After a slow second half of 2017 with my broken foot, my 2018 picked up right where I left off. I moved to Kyrgyzstan in January and was based there through early May. Early summer had me working across China as an In-Country Director for the International Scholar Laureate Program before volunteering at the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup in St. Petersburg.
In July, I once again served as a trainer for the US State Department-sponsored Saudi Young Leaders Exchange Program in Washington, D.C. and Pittsburgh, and I just returned from a related conference week in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. In between, I visited family in the Seattle area, Charleston, and Montana, explored some of Central Asia, enjoyed the World Nomad Games (yes, I know, the blog is still in the works), and saw the Seahawks win big in London. More recently, I faked a holiday trip to India in order to successfully surprise my parents at home for Christmas.
While the fall was much more exciting and hectic than originally anticipated, it was wonderful to be based back in Bishkek again, and most importantly, to have it feel like home. I spent autumn developing wonderful, meaningful friendships with people and colleagues I’d met in the spring and establishing new relationships with people I encountered in my community this time around. I was also lucky enough to have two friends come to visit me in Kyrgyzstan! Still, I did my best to focus on working on the goals I set at the beginning of the year. So as the sun sets on another year of being alive and in the world, here’s how I did…
- Learn conversational Russian: Meh. Semi-check. I started taking private Russian lessons with the amazing Saikal at Lingua Yurt. Having spent only 7.5 months total in Kyrgyzstan this year means that I continue to tell people that I speak “Yandex Russki” (Yandex = Uber in Russia/CIS countries). That being said, I can get by OK but I am still embarrassed that my Russian isn’t better than it is!
- Visit three new countries: Check. I moved to a new one, Kyrgyzstan, and visited three new ones – Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Saudi Arabia.
- Coach and/or mentor 5-10 young people: Formally speaking, I didn’t quite get there. At the same time, if I think about consistent conversations I’ve had with students and program participants, I’ve realized that several of them view me as a mentor anyway.
- Find an additional mentor for myself: Still looking! However, this past year I was able to work with some incredible people that I’ve often found myself going to for advice about personal and professional things.
- Acquire the license for TEDxAUCA and start organizing: Check. The event will be held this spring at the American University of Central Asia.
- Skype or FaceTime with my immediate family members once a week: Not once a week but in my opinion, definitely more frequent phone conversation than in previous years.
- Create a Diplohack event in Bishkek: Nope. Did research and suspect that these events were a temporary EU project.
- Walk normally on both feet with absolutely zero pain: Check. Finally!
- Volunteer with two organizations in my community: Check, in Pittsburgh this summer. My community is wherever I am!
- Reduce. Donate six boxes of stuff: I made it halfway, getting rid of 2-3 boxes of things.
- Read 20 books for pleasure: Unfortunately, I only completed nine and am in the midst of reading another four I recently acquired from the public library. Need to hurry up and read them before flying back to KG!
- Stretch my interpersonal muscles by seeking out work with those I might not ordinarily interact with: Check, check, check! There are countless examples 🙂
- Do a no-spend challenge: Nyet. However, I did a month of drinking only water to raise money for wells in women-centric communities abroad.
- Continue to acknowledge those around me for all they do: Check, I think. I still want to work on thanking even more people in my life, though.
- Exercise at a local gym 3-4 times per week: While in Bishkek, check.
- Narrow down the “start my own business” options: Check due to preliminary discussions. We shall see what 2019 brings in this department.
- Take 3-5 MOOCs: Check, just barely. I took three: Political Governance and Public Policy in Russia, Innovation Management, and Organizational Analysis.
- Give more and better hugs. :): Check, check!
Now that we’ve taken a look back at 2018, it’s time to look forward to 2019. I don’t like calling these New Year’s resolutions. Rather, let’s call them “paths to follow with purpose.” Here we go again, in no particular order…
- Find a Russian language exchange partner and meet with him/her once per week.
- Visit two new countries.
- Meet and spend time with more of my friends’ children – wherever they may be!
- Create a mentorship program for female AUCA students.
- Develop new grassroots ways to strengthen ties between the US and Saudi Arabia.
- Put more emphasis on holistic self-care from exercise to sleep to healthy eating to “work-life balance” to socializing and dating. The ‘Designing Your Life’ initiative has a great worksheet to help track these things!
- Read/listen to an actual book for at least two hours per week.
- Send a random ‘thank you’ message/email to someone in my life once per week.
- Triple my knowledge of Arabic from 10 words to 30 words.
- Establish a relationship with a local NPO in Bishkek where I can volunteer.
- Continue to make progress (aka research!) on my dream of owning and renting out a tiny house.
- Give, give, give – within reason and while holding my ground. #babushki
- Be more honest with my parents about my travels 🙂
May your 2019 be magical, full of opportunities and joy with the people you love most. As for me, I’ll be back in Kyrgyzstan the second week of January…