I sat down yesterday and realized that I'm only two weeks away from starting my adventure this summer in Kyrgyzstan. I could not be more excited to get on the road and get after it! I've been somewhat quiet with my plans for the summer, though most know where I'm headed. But I wanted to tell you about what I'm planning to do out there this year.
The idea formed as I traveled through the mountains last year. Traditionally, the Kyrgyz have been subsistence shepherds, meaning that they have been living solely from their animals and trading them. If you haven't seen it, take a look at the article about the Afghan Kyrgyz that National Geographic published back in 2012. When the USSR fell in 1991, Kyrgyzstan fell into economic turmoil, as the country struggled to transition to post-Soviet existence.
A predominantly rural and agricultural economy, Kyrgyzstan has been slowly recovering over the past two decades. As I rode among the shepherds in 2014, I learned how they have turned their history as such into a means of living beyond pure subsistence. In many ways, while they are still self sufficient much like they have been for thousands of years, the shepherds are also small business owners, making an income through the sale of their animals and associated co-products like wool, milk, and meat. This shift to small business in addition to a subsistence living has been successful in combating some of the worst poverty within the country, while helping to sustain the legacy of the Kyrgyz as a people group.
So in early May, I'll be heading to Bishkek to start doing research on the ground, gathering data, testimonies, and first hand accounts from the shepherds themselves. From there, I'll head to the mountains, and photograph their lives as it reflects their heritage in modern day Kyrgyzstan, and the issues that exist in land management and livestock rearing as a business and economic driver for the country. Hopefully I'll get to visit many of my friends from last year, and make some new ones along the way.
Additionally, I have several other stories that I'm going to document while I'm there, including documenting an arts festival (largest in Central Asia) and a chicken farming small business initiative.
Finally, late in August I'm going to be leading a week of trekking out in the mountains. I do this kind of stuff because I love it first and foremost, and Kyrgyzstan is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. If you are interested in seeing this incredible country, this is a great opportunity. I'll share more on this a bit later, but if you are interested, don't hesitate to contact me for more information.
(PS-it seems that I'm using Instagram more and more these days as my blog. If you're interested in what I'm up to on a more regular basis, I'd recommend adding me there using @stturn. I keep it up to date with my whereabouts, micro adventures, and thoughts. Add me there!)