Tall snow-capped mountains led into lush colorful hills and then back again; this is the land of the Kyrgyz people. For generations upon generations they have been nomadic people, traveling and herding their goats, cows, sheep, and horses to and fro amongst the beautiful land of Kyrgyzstan. The women: dressed in long skirts and head coverings, the men: clad in pants and a white felt hat; among these people I feel at home. For fourteen years I lived among them; learning their ways and speaking their language, I became one of them. I respect them and love them, they are my family. Average height, tanned skin, brown eyes, dark hair – they are a beautiful people. They work in order to live. Plowing fields selling horse and goat milk, branding livestock, and selling meat. They know hunger and they live in poverty but that has never taken the light from their eyes. A warm smile that drifts into the eyes greets you at all times and the hand that encompasses yours is hard and calloused. They live in yurts, a collapsible, dome-shaped, felt tent that goes with them wherever they go. There is a circle at the top of the yurt, it allows them to have a fire inside in the winter.
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Issyk-Kul is the biggest lake in Kyrgyzstan and there are various resorts on it that the nationals, as well as foreigners, vacation at. These resorts vary from old, run down soviet buildings with rocks for a beach to modern, elegant resorts with silky sand underfoot. The lake is made up of multiple hot water springs that provide it warmth and keep it from freezing over in the winter. Zolotoi Pesok (Golden Sands) is my favorite resort. It is relatively new and has a beach, an indoor pool, condos, suites, and cottages, conference halls, two dining areas, and a extremely nice service. They speak Russian, Kyrgyz, and English, making it easier for those who do not know the national languages to get around. There is a play area for children and a soccer and volleyball area for adults. They provide paddle boats and jet skis for rent as well. They have a lovely environment with a safe feel to it and everything is a 5 minute walk away.
We also did a lot of camping in the mountains, for 4-10 days at a time. I can remember clearly one night when I was trying to sleep but I heard something outside. It was sniffing and scuffling around and I was terrified and afraid to breathe. I was scared that it might be a bear but I eventually mustered up enough courage to unzip the flimsy tent and look out. And to my utter surprise there was a white big horned goat standing there staring at me. I jumped from fright and then shooed him off in another direction. From no showers for days, to ice cold glacier rivers, to 120 degree weather, and wild animals everywhere, camping always an adventure.
I learned a lot in Kyrgyzstan, I learned what it meant to really work, how to live without electricity or gas for a couple days to a week, and how to relate to other cultures. Coming to the States was a hard transition for me but I have finally been able to relate to Americans the same way that I relate to my Kyrgyz people. I miss my home and hope to one day return there as a therapeutic riding instructor so that I can help the neglected handicapped, abused, and people under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
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