Moving back in with mom and dad
The first night is always the most nerve-wracking.
Sitting around a table staring into the faces of my new parents, all I could do was smile and drink more tea. I would regret it later, stumbling out into the dark at 3 a.m. to find the outhouse somewhere past the guard dog. But tonight tea was my “welcome home” sign, my “hello Kyrgyzstan” and my savior in the awkward silence. So I sipped on.
These new people were now my family. I had been dropped off here after only three days in country to get to know them, learn the language and acclimate myself to a culture I was to call home.
Most Peace Corps posts around the world involve a homestay that can be anywhere from a few weeks to the whole 27 months. In Peace Corps Kyrgyz Republic, Volunteers are required to be with a host family during in-country training and again for the first three months as a full-fledged Volunteer. For some it’s exhilarating and the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. For others it can be sort of like moving back into their parents’ basement.
I was somewhere in the middle. As an introvert who needs people, I was at the same time exhausted by our intensive time together and relieved by the constant care and inclusion. Each evening after training I would eat dinner with the family and then hang out, stumbling through conversations, flipping through photo albums or flicking a Frisbee in the street. It was often not until midnight that I crawled up to my room to collapse in an overfed heap. Life was good.
After our two months together, the day came to move out to my permanent site across the country. Having held myself together when I left my family back in the States, I was surprised by the emotion pushing itself out of little holes in my eyelids.
You can find a hut in a savanna, a cell in a honeycomb of apartments or a yurt on the edge of the world. Yet housing is so much less about the house and so much more about the people you share it with: your little brother yelling your name and giving you a snotty-nosed hug, a neighbor down the road shaking your hand and not letting go until you’re sitting over a cup of chai, your host dad handing you a few dollars for a snack along the road.
Moving back in with mom and dad wasn’t what I was expecting on this side of the world, but it made the house a home.