“You’re leaving?” asks my little host brother Emir in this photo. Yes, buddy, I am. In fact, I already did. I am no longer a Peace Corps volunteer or a resident of Kyrgyzstan. I’m writing this in my pajamas at a wooden table facing a window, a breeze blowing through my boyfriend’s house in Houston which is experiencing a full-fledged spring. It’s a far cry from the snow, long underwear, dirt-and-discomfort, no-English, and actual work that dominated my life two weeks ago, and while I have nothing to complain about, I was completely blindsided by getting sent home and the transition has been unnerving. I currently feel too pampered and useless to read for pleasure, which is a sign that I’m not in a normal state of mind. And that’s the reason why this blog has once again–but for the last time, hopefully–been allowed to lapse into inactivity.
Sparing you most of the details: basically, Peace Corps was in a heightened state of alert because of the recently aired 20/20 documentary on girls who were raped during their volunteer service. PC Headquarters found out that I was having sexual harassment issues, reviewed the incident history in my file (which, to be fair, was extensive) and told me I could never be in my village for more than 24 hours again. Because I was and am extremely attached to my community, my kids and particularly my Kyrgyz counterpart Dinara (pictured above, with puffy crying Jia and some “Gary Potter” Russian translations I managed to buy at the last minute), I chose to come home rather than switch volunteer sites.
I have many mixed feelings about Peace Corps’ role in this series of events. Where was this “support” when I needed it, when I was grounded to my admittedly unsafe village for three months, and why must it have come at the behest of a bureaucratic image-control problem just as I had finished alphabetizing the books for my baby chick of a children’s library? But I’ve come to accept and appreciate this turn of events. I was planning to leave early anyway; I truly wasn’t sure that I could make it through another year and a half in my village without some sort of harm being done. My volunteer friends are going to help finish my work, and in the end I’m nothing but grateful for the very particular and strange things I’ve learned from all of this. With two civil uprisings, two evacuations, four political lock-downs, a thousand marriage proposals, nine million sheep, and friendships that eclipse all the former–well, it’s impossible to wish for or imagine anything different.
So I’m back in America for good, and I’ll get over this feeling of purposelessness soon enough. I’m currently embarking on five different writing projects at once, one of which is going to be turning this blog into a more legitimate venture. So, you know, keep reading–thanks for sticking with me through this scattershot year, and I assure you that I’ll be (trying to be) funny again soon.