My name is John. Ok, so maybe that's not the name my parents gave me, maybe it's not the name my friends call me by, and maybe it's not even the name that is on my driver's license and passport. Despite all of this, my name is still John. I know this because of the two friendly local guys who sit at the base of Suleiman Too between 6:40 and 6:50 every morning and who helpfully call out my real name to me as I run by them on my way down the mountain back to my apartment. At first, in my ignorance, I wanted to stop and correct them of what I perceived as their error in identifying me. However, as time passed and the ritual repeated itself, I began to wonder if maybe, in their ignorance of what was enscribed on my birth certificate, they had perhaps unwittingly stumbled onto some deeper truth about my identity. Maybe in this time and this place I no longer present to the world as Bryan, but instead as John. And if, in reality, a name serves as no more than a particular grouping of sounds in the air or scratches on paper meant to identify an individual to those around him, then who was I to judge that my name was not John. Being trapped inside my own mind and body and unable to truly perceive how I appear to others, I in fact am the worst judge of what my name should be. So, my name is John.
I wake up to the sound of a siren rising urgently up from the street below my apartment. At first I barely recognize it; my brain, still befuddled by sleep, frantically searching my memory for a similar noise in its history to compare this strange high-pitched shreaking to. Finally something clicks, and I identify the vibrant pulsing as a siren. Still struggling to pull my consciousness back from the edge of sleep, I hazily wonder if the siren is police, fire, EMS... Has something happened to someone I know? Is my building on fire? Has there been a shooting? As these questions rush through my foggy mind, like homebound ships desperately trying to reach port ahead of a storm, the siren cuts off abruptly. As my brain struggles valiantly to cope with this new development, the room I am laying in starts to come into focus in the steel gray light of early morning. Wardrobe. Couch. Two ratty old chairs. A small TV in the corner. Suddenly it all makes sense. The odd tones of the siren. The way it ended suddenly. The siren was no emergency warning at all. At least, not an emergency as I would think of it. Rather, it was the modified horn of a marshrutka, one of the cramped and often crowded mini-buses that serve as the main form of public transportation in Central Asia. Finally the light goes on in my head as the sun slowly stretches its own tendrils of light over the horizon. It is 6 a.m. And I am in Kyrgyzstan.
Here are some pictures from a New Year's party I went to with my Russian tutor Tolkun and a bunch of his friends - this definitely is not what I was imagining when I joined the Peace Corps!
So at least now Peace Corps can't accuse me of not doing my part to increase recruitment - this picture has got to be good for at least 100 new male applicants looking to come to Kyrgyzstan!
Sometimes after a few hours of dancing you need to go outside and take a group picture in the first real snow of winter!
I don't remember whose idea it was that climbing Suleiman Too at one in the morning in the middle of a blizzard would be a fun activity to conclude our evening with.... but they were right! If only the girls hadn't given up on our summiting attempt halfway and made the rest of us all go back down with them...
I can't complain about accomodations at Rainbow - I get my own office and desk, complete with a deskmate! (Our part-time accountant, Erkin, seen here reading a pornographic newspaper. Personally, I prefer the cup of Nescafe sitting on my side of the desk to help me get up in the morning)
Fatima and Dilshad, my director and counterpart. Aren't they cute together?
Fatima and Dilshad, in the their more usual positions of hogging two of our three computers... err... I mean, doing extremely important work
As you can see, keeping our kitchen clean is a high priority at Rainbow!
Our volunteer room at Rainbow, occupied by an actual volunteer!
Our activity room - a.k.a. the coldest room in the office. Notice that there is no one in here; that is true from about October to March.
Conference room - where all the real work of Rainbow happens