Like most Peace Corps volunteers, Kera Halvorson knew little about the local culture and couldn’t speak the language when she began her service as a maternal and family health volunteer in Turkmenistan in 2010. Soon, though, she was immersed in a new culture and formed close bonds with people in her community. Gujemal Mammentmyradova was a friend to Kera who eventually became like family. During Kera’s two years in Turkmenistan, the two watched movies and ate sunflower seeds. Kera helped Gujemal translate English songs, and Gujemal invited Kera to weddings and updated her wardrobe to include local attire.
After Kera completed her service and returned home, the two kept in touch, and Gujemal told Kera about her lifelong dream of studying in the U.S. With Kera’s guidance, Gujemal earned a scholarship and in the fall of 2015 began studying elementary education at South Dakota State University.
Before starting school she stopped in Chicago to see Kera, her first trip ever to the U.S. In April, Kera visited Gujemal on the campus of SDSU. She was able to meet Gujemal’s host family and see where she lives. Gujemal will soon begin her sophomore year at SDSU and hopes to stay in the U.S. to receive a master’s degree and potentially a doctorate before returning to Turkmenistan to work in education. Throughout their friendship, Kera and Gujemal have had to navigate cultural differences and help each other in very dedicated ways. However, it’s only brought them closer. In the video above, the two talk about how they met, their reunion, and why their friendship is so important to each of them. Continue reading “Across oceans, cultures, and time, friendship formed during Peace Corps service endures”