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Looking Back at Our Final Homestay

Staying in Kyrgyzstan is a starkly different experience from the oppressive heat and government of Xinjiang. The air seems lighter. The people, naturally, seem happier. Driving across the border and into the mountains over a week ago, I commented to Madeleine that you can feel the life here.

The thirteen of us just completed our final homestays. This morning, we left Kashgar Village, a suburb of Osh. My homestay mother smiled widely at us each time she saw us and insisted that we ate more of her delicious food. After our breakfast on Wednesday, Laura, Annika, and I headed over to the instructors’ house, where Tindy had us write down a list of everything that makes us happy.

As I jotted down items including Halloween, pomegranates, family, and the smell of rain, I came to realize that the change in atmosphere from Xinjiang to Kyrgyzstan reflects my own personal transformation from this past autumm until now. Beginning in the fall of my junior year of high school, I found myself at one of the lowest points of my life. Had I tried to write a list of things that made me happy at the time, I doubt I could have filled a notebook page. However, I can now say that I’m the happiest I’ve been in years.

Everything about our last homestay exemplifies this. Yeah, it’s hot without AC, and it would be easy to let discomfort tarnish the homestay experience, but all of us have been blown away by the positives of our homestay town and its people. It was so cool to walk out of my bedroom in the morning and find myself standing under a canopy of grapes. The sunset every evening over the cornfields looked like it was from a calendar of picturesque views. The people were so kind and welcoming–upon meeting us, our mother’s friend told Laura, Annika, and I, “I love you!” with a big smile. Positivity, I’ve learned, is all about perspective, and I love that I’m able to take the best parts of every experience and make something worth remembering.

I’ll be so sad to leave this incredible country, but I know that I can pack up everything I’ve learned about the world–and about myself–and bring it bake to the US with me. I’m so happy here, and I’m psyched to carry that with me wherever I go.