Elyse Wanzenried and Nils Hagen are Peace Corps volunteers. They arrived in Kyrgyzstan in September 2019 from the United States. The Americans teach English at the schools in Naryn and Talas. During three months of their stay in our country, the foreigners have already learned the Kyrgyz language and even began to sing Kyrgyz songs with almost no accent.
Elyse and Nils learned the Kyrgyz song Zhamgyr Toktu. The young people are invited to feasts as guests and are asked to sing it.
— Why did you choose Kyrgyzstan?
— I came to teach English at rural schools. It is also necessary to increase the potential of teachers. I chose your country, because I like that it has many peoples and cultures.
— When I applied to the Peace Corps, I deliberately chose Kyrgyzstan, because I liked the programs. I wanted to be of service. I am also from the cold state of Minnesota; I prefer not very hot climate.
— We came to a village in Issyk-Ata district. Our group learned the Kyrgyz language there.
— What places have you been able to see during this time, and which regions do you want to visit?
— I work in Talas. But I have already had an opportunity to see Suusamyr valley, visited Kegety and Issyk-Ata. I also saw Burana tower, I really liked it.
— I have been to Naryn region only.
— What national dishes do you like, and what are you afraid to try?
— I love all kinds of lagman. In general, there is a lot of meat in Naryn, I’m not particularly afraid of eating anything. The only thing I do not want to try is yak meat jelly.
— I like beshbarmak made of horse meat. I am not a picky eater, I eat everything.
— You Kyrgyz is very good. How long have you learned it, and what difficulties did you face?
— I have learned Kyrgyz for two and a half months. I practice it in the family where I live. I also have a tutor in Chaek. It was hard for me to learn sequence of addressing people in the Kyrgyz language. I learned French, it contains only 200 words used when addressing someone, and there are much more of them in Kyrgyz. You need to remember who and how to address each time.
— Learning Kyrgyz is very different from English. It was really difficult for me, especially mastering the Cyrillic alphabet.
— You sing Kyrgyz songs. Who taught you this, and which ones have you already learned?
-So far, Nils and I have only learned Zhamgyr Toktu. Our Kyrgyz teacher constantly switched on this song for us. When we got acquainted with the culture of Kyrgyzstan, we listened to songs. Of course, at first, we did not even think that we will begin to sing. People explained the meaning of this song to us. Gradually, we began to like it more and more, and we decided to sing it. In the future, I would like to learn something else. I am invited to feasts and asked to sing Zhamgyr Toktu.
— I live near Kazakhstan and I already learn a Kazakh song. My adoptive brother advised it to me.
— What did you like in close acquaintance with the local population, and what disappointed you?
— You have very hospitable and patient people. I liked how they answered, explained, tried to understand me when I came. I was prepared for the difference of cultures. There are enough bad people in my country.
— I like the family in which I live. Nothing that could disappoint occurs to me.
— I would like your country to improve the education system, in particular, the methodology of learning and teaching English at schools.
— The main thing for me is to make people understand how important it is to learn English. I would like to show an opportunity for development of the teachers.
— When would you like to come here again and would you advise your relatives and friends to visit Kyrgyzstan?
— There are many wonderful people in your country. I would definitely like to return to Kyrgyzstan and visit the family in which I live. After I finish work, I plan to go to law school in the USA, and I’ll return after graduation.
-There are people here who care about me. I like nature and culture. I will, of course, recommend Kyrgyzstan to my friends and relatives. I plan to attend weddings of my adoptive brothers.