of orientation and a full day of training on safety and security, personal health while in country, and language.  89% of the 55 volunteers in our group (a much larger group than I expected, we almost double the number of current volunteers) are learning Kyrgyz and were assigned their Language and Culture Facilitator today. I will be learning Russian along with 6 other volunteers, 4 TEFLs and 2 Health. Our LCF is named Usen and so far has been incredibly patient with us as we stumble through pronunciation and greetings. He has been with the Peace Corps in Kyrgyzstan since it began in 1993 and learned english through working with volunteers. I am really looking forward to learning from and with him!

During PST volunteers are spread over about 5 different villages that surround a “hub site” where groups will meet a few days a week for large group training. I was lucky enough to be placed with a host family at the hub site and will be spending the next 8 weeks with them in Kraskaya Rechka after I meet them on Wednesday.  I cannot express how excited I am to being Pre Service Training and meet my first host family!

Some things I have learned so far about Kyrgyzstan:

  • rice, noodles and other foods may not be sorted thoroughly, meaning chew carefully there may be pebbles or a stray knuckle bone in your plov
  • speaking Russian requires you to kind of almost-but-not-quite spit on the person to whom you are speaking
  • burping and slurping are actually expected at meal times and the faster you eat the more people think you like the food (so I’m planning on pretty much inhaling the first meal my host mom cooks to get on her good side… I’ll look out for stray rocks)
  • if you eat all the food on your plate you WILL be served more
  • a “salad” here mostly consists of mayo and eggs and MAYBE a cucumber (I now understand my friends’ aversion to mayonaise)
  • if you sit on the cold concrete or tile ground, someone will probably come up and warn you that you shouldn’t do that because you will become infertile
  • the best way to avoid getting bitten by a feral dog is to carry a rock (presumably to throw at any that come close)
  • the best way to avoid being “bride-napped” is to make it well known that you are a bad cook and a terrible housekeeper

Just some fun ones for now, but more to come as soon as I find another viable internet connection!

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3 thoughts on “Is it Cool in Issyk-Kul? Getting here and Orientation

  1. DEAR ANNA CATHERINE, I THOROUGHLY ENJOYED READING THIS, IT IS VERY ENTERTAINING AND FULL OF INTERESTING INFORMATION. DON’T SIT ON THE COLD GROUND, PLEASE, AND CARRY ROCKS WITH YOU AT ALL TIMES. I DON’T TRUST FERAL DOGS. I DO SO HOPE YOUR HOST FAMILY IS VERY WELCOMING, AND GOOD COOKS, BESIDE. TAKE GOOD CAR OF YOUR LOVELY SELF. BLESSINGS ON YOU.
    MARTHA

  2. Excited you are there, and have been for several days by now. Hope you are settling in well. Looking forward to your blogs as you get opportunity. Jane says, “Hi.”

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