Time for me to get profound, I guess? Had we stuck to the original plan of 1) move to foreign country, 2) learn language, 3) become expert, 4) move back to DC for cushy consultancy job, then I’d be boarding a plane today feeling profoundly disappointed.
The move happened, so snaps to me for completing Step 1.
For Step 2, I’ve made tremendous strides from Day 1 when I knew most of the Cyrillic alphabet (and no words, phrases, or anything in Russian except how to say “I don’t speak Russian.”), but I’m nowhere near fluent. I can understand enough to get the general idea of what someone says to me, I can tell if people in the room are gossiping about me, and I can generally respond correctly in English to a question posed to me in Russian (it made for interesting conversations in Dubai with my Russian speaking peers). If necessary, I can usually string together a Russian sentence like a disoriented caveman and get a general idea across to the person I’m speaking to, but I’m still far away from holding sophisticated bilingual conversations like a true, employable Kyrgyzstan expert should.
Next step, Kyrgyzstan expert? Is there even such a position? I keep up with most current events and I know a fair amount about the intricacies of living and working in Bishkek, but unless we’re using relative terms (such as, I’m more of an expert on Kyrgyzstan than my little brother) I would say that’s another far-off goal.
And lastly, going back to a cushy job in Washington, DC. Some days I wish this were true; a steady paycheck, the cozy one-bedroom apartment on Logan Circle, job responsibilities that are mostly already mapped out for me, readily accessible gelato, etc. This is assuming that there are companies desperately wanting to employ a 23-year-old (without a Master’s degree, the horror!) who spent some time in Kyrgyzstan. Maybe if I had infiltrated some radical Islamists on the Tajik/Afghan border? Somehow weaseled my way into Turkmenistan or Uzbekistan? Worked with oil executives in Kazakhstan? Nope. Kyrgyzstan is the low-hanging fruit of a region that is already pretty low on the world’s radar. You know about Kyrgyzstan if you need to know about Kyrgyzstan. And if you need to know about Kyrgyzstan, maybe there are better people out there for this hypothetical job. Otherwise, I’d just be another recent college-grad duking it out for entry-level positions in these harsh economic times.
Obviously, the original plan strayed long ago, since we decided early on that just one year was not going to be enough. And just in case those cushy DC jobs don’t fall into our laps, we’ve invested a profound amount of time, energy, money and sanity into building up our research organization here. One year is not long enough to judge whether it will be a success or not, whether we should cut our losses and jet back to the states or stick around for at least one more year. Or two, or three.
So today I’m not wrapping up my good-byes, answering questions about if I’ll ever come back with far-off glances and “I don’t know, maybe someday, Kyrgyzstan’s a special place to me, but who knows what the future holds,” (we all know by now that means ‘no’) dreading the constant need to sum up life over one year into one quick sound bite when people ask “How was it?”
But today I am hopping on a plane. Instead of a sobbing hug, I’ll give Bishkek a knowing nod of my head. A casual “see ya later,” instead of the heartfelt “I’ll always remember you, Bishkek!” In three weeks I’ll be thoroughly vacationed and ready to start off Year 2 of living in Kyrgyzstan, pick up where I left off with all my tangible and otherwise life goals. You know, all that profound stuff.
(P.S. – Can we take a moment to appreciate how much better my photography has gotten since one year ago? You’re welcome, world.)