A New Chapter

So I’ll find a better time to disclose in greater detail the reasons that led to my decision to do so, but I should start by saying that Amanda and I are no longer in Kurdistan. I appreciate absolutely everything that happened in my half year there, even the horrible moments because of what I learned from them, and most of all the people that made it a memorable time.

It really is hard to quantify or define the Kurdish people. I’ve tried before through the lens of personal and national freedoms, but they have a unique quality of confidence, pride, bravery, and remarkable self-assured-ness in the face of countries, in particular those directly around them, that wish nothing more but to maintain the ugly status quo and its geopolitical madness of Kurd-shaming.

They are a people that I will never forget, and without a doubt are on my list of places that I will certainly be back to. Hopefully with a formal country to call their own. If the world has not yet realized it, the Kurds are more deserving of a country to call their own than any other formal-state-denied people.

My departure from Kurdistan was a four-day decision and has now led me to India. My plan had been to leave for India if things became to sketchy. With few other plans in my near future aside from a project I can work on from almost everywhere, I plan to take some time to immerse myself in this country and explore it in great depth.

Our first stop leaving Kurdistan was in the already familiar feeling city of Istanbul. I’ve been there only twice for a total of 4 days over a two week span, but it has such an easy and welcoming feel. For such a sprawling beast, the heart of the city always feels open and energetic.

After a brief, brief stay in Istanbul we stopped over in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan en route to New Delhi. Not a normal layover, and definitely not a place that most people know about, but it was very interesting to catch even a quick glimpse into Kyrgyzstan, or at least Bishkek. The city reminded me of Sofia, Bulgaria; the ghosts of Communism present in the wide open plazas and Stalin architecture.

Wide plazas, blocky buildings, and towering statues... former communist state, and now 24 years independent.
Wide plazas, blocky buildings, and towering statues… former communist state, and now 24 years independent.

The highlight of the layover, and really the reason we picked it above other possible stops, was to have a chance to catch up with our Peace Corps friend Mike Cole. Mike had been in Kyrgyzstan since late September, accepting a job to teach English at an academy in Bishkek and learn Russian on the side.

Although we hadn’t seen him since our marathon 4-day reunion of Peace Corps kids in Chicago, we picked up where we had left off. It was good to know that although a good amount of time and distance had passed, the odd bonds we had formed with each other in Sierra Leone were not quickly or easily shed.

As for Bishkek and its surroundings… it was a shame that visibility was poor, as it limited our chance to catch glimpses of what Kyrgyzstan is best known for in the rest of the world; stunning mountains and wild scenery. The 16,000ft snowcaps could just barely be seen glinting in the distant sunlight. Somewhere behind those gargantuan peaks are the deep valleys and even larger mountain ranges that draw documentary film crews and adventure tourists from all over the world.

The 16,000ft snowcaps of the Tian Shan mountains just south of the capital city of Bishkek, at only 2,000ft
The 16,000ft snowcaps of the Tian Shan mountains just south of the capital city of Bishkek, at only 2,000ft

It was also testament to how little can really be seen or experienced with only a day in a city. We knew it was going to be only a teaser of Kyrgyzstan, and it ended up being just that. The briefest of windows into a central- Asian country and culture living out its post-USSR existence. The hazy mountains fading in and out of visibility seemed to hint at our experience of barely tasting or seeing what the country had to offer.

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