By Luther Flagstad — For Rattling Chains
Picking my way across the field of cow pies and broken vodka bottles, I waved and said, “Salymatsyngarby” to a few students on their way to class. I stepped up to the first “tee” and tested the wind.
I would have to be careful today – an old man was tending his sheep in the fairway.
I am an American disc golfer and Peace Corps volunteer living in Kyrgyzstan. It’s a country I had never heard of before this experience. Kyrgyzstan is a small, former Soviet Union country in Central Asia. It boarders China and some other countries of which you might not know.
When I got the assignment in the mail five months ago, my first thought was to ask if there were any disc golf courses.
There weren’t. But since I couldn’t imagine a world without disc golf, I packed a few discs and t-shirts anyway.
After a month of getting settled into my permanent site in Karakol City, I headed out to the park across the street from my work. It was mid-day and students were walking through the park on their way to lunch. I snapped a few across the field and one of my discs landed on a sidewalk. A young student wearing a shiny black suit picked it up and tossed it back.
“Nice throw!” I said in Kyrgyz, the local language.I explained that it was disc golf and they should try and throw it from where they were to the object — a telephone pole. I spit out the rues in broken Kyrgz. A few other kids joined and we threw discs around for a little while.
“Keremet! Awesome throw!”
Another student, Muraidil, slung a side-arm shot 250 feet. These kids were naturals, I thought. The ladies man, Marsel, made an “errant” throw over to some girls passing by. They joined in as well, making some impressive throws.
I wish I had been this good when I started.
The park was perfect for an object course, with several metal telephone poles that made a deep ringing sound when struck by a disc. My mind wandered to the possibilities – Kyrgyzstan’s first disc golf club and maybe even a basket course.
As a Peace Corps volunteer, I am working to promote world peace and friendship through meeting the needs of the locals I serve and promoting better understanding through cultural exchange. One of my specific goals is to instill the values of integrity and respect in Kyrgyz youth through a disc golf club.
The first objective is to continue to generate interest and build on the students who are showing up. Secondly, I will need a lot more plastic for the students who are coming to play and hope to find sponsors in the United States to support the mission.
Lastly, I may have to give some lessons for more accurate throws. No one wants to see any sheep casualties.
Luther Flagstad is a Peace Corps volunteer in the Kyrgyz Republic. If anyone is interested in partnering to support the mission in any way, please contact him at Luther.Flagstad[at]gmail.com.