Here in Kyrgyzstan, I’m kind of a rock star. In my first week in country, I got interviewed by a local newspaper. Then on Independence Day I go interviewed by Kyrgyzstan’s only TV station. What can I say, maybe my stunning good looks have just made me the perfect interviewee. Or perhaps it has more to do with the fact that I am an American in their country (a rarity outside of military and diplomatic personnel). Either way, it’s pretty cool.
My newspaper interview was about the Peace Corps and what they do in Kyrgyzstan. I got asked typical questions such as, “did I pick Kyrgyzstan to serve in?” and “am I worried about all the crime in the country?” These questions are so easy to answer it’s like treading water, especially the one about crime. Crime is everywhere, if you go down the wrong street or are not somewhere you’ve been before in America you may get robbed. As for whether I picked Kyrgyzstan, I say that the Peace Corps does not allow its potential volunteers to pick where they go. I just kinda shrug off all the questions, and I have to admit, it’s fun.
My TV interview was done on Kyrgyz Independence day, August 31st. The previous day I had arrived to visit for the weekend the school I would be working in starting around September 21st, and the administration asked me to take part in the Independence Day celebration that would be taking place the following morning at 10am. Now, in typical Kyrgyz fashion (so I hear, this is the first time I experienced it), the ceremony did not begin until 12:30pm, which was frustrating since I had planned to go into Bishkek to meet up with some other volunteers. Anyway, watched as some of the kids of the school sang traditional songs, did traditional dances, played traditional instruments and then gave a brief speech in Russian after the local government officials had said their piece. The ceremony itself was not taped.
After the ceremony was plov, bread, tea and vodka time! Hurray! I politely refused the vodka (and was surprisingly not pushed on it) and ate only sparingly of the food because I didn’t know how it had been prepared. This little repast ended after pretty much everybody in the room (who could be pushed into doing it) had given a toast. Now it was TV time!
My interview was short. They wanted me to say my name, who I worked for and then talk about what I saw during the Independence Day celebrations. So I said my name, who I worked for and commenced to talk about how I saw the same levels of patriotism, love of country and pride here on Kyrgyz Independence Day as I saw back home in America. I have to admit, the celebrations weren’t exactly the same. I know that for every Independence Day I can remember (while living at home) I’ve woken up to LOUD Souza marches (you’ve probably heard them, and they are very patriot sounding), and had the day pretty much commence as normal with a barbeque and beer somewhere in there. So I’m not sure how much patriotism and love of country can be found in my typical 4th of July celebrations, but I guess it may have been at about the same level as their typical music/dance followed by vodka shots and plov. So happy Independence Day Kyrgyzstan, you’ve had a great 17 years so far.