*Name changed for privacy reasons
Two years ago, my Christmas card featured a mash up of my family and my Kyrgyz family. My parents had come to visit my second summer in Kyrgyzstan and all eight of us had posed for a group photo. Framed by bright yellow flowers and a cotton candy pink house with sky blue shutters, our mismatched crew took on an equally whimsical appeal. My dad stood a head above my host dad, showcasing the familiar American toothy grin in contrast to the more stoic Soviet-style camera-ready expression. And my mom embraced my host sister, lighting up their side with a shared smile. Only my brother was missing – his tall stature would have made him the perfect bookend, opposite my dad.
I have this photo hanging on my fridge in Madison, Wisconsin, where I now live. It’s certainly nostalgic, but my connection to those I came to care so much about in Kyrgyzstan is hardly restricted to a 4×6 snapshot. If I want to catch up on the latest village gossip, I just sign onto Skype and call my host mom’s cell phone, catching her on a Friday morning, while I’m still stuck in Thursday evening. Or if I want to hear my host sister’s 6-month-old baby boy cooing, I call her cell phone and we spend the next 30 minutes reveling in the sound of each other’s voices. (more…)