Sunday, July 26, 2009

Scenes from Kyrgyzstan

One of the highlights of my wanderings in Kyrgyzstan was being able to get so close to the Kyrgyz countryside.  After my trek, I spent several days volunteering for a Kyrgyz community center, whose objective was to help villagers make traditional crafts that they sell to tourists -- items like jams, soap, felt products, and artwork.  I was able to travel with members of this group to various villages to check in on the progress of participants, and along the way, saw several slices of life that I wasn't able to see on my trek, which I arranged through a tour agency.  

These women run a stall at the Osh Bazaar in Bishkek.  Many Kyrgyz people seemed delighted to have their picture taken, as long as I showed it to them afterward.

I ran into this boy in the hills behind Karakol.  This picture was taken at the end of a long struggle between boy and donkey, as he tried to lead the donkey uphill.  Finally he jumped on and they went down.  Donkey, 1; Boy, 0.

I arrived right after the hay had been cut (often by hand) and then raked into large piles.  The whole family then goes out to the field with a truck and piles as much hay as they can on it, whereupon they drive it home for the winter.  It's quite a sight to see large piles of hay driving down the roads, with men stooped over in the driver's seat trying to see out the windshield.

This is the Russian Orthodox church in Karakol.

Most Kyrgyz people, however, are Muslim.  Their mosques are usually small buildings with what look like aluminum domes on top.

I found this man, and his sideways wagon, while I was wandering through the village of Barskoon.  Most older men wear some sort of ornamental hat like this one.  This particular man was mostly blind, and couldn't see his picture when I showed it to him.  However, his friend was there and gave me the thumbs up.

Yogurt products are quite popular, and this woman was happy to let me try some from her stall at a bazaar.  They are quite sour -- probably an acquired taste.  But it's one way of making milk last through the winter.

Kyrgyz cemeteries are unusually decorative.

And, finally, one simple question:  why?


Betsy said...

Whoo hoo! I've been excited for these pictures for so long! They are amazing.

Lindsey said...

Beautiful pictures!

Anonymous said...

I neglected to comment on the occasional wry photo/comment in your online oeuvre. I like laughing as much as I like marveling. Thanks again! Joan

Anonymous said...


I liked your pictures a lot-- especially the sheep as they are goaded into the valley and the one of you standing on top of the twenty foot bale of hay, towering over all of kyrgyz. Yeah I know that isn't really you, but the figure is ambiguous enough that you could have totally gotten away with saying it was, and since he was tan and somewhat sinewy, it might have done a lot for reputation. Not that you don't cut a fine figure or anything, but with all this talk of ten day hikes in total isolation, the girls who visit your website are gonna think you're a misanthropic warrior-poet type. So you should really give them some eye-candy, if only illusory.

judy baker said...

Kyrgyzstan looks to be wild, harsh, beautiful, lonely, cold, invigorating, amusing, sweet, dangerous, inviting and now conquered. mom

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