One of the first things we saw that reminded us of home on the reservation was how similar the local Kyrgyz look to Navajos and Apaches. I look around and can see the faces of many of our family and friends back home: brown skin of varying tones, dark hair, dark eyes, and high cheekbones, not too tall, not too short. We even joke that they have “Navajo legs,” skinny and bony. Black is the predominant color of dress for the youth here and back home. The grandmas wear scarfs of all colors covering their heads and graying hair, just like my grandma did. Their wrinkles tell a story of hard work and a hard life, and as I look in their eyes I fight back tears because it is as if I look into the eyes of my grandmother. On one hand it is exciting to feel “close” to home but on the other it is a constant reminder that we are far from and can’t see family “for real.” And I am not the only one who thinks we look alike.
One day I was showing pictures of home to some friends. Showing them a photo of my older brother I accidentally told them he was my страшный брат (strange brother) not my старший брат (older brother). They got a huge kick out of that one. Moving on we came across one of Derrick’s family. They were sitting along a stone wall and his uncle was looking at the camera. One of our friends exclaimed, “Whoa, a Kyrgyz! He looks just like us.” We laughed and I explained that the guy was a relative. Believing that we are “related” and seeing a picture of someone they could see as possibly being from here made us feel just a little bit more connected to them.