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  • Writer's pictureToby A. Cox

Two small leaps and a hop towards a new perspective

And we're off! Photo Credit: Magda Pearl Ostrov

"Don't be afraid, I've done this a million times" said the parasailing instructor before we took off.

I must have looked a little uneasy; one minute I decided to parasail and the next minute I was harnessed in and attached to a parachute. This parachute had personality – it was spunky, red, with large cartoon eyes, and a goofy smile. I imagined it repeating what the instructor said. I’ve done this a million times, you’ll be fine.

"Start running." He said to run, but really, I barely took two steps and a tiny hop before my feet were off the ground and I was 100 feet, then 200 feet, then 300 feet in the air.

This weekend, I went to Cholpon-Ata, a town in Issyk-Kul, with my fellow Fulbrighters. Issyk-Kul is a region in Kyrgyzstan named after the large, salt water lake. This lake is a popular travel destination for tourists and locals alike, who oftentimes refer to it as “the Pearl of Kyrgyzstan."

Rightfully so.

You can't deny its beauty, especially from hundreds of feet in the air. The mountains looked even bigger, the water below looked like a sheet of glass, and the air felt cleaner. The best thing though? It was brand new – a perspective of Kyrgyzstan I hadn’t seen before.

For the last week, I’ve been getting settled into my new life in Kyrgyzstan – transitioning from Peace Corps Volunteer to Fulbrighter and from English teacher to National Geographic Fellow.

After living in a country for two years, no matter how different it is from where you come from, it becomes “normal”.

The public transit system? Normal.

Piling into a mini bus, even though it has definitely reached its maximum capacity? Normal.

Rarely ever speaking in English? Normal.

Haggling for a better price for white honey in the bazar? Normal.

The breathtakingly beautiful landscapes with rigid mountains and lush, green fields? They still captivate my soul, but they’ve become comforting, which, to me, is a type of normal.

Kyrgyzstan has become my home away from home.

Flying around Issyk-Kul for those 7 minutes gave me the fresh perspective I didn’t even know I needed. It reminded me that no matter how much you consider a place “home”, there will always be something you didn’t know or a view you haven’t seen. The world is so vast that there are an infinite number of things to learn and an infinite number of new lenses through which you can view the world.

All it takes to realize this is a fresh perspective and, sometimes, a large, red parachute.

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