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UVU  STUDENT  TRAVEL  IN  CENTRAL  ASIA   As  a  Utah  native,  I  love  to  travel  to  'outside  the  box'  locations  as  often  as  possible.  Going  places  that  are   swarming  with  tourists  has  never  appealed  to  me.  In  that  spirit,  this  past  spring/summer  I  took  a  month   to  travel  to  central  Asia,  visiting  Kyrgyzstan,  Kazakhstan  and  Uzbekistan.  Aside  from  a  certain  obscurity,   the  reasons  for  going  anywhere  are  always  kind  of  hard  to  pin  down  for  me.  Central  Asia  has  appealed   to  me  after  taking  an  introduction  to  foreign  affairs  class  from  Ambassador  Abdrisaev.  After  letting  this   idea  germinate  for  a  few  years,  and  letting  a  few  trips  get  in  the  way  during  that  time,  I  decided  to   commit  to  central  Asia  and  contacted  Ambassador  Abdrisaev.   Another  reason  for  me  to  go  to  Central  Asia  was  the  fact  that  Utah  Valley  University  has  developed  close   relations  with  several  countries  from  the  region  and  Kyrgyzstan  in  particular  with  focus  on  our  common   feature  –  being  mountainous  nations.    UVU  students  through  their  association  of  clubs,  Utah   International  Mountain  Forum,  have  established  certain  exchange  programs  and  activities  with   International  University  of  Kyrgyzstan  (IUK)  in  Bishkek,  capital  of  Kyrgyzstan,  a  small  mountainous  nation   in  Central  Asia  and  actively  jointly  pushing  the  programs  of  sustainable  mountain  development  (SMD).   They  suggested  to  me  to  help  them  to  do  that  during  my  trip  to  Central  Asia  and  Kyrgyzstan  in  particular.   I  was  very  pleased  to  do  that  and  to  become  the  second  UVU  student  to  visit  Kyrgyzstan  since  the   moment  of  beginning  close  cooperation  between  UVU  and  IUK  in  SMD  in  2005.  One  of  UVU  students   already  visited  Bishkek  in  2009  to  participate  at  the  international  conference  as  the  winner  of  the   contest  on  writing  the  best  essay  about  the    11th  century  manuscript  “Glory  of  the  Royal  wisdom,”  very   important  book  for  Turkic-­‐speaking  people  in  Eurasia.  This  book  laid  a  ground  for  developing  good  and   just  governance  principles  in  the  region  since  the  same  times,  when  famous  Magna  Carta  did  the  same   for  Britons.                         The  contacts  and  people  I  was  put  in  touch  with  in  Kyrgyzstan  and  Kazakhstan  by  Ambassador  Abdrisaev   were  of  great  help  to  me.  Professor  Padiudkov  from  the  International  University  of  Kyrgyzstan  was  very   helpful  to  me  in  navigating  the  city,  meeting  people  at  other  universities,  and  putting  me  in  contact  with   people  that  could  help  with  the  Mountain  Partnership  and  organizing  the  international  conference   “Conflict  and  Peace  in  the  Mountains,”  which  IUK  and  UVU  plan  to  co-­‐host  jointly  in  the  south  of   Kyrgyzstan  in  December,  2012.  I  am  also  very  grateful  for  Ambassador  Abdrisaevs  nephew  Ermek,  who   was  kind  and  helpful  to  me  beyond  my  ability  to  thank  him  for.  His  guidance  and  kindness  made  my  time   in  the  beautiful  city  of  Bishkek  more  enlightening.    The  contacts,  I  hope,  between  UVU  and  Kyrgyzstan   are  now  a  bit  stronger  than  they  were  previously.  The  key  role  that  Kyrgyzstan  can  play  in  the  region,   and  its  mountainous  nature  all  make  it  a  key  partner  for  any  sustainable  mountain  development  projects   that  move  forward  from  here.     I  am  glad  also  that  we  were  able  to  meet  representatives  of  the  Mountain  Partnership  in  Central  Asia,   who  are  residing  in  Bishkek  and  to  discuss  in  details  both  their  involvement  in  the  International   Conference,  planned  for  December  of  this  year  and  how  we  could  work  together  on  jointly  promoting   sustainable  mountain  development  activities  between  UVU  and  Kyrgyzstan,  UVU  and  Central  Asia  as     members  of  the  Mountain  Partnership,  coalition  of  global  institutions,  who  are  supporting  the  United   Nations-­‐related  SMD  agenda.      


