Friday, August 17, 2012

An Unlikely Family: Celebrate Community Blog Hop, Continues

A yurt on the Kyrgyz jailoo.
A melange of cultures: America, Kyrgyzstan, and Greece

According to Pavarti K Tyler's instructions, today's post is supposed to be: Share your favorite community/family photo, and tell us the story behind it.

I hate 'favorite' questions, because how can you pull out ONE favorite photo and not feel as if you've left out so many others who are close to your heart? So I decided to continue to tell you about how Nurjan became my Kyrgyz daughter.

In 2007, I received an email on a listserv that itself had been forwarded from another list about a young lady from central Asia who needed a place to stay in the Boston area in order to study for her masters degree at Brandeis University.

Her letter to me included this:

My country is Kyrgyzstan, gorgeous landscape with warm people and a unique culture. It is a landlocked and mountainous country in Central Asia. Bordered by Kazakstan, Uzbekstan, Tajikistan and China, my country is often called “the Switzerland of Central Asia”. I miss it very much, like a wild bird misses the nest.

Whenever I miss my homeland, I begin thinking about my childhood spent with my grandparents, my family, and my friends. I wish that I could wake once again in the jailoo (a summer pasture) and drink the fresh milk that my grandmother got from the cows fresh each morning. I miss the crisp, cool air from that blows down from the mountains. I miss those mountains, waking each morning and seeing them as I crawl from my warm bed. Then after waking, I would wash my face in the cool water from our spring and watch the small fishes as they glittered in the sunshine. You cannot escape the beauty of nature in Kyrgyzstan: the smell of the flowers, the sounds of the birds, the way the sun warms your skin awaken your senses. Everything is calm and peaceful. No cars, no screaming, no noise except for the rustling of the leaves and the rushing of the stream.

I wish I would sleep again in the yurt, the traditional Kyrgyz summer house.

 I was impressed by her fierce determination to complete her education and her courage in doing just that so far away from her home, her culture, and her support network.

We had never invited anyone to live in our home before, but from the moment I read Nurjan's letter, I knew it was the right thing to do.

From the time Nurjan moved in, she became family. The daughter I never had, The big sister to my boys. As you can probably see from the photo, she is quite small. Maybe not even 5 foot. But in the small frame lives a woman of surprising strength and resilience.

She lived with us for almost two years, moving away to Washington, DC to get married and to work in international development, an area that was very important to her, especially in central Asia. After she was married in the US, she planned to have a traditional wedding in Kyrgyzstan and she wanted her American host family to be there with her.

We were thrilled and ended up spending 3 weeks traveling through Kyrgyzstan in this amazing group: Our family, including our two teen sons, Nurjan and her new husband, his mother (who had never traveled outside of the US before), a graduate school friend, and a couple who met us from Greece. They had helped her during her undergraduate schooling there to raise funds and obtain scholarships for her graduate program.

And the photo at the top of this post? That's the yurt we slept in on the Kyrgyz jailoo, just as Nurjan had described it.

It was the trip of a lifetime and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. (You can read more about our experiences with Nurjan and our trip to Kyrgyzstan on earlier blog entries.)  

(And a blessed Eid to all who celebrate.)


  1. Amazing! What an adventure you had. I am fascinated by Yurts and so jealous of your trip. Sounds like you have an amazing heart to open it so completely to Nurjan. Thank you for being a part of my community.

    1. Thank you, Pavarti. It is an honor to have gotten to know you. And I'm really enjoying your blog hop.

      I miss Nurjan terribly! She and her husband are doing development work and are currently in Peru, but are moving to Viet Nam for their next posting. At least we can stay connected via the 'net.

  2. She is a beautiful young woman and writes beautifully too.

    1. Thank you for reading and commenting, Tahlia. Yes, Nurjan is a beautiful young woman, inside and out. I am proud to be part of her extended family.

  3. What a sweet story!
    I have visited the country Nurjan is from, but never got to sleep in yurta.
    Thanks for sharing!