Thursday, July 5, 2018

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan (June 2018)

Bishkek is the capital of Kyrgyzstan, one of the Central Asian countries. It was the first Central Asian nation that I have visited. -stan represents 'land." Thus, Kyrgyzstan means the land of Kyrgyz people.

On the first day I arrived, we had dinner together and enjoyed Kyrgyz foods. It included horse meat and horse milk. I normally do not enjoy eating red meat, but I thoroughly enjoyed a special desert.

I attended a Lion's Den event, in which people present their business plans in front of a panel of judges. These judges will ask questions and review each business plan's feasibility. These judges are called Lions, in reference to the Lion's Den where Daniel was thrown into. Like Daniel, only those who survive the Lion's Den will be granted financial support.

Out of 12 business plans submitted, only 9 were presented. They were from Uzbekistan and Khazakstan along with Kyrgyzstan. 4 business plans received approval from the panel and they will go through a 2-week training and their loan structuring is likely to change. We will see.

Among the chosen 4, one proposal to run a mini bus service for the children of expats was quite touching and inspirational.

In this event, I met a lot of Koreans. Some I knew, but others I met for the first time. John Koh described the Korean presence as an invasion, but we all enjoyed taking part in the event. Vladimir Lee, Mr. Kim, Alex Chi and John Koh.

I met Brad from New Zealand, who introduced coffee to this country with the brand name of Sierra Coffee. It was brief due to his other priorities, but it was good to meet him.

Denny Cho has a long history of education. He has one bachelor's degree, three master's degrees and one doctoral degree. He used to work for an aerospace company for long and served as a pastor in Philadelphia, PA. Now he is running an IT solution company in Bishkek. He also plans to start a university that offers degree programs in logistics, business and IT.

James Haw (Heo) has been living in Kyrgyzstan for the past 13 years or so. He now manages a building and also a medical clinic. He is a graduate of USC, a Trojan. So we shared interesting life stories.

I also met many people from different countries. How the relationships will develop is yet to be seen, but for now, I appreciate the opportunity to meet these people and look forward to witnessing what the Lord has in mind.

VJ from Tashkent
Slava from Almaty

Anagul from Almaty

??? from Bishkek

Andrew with Emerge
I was a bit confused about the schedule and I ended up having one more night to stay in Bishkek. I took advantage of the extra slack time to visit the Issyk-Kul area. Issyk-Kul means "warm lake" and is the name of the largest lake in Kyrgyzstan, 10th largest in the world and the world's second largest saline or salt lake after the Caspian Sea. It is saline because it is a land-locked lake. It is at 1,607 meter high from the sea level and approximately 670 meter in depth. The lake is situated between snow-capped mountains on both south and north sides, but the lake never freezes, due probably to the salt water.

I made a trip to this lake by getting a ride from Vladimir Lee who runs an Ophthalmalogist Clinic, along with Mr. Kim who runs a second-handed clothing store in Bishkek. Both are also interested in chicken farming. Mr. Kim and I stayed at Dr. Lee's house and we received warm hospitality of his family with wonderful organic foods.

Actually, the way to Issyk-Kul was the part of the Silk Road. As we were driving up and down, I felt the agony and patience that the caravans had to employ in make the journey. Along with the snow-capped mountain, I saw a snow cat statue. Also, I bumped into two Kyrgyz people who worked in Korea for several years and spoke fluent Korean. I saw what the Turkish call Yurts and what the Mongols call Gers, the temporary housing, on the roadsides for doing businesses. At times, cows and goats were crossing the highways claiming their right to share the road.

Every two years, there is a Nomad Olympics. Apparently, Kyrgyzstan is winning in most of the games. So the Olympic games are continuously held in Kyrgyzstan. It takes place during the first week of September and apparently it is one of the major sports events in the region. A lot of activities center around riding the horses.

The return trip was not easy either. From FRU to Almaty, Khazakstan. And another flight from there to BKK. Then, from BKK another flight to CNX. A total traveling time of approximately 20 hours.

But, I had a stop over in Almaty, Khazakstan. It used to be Khazakstan's capital, which has since been changed to Astana on the other side of the country. Almaty was quite modern and clean. Shopping malls were huge and very clean. Almaty and Bishkek used to be in the similar shape as Bishkek, but now they are completely different. Almaty is far better and bigger than Bishkek. Khazakstan has resources, but Kyrgyzstan has chosen to partner with Russia after several years of partnership with the U.S. It has since declined quite a bit. I ate a hamburger with Daniel's family and Ka Leong's couple, which required wearing a pair of black gloves. But it was inconvenient.

In Almaty, I saw Daniel who runs a sizable oil and gas business, now operating in 13 countries. The number of employees in Khazakstan alone is more than 1,000, he said. In 2012, the gross revenue topped at $200 million, but has since contracted somewhat. But, it is still significant.

He showed me a construction site where he is investing $25 million to build the top quality international school, K - 12. The scale was quite enormous. The president of Khazakstan will come to cut the tape. I bet it will draw a lot of attention right at the center of the city. I was pleased to see him in action. I met him at the Lausanne Consultation in Chiang Mai in 2017.

I saw Ka Leong and his wife, from Singapore, again at the airport because we got on the same airplane. It is a blessing to meet good people.

It was a short trip but filled with the joy of meeting a lot of people and of learning a lot about the country and cultures. Until, we see each other, take care! - Jeffrey