(From  left  to  right)  During  the  meeting  of  Jason  Bates  (first)  with  Chad  Dear  (second),  Senior  Research   Scientist,  Mountain  Societies  Research  Centre  at  University  of  Central  Asia,  Elbegzaya  (Zaya)  Batjargal   (third),  Regional  Programme  Officer  for  Mountain  Partnership/Mountain  Forum  (MP/MF)  in  Central   Asia,  and  Pierre  Padiukov  from  International  University  of  Kyrgyzstan  (fourth).             This  trip  to  Kyrgyzstan,  Kazakhstan,  and  Uzbekistan  has  opened  my  eyes  to  the  beauty  and  potential  of   this  region,  and  educated  me  on  another  region  of  the  world.  I  would  like  to  share  a  few  observations   about  each  country  below.     Kazakhstan:   Kazakhstan  is,  from  all  accounts  and  from  my  experience,  by  far  the  most  prosperous  and  well  off  of  the   Central  Asian  republics.  Almaty  (until  the  late  1990s  the  capital  of  independent  Kazakhstan)  is  a   beautiful  town  of  apparent  wealth  and  has  a  bustling,  fast  growing  feeling  to  it.  The  central  business   district  has  new  skyscrapers,  clean  streets,  and  multiple  projects  in  the  works  that  grants  the  city  a   vibrant  growing  feeling.  Along  with  nice  modern  shopping  centers  and  highway  projects,  the  city  is   working  hard  to  highlight  its  natural  beauty  with  the  mountains  nearby  and  their  naturally  beautiful   backdrop.  Almaty,  along  with  Astana,  hosted  the  Asian  winter  games  in  2011,  and  the  infrastructure   used  for  these  games  is  worth  seeing.  By  all  accounts  I  got,  the  games  were  NOT  run  well.  Whether  or   not  the  games  were  pulled  off  successfully  is  not  something  I'm  familiar  with.  But  the  general  speed  and   growth  of  Kazakhstan  in  general  would  lead  an  optimist  to  predict  Olympic  aspirations  if  Kazakhstan  can   clear  up  some  of  the  problems  it  have  with  its  international  perception.     Astana  is  another  fascinating  place  to  visit.  Astana  is  one  of  the  newest  examples  of  a  brand  new  world   capital  city,  having  been  dreamed  up  and  built  in  the  late  1990s  at  the  behest  of  Nazarbayev.  This  city   has  grown  incredibly  in  15  years.  Astana  is  large,  new,  eclectic,  and  shows  signs  of  personal  direction.   Astana  had,  in  my  (this  author’s)  opinion,  a  feeling  very  similar  to  Las  Vegas,  and  not  for  the  reasons  that   might  seem  obvious.  Both  Las  Vegas  and  Astana  are  fast  growing,  wealthy,  and  show  a  large  degree  of   artificial  eclecticism.  Astana  seems  very  eager  to  impose  a  personality  for  itself  through  extravagant   construction  projects.  Without  a  historically  derived  personality  to  draw  on,  this  city  is  in  a  rush  to  make  


its  mark.  This  reminded  me  a  great  deal  of  Las  Vegas,  with  its  bizarre  and  seemingly  unlimited  ability  to   finance  striking  buildings  with  bizarre  and  unconnected  designs.  Both  cities  have  a  high  level  of  gloss  and   gilt,  and  both  feel  a  little  artificial.  

  Astana  –  pomp  on  Parade    Kazakhstan  is  a  country  whose  youth  is  being  educated  on  what  seems  to  be  a  good  level.  I   encountered  students  who  felt  free  to  criticize  the  government  and  who  seemed  capable  of   administering  the  needs  of  a  growing  economy  and  government.  Time  will  tell  if  the  freedom  I  sensed   from  some  will  prove  a  reality.  The  greatest  struggles  I  had  in  Kazakhstan  came  any  time  I  had  to  deal   with  any  kind  of  bureaucrats.  The  rigidity  of  their  policies,  their  (seeming)  inability  to  make  decisions   without  direct  supervisory  approval,  and  what  I  sensed  as  a  complete  lack  of  interest  in  trying  to  help  all   reminded  me  of  the  stereotypically  soviet  method  of  administration.  I  was,  in  Kazakhstan,  without   anyone  who  was  interested  or  empowered  to  assist  me.  This  was  a  difference  I  felt  from  previous   travels.     Uzbekistan:   Uzbekistan  was,  oddly,  the  most  "touristy"  of  the  Central  Asian  nations  I  visited.  This  was,  of  course,   largely  due  to  the  nature  of  my  visit.  I  scheduled  planned  tours  with  a  company  I  found  on  the  internet   to  go  see  Bukhara,  Samarkand,  and  sites  in  the  capital  of  Tashkent  itself.     Uzbekistan  has  a  small,  budding  tourism  industry  that  could  eventually  become  a  source  of  strength  and   reliable  funds  for  the  country.  Obviously,  Uzbekistan  is  trying  to  foster  this  industry.  At  a  panel   discussion  at  UVU  earlier  in  the  year  where  the  UN  ambassador  from  Uzbekistan  spoke,  promotional   materials  for  Uzbekistan  were  laid  out  for  any  interested.  Glossy,  well,  produced,  and  presumably   produced  at  considerable  expense,  these  materials  speak  to  the  countries  efforts  to  promote  tourism  


from  the  US.  I  was,  however,  alone  on  all  of  my  tours  and  had  direct,  one  on  one  time  with  my  guides   and  experts  in  Uzbekistan.    While  in  Uzbekistan  I  visited  the  ancient  cities  of  Samarkand  and  Bukhara.  As  great  centers  of  learning,   government  and  military  power  in  the  1300s  under  Amir  Timur  (Tamerlane)  these  cities  boast   magnificent  architecture,  scientific  history,  and  Silk  Road  history.  The  pictures  in  the  tourist  literature  do   not  make  obvious  that  these  cities  are  still  lived  in  by  thousands,  and  maintain  modern  quarters  and   very  non  historical/tourist  areas  where  people  go  about  normal  life  on  a  day  to  day  basis.    

