I’ve been back over a month now and am slowly getting settled back into life in North America. I feel like it’s about time that I reflected back on the last 9 months and concluded this blog.
Coming home was surreal. I was actually a lot more sad than I thought I would be leaving Bishkek. The sun had finally come out and spring was in the air – I loved walking the streets, feeling completely comfortable in my surroundings. I felt like I knew “my part” of the city and could get around. I knew I would miss the familiarity of my life there and I do.
My last day at UCA
It was a long trip home and suddenly, everything felt even more familiar. I easily adjusted back into life in Canada, in my childhood home. I was surprised at how it never even felt like I had left and that Bishkek was a distant dream. Did I even go there? Sometimes, small things would jerk me back into reality – like being in my kitchen and forgetting which cupboard something was in. It made me realize that I had been gone a long time.
I was very busy visiting family and friends when I got home. Life moves a lot faster here – I felt overwhelmed with the travelling, the lists of things to do, the money I was spending. Not only that but I made several big changes coming home so there’s a lot going on for me. Things had been pretty simple in Bishkek and I never had much going on. It’s different being home and it’s taking me some time to adjust back into the swing of things. I am still feeling bouts of “reverse culture shock” and I’m slowly working through that… deep breaths.
One of the biggest challenges is knowing how to talk about my experience in a way that people will find interesting. I constantly hear “how was your trip?” – and finding a one sentence answer to encapsulate 8 months of experiences, both personal and professional, is not an easy task! I think people are genuinely interested but can’t find a way to relate or know what to ask. It’s a difficult task for them but also for me – and it can be quite isolating. However, from time to time, I’ll find someone else who’s had a similar, long term, overseas experience and we can talk for hours. That part is a rare gift. I still lean on my fellow fellows – we share a unique bond as we’re all going through this together. I’m grateful for that.
It is kind of scary that I look back at the past 9 months and have it feel like a blur. As much as it was difficult, I don’t want to forget any part of it because I want to remember my growth throughout the experience. I want to remember the people I met and the stories they told. I want to remember my observations and how I questioned things. I left Canada with many, many questions and came back with even more – and I want to remember them and pose them and question them some more. It was hard and I’m happy to be home but I still want this experience to be a part of me and for the experiences I had there to shape my way forward. I feel like it’s so easy to get drawn back into the comforts of the privileged life here in Canada. That’s something that I will be grappling with for some time.
Kyrgyzstan is a dynamic and complex place. I barely feel like I got to know the country while I was there. 8 months just isn’t long enough – I was still merely a visitor and I try to remember that. It’s important to note that my observations of the country are my own and that they may not reflect the reality of the population. There is so much history that shapes the way the country operates today that I could not possibly understand in my time there.
I did some presentations a couple weeks ago to high school students and I told them straight up that I hadn’t fully wrapped my head around some of the things I had seen or observed in Kyrgyzstan. I don’t know how long it’ll take me to truly understand or if I ever will. I do know that it makes me want to push forward – learn more and keep my curiosity about this part of the world, and others, going. I hope this curiosity pushes me, challenges me to expand my views and continue to exchange ideas with others. I don’t think I can stop now.
Time for my next adventure.
All the best,