How to count

Counting here starts with the most important word of all: Beer. If this wasn’t a sign Kyrgyz was going to be the most awesomest language ever, I’d never drink another Jiboe again.

Each day in PST language classes, we learned to count as we learned to take baby steps in the culture.




One, two, three days in training…one, two, three trainees sleeping…one, two, three sessions on diarrhea…one, two, three months to go ‘til school starts…one, two months to our Close of Service conference…one, two, WHAT?!?

Somehow I skipped a few numbers in there. How did time go so fast? Life during training seems like a whole different lifetime. But that’s the funny thing with numbers and time. It seems so long ago, but feels like it went by so fast.

So as I begin to count down the days, how do I make the days count?

Math instruction for the village kid — falling asleep has never been so easy

I’m wanting to extend for a third year, but even if my request is approved, I’ll still be leaving this village. Forever. It’s a shot in the gut, realizing that. It gives me that scrambling sense, the one where I’m told I can keep as much as I can hold and so I’m grabbing at everything, stacking it up in my arms, stuffing things in my pockets and they’re tumbling down, hitting the floor, slipping through my fingers.

I think about each of the “lasts.” The last hike up the red hill in town. The last dinner at my friend Maksat’s. The last time I’ll see these familiar mountains as they slip away in the rear view mirror.

It can’t end. It won’t. I still know these people, this valley. I’ve sewn my life into these hills and it will stretch and maybe even tear a bit but I will always be part of this and it will always be part of me.

I told my family when I was leaving the states that it wasn’t a forever goodbye. “You guys make this seem like you’re mourning my funeral. I’m not dying you know. And it’s just Kyrgyzstan. I’m not climbing in a rocket for the moon.”

Maybe fifty years ago the Peace Corps was like that, where you might as well have been serving on the moon, helping the mooninites improve their cheese production or something. Where volunteers sort of just disappeared into the countryside for two years, a letter occasionally wriggling its way loose and inching towards America, reassuring its recipients that the volunteer was still alive two months before.

Now we have cell phones and skype and facebook and tumblr and a thousand other little gadgets and applications where we connect and stay in touch. We use those to connect back home in the states, but really they’re for connecting to wherever home is.

So in counting down, I never reach zero. Because I’m not in a rocket ship for the moon, I’m on the same planet, looking up at that same orb above our heads. And while our views may be from different angles, I’ll always know we’re just a phone number away.

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