  Founded  circa  700  BC  Samarkand,  Uzbekistan   My  guides  were  all  local,  all  friendly,  and  all  helpful.  I  did  not  meet  a  whole  lot  of  people  in  Uzbekistan   aside  from  them,  sadly.  I  did,  however,  meet  people  in  the  bazaars  who  were  very  helpful  and  willing  to   help  me  circumvent  the  government’s  official  exchange  rate  for  the  Sum,  the  local  currency.  Whatever   consequences  for  partaking  in  the  black  market  exchange  rate,  the  enforcement  must  be  weak,   predictable,  or  punishments  light  because  I  found  a  more  favorable  rate  with  very  little  effort.  And   getting  %50  more  Sum  for  my  dollar  was  incentive  enough  for  me  to  risk  it.     All  in  all,  with  the  totalitarian  regime  and  the  limitations  there  in  mind,  the  basic  infrastructure  for   Uzbekistan  to  generate  and  take  advantage  of  western  tourists  is  nearly  complete.  Train  routes  are  in   place  and  seemingly  safe,  sites  of  immense  interest  and  historical  significance  are  there,  and  the  people   seem  generally  nice.  Uzbekistan,  as  do  both  Kazakhstan  and  Kyrgyzstan,  well  represents  the  potential  of   the  region  and  its  wonderful  people.     Kyrgyzstan:  


Kyrgyzstan  was  the  most  interesting  country  that  I  visited,  and  the ��one  that  (thankfully)  I  was  able  to   spend  the  most  time  in.     While  in  Kyrgyzstan,  I  met  many  wonderful  people  associated  with  both  the  International  University  of   Kyrgyzstan  and  the  University  of  Central  Asia.  Both  institutions  show  the  promise  that  Kyrgyzstan  has  for   a  potentially  promising  future.  Both  of  these  Universities  are  within  Bishkek,  the  capital  city.    

  Park  in  Bishkek,  capital  of  Kyrgyzstan   Bishkek,  I  have  read,  was  the  greenest  (in  the  botanical  sense,  not  the  environmental  modern  sense)   capital  in  the  Soviet  Union.  And,  after  my  visit,  I  can  believe  it.  Strikingly  beautiful,  long  parks  dot  the   city,  and  trees  abound.  The  site  of  slowly  fluttering  seeds  and  the  smell  of  life  were  welcome  additions   to  my  breakfast  routine  in  the  city.     Not  only  was  the  city  beautiful,  the  people  were  (aside  from  one  incident  with  the  police)  friendly  and   helpful.  The  relatively  large  American  presence  in  the  area  due  to  the  airbase  at  Manas  is  helped  me  feel   not  as  foreign  as  I  otherwise  would  have.  With  a  large  population  of  Russians  still  living  in  the  city,  it  was   also  easier  to  blend  in.    


I  am  at  the  Tien  Shan  Mountains   Kyrgyzstan  is  strikingly  beautiful  with  its  jagged,  high  mountains,  its  large,  deep  lake  of  Issyk  Kul,  and  the   large,  green  city  of  Bishkek.    Kyrgyzstan’s  status  as  a  highly  mountainous  nation  has  led  it  to  play  a  large   part  in  the  development  of  mountain  awareness.  The  issues  that  confront  Kyrgyzstan  as  a  mountainous   nation  are  issues  of  prominence  for  all  mountainous  areas.   Kyrgyzstan  offered  wonderful  opportunities  for  hiking,  and  the  Tien  Shen  mountains  near  Bishkek  and   lake  Issyk  Kul  were  stunning,  even  to  a  Utah  native  used  to  the  spectacle  of  the  Wasatch  and  Rocky   Mountains.  Lake  Issyk  Kul  is  the  second  largest  mountain  lake  in  the  world,  and  is  a  budding  and  future   site  for  regional  and  international  tourism  during  the  summer.  My  drive  into  Issyk  Kul  from  Bishkek   (about  three  hours)  was  stunning.  And  the  road  work  that  is  being  done  by  a  Chinese  firm  is  sure  to   increase  the  lakes  accessibility  to  the  region.     One  interesting  thing  to  note  about  Kyrgyzstan  is  the  presence  of  the  Turks  in  commerce.  A  large  Turkish   investment  appears  to  be  being  made  in  the  capital  of  Bishkek  at  least.  Large  shopping  malls,  stores,  and   Turkish  goods  abound.  The  link  to  Turkey  is  proudly  flaunted  with  Turkish  flags  being  flown  side  by  side   with  Kyrgyz  flags  at  these  areas.  The  relative  strength  between  the  Turkish  commercial  connection  and   the  U.S.  is  something  that  will  warrant  further  attention  to  potentially  interested  investors.   Jason  Bates,  UVU  student,  Major  in  history  of  education  


UVU STUDENT TRAVEL IN CENTRAL ASIA