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Staging and Arrival in Kyrgyzstan

Orientation Village
The village where Maaike's orientation was held.

My name is Maaike and I have officially been a Peace Corps Trainee in the English Education sector for over two weeks now. The past two weeks have flown by and felt like forever at the same time, somehow, and have been full of so much fun and new experiences!

I am part of the K-30 cohort, which means I’m a Volunteer in the 30th year of the Peace Corps in the Kyrgyz Republic. There are 21 of us Trainees.

At our staging, which was held in Washington, D.C., we learned about the purpose and goals of the Peace Corps and reflected on our desire to serve. We had a lot of "Ah-ha!" moments, some funny and some serious. Mine were a little bit of both. While of course I knew what I had committed to, it began to really hit me that "this is not a vacation."

K-30 Cohort
K-30 cohort staging in Washington, D.C.

After a day and a half of staging in Washington, D.C. we departed for the airport and began our very long journey to Kyrgyzstan. We had a 10-hour flight to Istanbul, a two-hour layover, and then another five-hour flight; I slept for most of it, luckily.

When we landed it was about 1 a.m. in Kyrgyzstan; we were greeted by Peace Corps staff, who were kind to come greet us in the middle of the night. We went back to the Peace Corps headquarters in Bishkek, the capital city, for a couple of hours because of Peace Corps’ “no travel during dark” rule. We rested for a few hours, which mostly consisted of playing games, singing along to the guitar that one Trainee brought along, and drinking chai.

Once it became light, we boarded the bus to depart for the guest house where we would stay during orientation, about a two-hour drive from Bishkek. The guesthouse was beautifully sited near a national park, right by the mountains. For a week we had trainings every day on topics like safety, health, culture, and language. We spent evenings learning traditional Kyrgyz games and/or going to the pool/sauna, sitting around a campfire, and doing karaoke.

Host family
Maaike with her host mom and sister during pre-service training.

After our orientation we packed up and went to our host family matching ceremony, where we met the kind Kyrgyz families who would be taking care of us for the next 10 weeks during pre-service training, and before we move to our permanent sites. About four Trainees are placed together in different villages, which are located near a city where we have a hub-day training each Wednesday.

My host family is very nice, but I still don't understand a lot of what is being said to me. I have a host apa (mom) named Ainura, and a host chong apa (grandmother) who is 86 years old, and a host brother and sister, 14 and 12 years old. My host dad works in Bishkek and stays there for long periods of time, so we haven't yet met. The older son just finished college and lives elsewhere, but I met him and some of his friends when they came to visit.

My second day here was Eid, an Islamic holiday, which I understand to be the end of a fasting period to honor Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Isaac. On Eid they sacrifice a goat and eat lots of goat on that day—and a lot of goat in general! We visited about six different households, and each had a full meal set out for us.

They've been feeding me so much here and the food is very good—lots of meat and carbs. I guess I better start working out! My host mom and sister laughed when I told them I wanted to lose weight. I don't know if they were laughing because there's no way that will happen here, or what, but as long as they think I'm funny that's a win for me.

I've already learned and experienced so much; I look forward to the rest of pre-service training and then, onto service!

Eid meal
One of many meals Maaike shared with her host family and others on Eid.