As the new year approached this year, I wasn’t quite sure how I would spend it. Last year, the choice was easy because I didn’t really have any where to go. I would spend it at home in my village with my host-family. This year though, I wasn’t even living in my original village. Should I go home for the holidays? Or spend it with friends in the city? Or visit Jamie in Merke? Acela in Kulan? Aidos in Dihan?
In the end, I chose my old host family. Because New Year’s is a family holiday here in Kazakhstan. They don’t have a Thanksgiving. And Christmas is much more religious. So New Year’s is the time when families get together to celebrate. So I went home. I hadn’t been there in a while. Just about two months. India, conferences, and other things kept getting in the way. But like usual, I was welcomed back with open arms.
The only people at home were my host mom, one host bro, and my host niece. Despite it being a family holiday, the other members of the family couldn’t make it. One brother was in Almaty and the sisters were with their own families (maybe? Not really sure on that one.) But that was enough. We watched some movies on the DVD player, fired up the banya, and ate some beshbarmark. Just like being at home.
Around eight or so, we wandered down to the square for the holiday concert. It was pretty much like every concert. Then around ten or so we wandered back to the house, where I actually fell asleep for about an hour and woke up before midnight. A few weeks ago, the wind broke our antenna, so the TV doesn’t work at all. This is really unfortunate because I was really excited to understand Nazerbaev’s New Year’s toast this year.
Midnight came and we set off fireworks outside and congratulated the neighbors. Then we went back in for cake and champagne and more celebrating. I tried calling some other volunteers, but the cell network was so jammed, it took an hour to reach anyone. Then I went to bed. Overall, a really quiet holiday for New Year’s standards. Apparently, some guests came over at 3:00 or so, but I was so asleep my host bro couldn’t even wake me up.
The next day I visited the village of Dihan to gosti another host family I lived with for a month. I hadn’t been there for three months, but I often see that host brother at the grocery store he works at in Taraz. Delicious salads, some champagne, and trying to listen to the Russian on TV behind me while the table conversation was in Kazakh filled about four hours. Then it was back to the center then back to Taraz. End New Year’s.
Overall, rather slow and quiet. No crazy stories to tell. Pretty much a repeat of last year but more low key. It felt right though. It’s strange to think how I have a holiday tradition here already (going home and going to the square with my hbro). In life, I always face a struggle of seeking out the new and exciting or trying to accept some routine and tradition. Lately, I have seeking out more routine. It’s strange for me, but not altogether bad. But strange. Would I have a new story to tell if I had stayed in the city, or gone to Kulan or Merke? Probably, but I needed to go back more than I needed a new story. It’s a strange feeling for me.