Sustainable Pasture Management in Kyrgyzstan

During the months of June and July, we packed our backpacks, grabbed our sleeping bags, and headed for the pastures—the high mountain pastures of Arslanbob! We spent much of the summer traveling around Kyrgyzstan with the environmental NGO CAMP Alatoo to grab footage and do interviews (check out our previous post for more info). We’re making seven informational videos about CAMP Alatoo’s key activity areas, and Sustainable Pasture Management was our first one. We were in good company, joined by CAMP Alatoo’s Pasture Specialist Zhyrgal Kozhomberdiev and other pasture specialists and employees of the State…continue reading →

Meet CAMP Alatoo

Anyone who’s ever been to Kyrgyzstan—or read anything about Kyrgyzstan, for that matter—is aware of the country’s beautiful nature. Rolling green meadows, alpine lakes, glaciers, and most famously, snowcapped mountains, lend it the appropriate nickname as The Land at the Foot of the Sun (according to at least one souvenir-shop brochure). Since our arrival in Kyrgyzstan ten months ago, we've had the opportunity to collaborate with a number of organizations. One of those is CAMP Alatoo, a non-profit and non-governmental organization with the goal of improving people's livelihoods in the mountain regions of…continue reading →

Kyrgyzstan’s Jailoo Kindergartens

Anyone who's ever experienced Kyrgyzstan's tourism industry knows that the country isn't shy about its nomadic heritage. The cross-hatch of a yurt is even the focal point of the country's bright flag, and the traditional cuisine of fatty meat and mare's milk is a constant reminder that vegetables just aren't practical for the wandering life. While true nomadism doesn't really exist anymore in the region, there are still hundreds of Kyrgyz families who carry the tradition as far as practically possible. Starting in May, hundreds (or maybe thousands) of families pull up their roots…continue reading →
Cycling the Balkans: Montenegro & Albania

Cycling the Balkans: Montenegro & Albania

Over the summer we rented bikes in Montenegro, packed up two panniers each and hit the road, cycling from Podgorica to Plav and Gusinje, then to Koplik (Albania), Shkodra, eventually to Tirana, and finally back up along the Albanian coast to where we first started. Watch the journey unfold in our five-part video series below: Part One: Podgorica to Gusinje Part One covers our trip from Podgorica to Plav, then to nearby Gusinje. We stopped in Plav and talked to Alsen Radončić, volunteer at National Park Prokletije, about tourism and investment in his part of…continue reading →

Walking Almaty: Marveling at the Mundane

The latest Pedaling Pictures production is a profile of Dennis Keen, founder of Walking Almaty. We had the good fortune of being able to spend a long afternoon in Almaty with Dennis earlier this summer, where he took us on a tour of some of his favorite neighborhoods, pigeon markets, drainpipes, rail girders, cornices, window frames, etc. For the uninitiated, Walking Almaty is essentially a well-organized collection of overlooked items that make up everyday street scenes in Almaty. Dennis likes to walk, and he has a keen (that's right) eye for noticing the unnoticed, and finding patterns in things…continue reading →

Bishkek Eco Festival 2015

In Spring of 2015, the Roza Otunbayeva Initiative (and many partners) hosted an "Eco Festival" in central Bishkek. Recent years have brought political stability and economic growth to Kyrgyzstan, but progress along these lines doesn't necessarily equate environmental stewardship. According to Zhanyl Avaskanovna of local public foundation CAMP Alatoo, increasing car ownership just over the past few years has led to a very perceptible drop in air quality in Bishkek. While Kyrgyz citizens are more economically empowered than probably ever before, notions of environmental conservation and sustainable living have moved to the background. Surrounding green talks, master classes, forums, exhibitions, and a…continue reading →
School Hopping in the Kyrgyz Tien-Shan Mountains

School Hopping in the Kyrgyz Tien-Shan Mountains

This is map of all the districts in Kyrgyzstan. The ones highlighted are the districts I visit frequently for work--At-Bashi, Ak-Talaa and Naryn Districts--all located in Naryn Oblast (province). Naryn Oblast is famous for its rolling green jailoos--summer pastures--which during the summer months are covered with red poppies and speckled with herders and their yurts. But more on that in a later post! Because right now, I’d like to share a different side of Naryn--a side that’s not on the typical tourist agenda. To offer some background info, I’m a graduate student in…continue reading →
Running the Silk Road Marathon (Kind of)

Running the Silk Road Marathon (Kind of)

We spent our free time before and after the competition exploring the grounds of the race organization's partner hotel, the Kyrgyz Seaside Resort. This massive complex is just the kind of thing I love about anywhere, and they're notably more common in former Soviet republics. Think of three college dorms strung together in a maze of hallways, with five on-site convenience stores, two restaurants, a massive cafeteria, a smattering of souvenir shops and a fully equipped arcade with games that should be in a museum. We had trouble finding our room because there were…continue reading →
Cut Naryn Some Slack!

Cut Naryn Some Slack!

This is how Lonely Planet introduces the town of Naryn: "Mostly wedged into a striking if slightly foreboding canyon, Naryn is an architecturally unlovely strip town with no real 'sights' beyond a typical local museum..." I also like this one from PRIZMA: “Naryn is described as the poorest region in a country which is now among the poorest of the former Soviet states. This means exactly what it says: not good. Other perks include that Naryn is also the coldest city of Kyrgyzstan. To make things worse, our guidebook noted that Naryn, which was…continue reading →
Moving to Kyrgyzstan is Easy: Part Two

Moving to Kyrgyzstan is Easy: Part Two

Extending a Kyrgyz visa + travel to Almaty (& Kazakh border in general)  Short version: For citizens who get a 60-day tourist stamp, the easiest way of "extending" your stay in Kyrgyzstan is simply crossing the border into Kazakhstan, then getting right back in line. You'll automatically get a new tourist stamp valid for 60 days. Shared taxis to the border leave from in front of Alamedin bazaar. A seat costs 50 som per person. Marshrutka #333 leaves from in front of TSUM center and goes to the border. It should have a big…continue reading →