Family Reunion; Kyrgyzstan Part 2

YAY! The family arrived in DC! Finally!

The other evening, Jenne and I were asking each other, “What if we hadn’t done this?” (“This” being the whole thing where we turn our lives upside down and move literally to the other side of the world with the State Department.)

Our daughter chimed in and said, “We’d still be living a happy life back home!” She’s right. And she wasn’t implying that this new life isn’t happy… but the kids are still in a wait-and-see stage. They miss home, they miss their friends, and they don’t fully grasp what all the fuss is about. Today, our toddler asked, “can we go to Grampy’s house?” It used to be 2.5 miles away. Now it’s 2,811 miles away and soon it will be 6,238 miles away.

Map from this nifty calculator here.

Jenne says she’s waaaaaay past the wait-and-see stage. “What are you talking about? I’m in it to win it! I’m learning Russian!”

Six months ago, we had no reason to learn Russian. We had no reason to consider Kyrgyzstan. There’s value in shaking things up, in taking the path less traveled, in cultivating curiosity.

[So far, the value is metaphorical, not monetary! 😅 This has been an expensive transition!]

We belong to a church whose “first principles” include repentance, meaning change/growth/improvement – or, as some Wikipedia author eloquently stated, “a commitment to personal change and the resolve to live a more responsible and humane life.” (About 70% of the world’s population belong to a religion teaching a version of repentance, so the entry is worth perusal.) Perhaps the biggest obstacle to improvement is getting in a rut, getting too comfortable, or feeling like you don’t need to change… I certainly experienced those feelings at my last job, and I knew it wasn’t good for me, even though it was an easy rut to sit in.

This idea of repentance has corollaries in other settings. In Jenne’s world of engineering, it’s preached as Kaizen – “Continuous improvement.” In my recent security training, they urged us to avoid a “fixed mindset,” and maintain a “growth mindset,” so that we would be adaptable to various challenges and environments. In running or biking, I train to “get comfortable being uncomfortable,” by practicing self-assurance when my heart rate spikes and I’d rather slow down.

This new adventure is a way of pursuing these principles as a family – to deliberately get outside our comfort zone, to inject new energy and purpose into our day to day, to expose ourselves to new people and cultures and challenges and opportunities. As the kids practice Russian on their little apps before bed, I can’t help but feel like it will be worth it.

It’s a bit early to say for sure, despite our excitement. After all, we’re still in the United States. But we have taken some huge first steps. We’ve moved out of our house…

Moving is so fun, right? Let’s do it every 2 years for the rest of our lives! That would be neat! NOT!

… we’ve spent 2 difficult months apart as a family. Our kids have started new schools. I’m putting in long day after long day of training for my new role, and Jenne’s soon starting the process of being hirable as an “eligible family member.”

We’ll be in the Kyrgyz Republic soon, and in the meantime, we’re having fun as a family learning more about our home for the next two years:

It’s safe.

“WAIT, REALLY?” you ask, if you’re our friends and family 😁

Yes. Check it out:

The world according to State Department / CDC Travel Advisories. Can you find the Kyrgyz Republic?
There’s Kyrgyzstan! It’s that oasis of safe, safe tan, in a sea of yellow and red.

At the moment, Kyrgyzstan is rated:

"Level 1 - Exercise Normal Precautions: This is the lowest advisory level for safety and security risk. There is some risk in any international travel. Conditions in other countries may differ from those in the United States and may change at any time." 

Take another peak at the above maps… Kyrgyzstan isn’t just safe for travel, it’s one of the safest places for travel. It gets a better safety rating than most of the world, including European vacation spots! (Click the maps to link to the site and play with it yourself).

It has a continental climate.

Ripped shamelessly from Wikipedia.

What does all that mean? Well, latitudinally, our home in Portland is right at the 45th parallel, and almost sea-level.

Right outside Baker, OR. We drove past this sign often on road trips.

Bishkek is a little closer to the equator and much more mountainous. The city sits at 2,600ft elevation, with mountains on all sides. Those factors add up to Bishkek being cooler, snowier, and drier than we’re used to. We’ve been warned about exceptionally cold winters, and that the air pollution gets bad in winter due to coal burning and inversion.

Bishkek in Winter

It has some issues with air quality in the winter.

We certainly don’t look forward to the air pollution. We’ve dealt with that in Portland during wildfire season, and Jen’s home in Salt Lake City has occasional air pollution issues, but neither place has it as bad or as long as Bishkek.

Bishkek air quality 2021. Out with the bad air, in with the good.

It’s hard to get to!

It is the most land-locked country on Earth – meaning its further from the ocean than any other country. Tucked up in the mountains, it takes 2 or 3 flights to get to Bishkek, even from a major city like DC!

This perspective is a bit of a trip, isn’t it?

It is an outdoor recreation paradise.

We’ve even had people tell us that Kyrgyzstan is chic and trendy in an up-and-coming sort of way. Apparently, anyone with enough money can climb Mt. Everest these days… but Jengish Chokuso, “Victory Peak?” Khan Tengri, “King Heaven?” These peaks in the Tian Shan mountain range are off the beaten path and attract serious climbers – or so we’re told.

Khan Tengri
Khan Tengri is the pointy one near center, 22,999ft. Jengish Chokusu is left and down from it, and is the tallest point in Kygyzstan at 24,406ft, though this perspective makes it appear shorter.

They host the World Nomad Games

The World Nomad Games are an ethnic heritage competition started a few years ago. We’re excited for horseback riding and falconry.

Last one: watch this bread making video!

We crossed paths with a family that recently returned from their assignment in Kyrgyzstan. They loved it there, and their kids especially liked buying cheap, fresh bread on street corners.
Looks satisfying to slap that bread on and scrape it off.