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Hello all!  I've been lurking on this forum for awhile now but finally registered once I realized I now visit it every day.  I've definitely been enjoying all the photos posted here and I wanted to share my own (I shared these elsewhere but no longer visit that place as much).  I used to shoot Nikon but before this adventure I sold my D700 and all my lenses, I now shoot with an X-E2 and a variety of lenses.


2 years ago my wife and I applied for the Peace Corps.  It took 18 months but in April, 2014 we finally were on a plane and headed to our new home, Kyrgyzstan.  The last two months have been a crazy whirlwind of travel, language learning, awkward moments and a lot of fun.  Now I'm at my permanent site and plan on updating this thread over the next two years with photos.  For more photos and stories, you can follow us on our blog at http://www.ericandtaylor.com.  On each photo I'll also link it to the blog post that tells more about what was going on at the time.


Some of these photos will be snapshots but hopefully help tell part of the story.  Others will hopefully be decent shots.  I'm hoping to have more free time here than I did in the states to really work on my skills.  With that said, here's a few shots of what's happened so far:


1) Leaving Portland, OR.  Part of what I loved so much about living in the Northwest are the volcanoes.  I love hiking, backpacking and climbing, these volcanoes shape the landscape of the PNW.  I expect this to be my last glimpse of these for at least two years.






2) Washington D.C.  It seemed fitting that our staging would be in our nation's capitol.  It had been a long time since I'd been here. I forgot how beautiful and impactful the city can be.  It's hard not to feel patriotic walking around.





3) Turkey.  This is a country I badly want to visit however we only got to stop over in the airport this time.  Good news is it's close and hopefully during our service we'll get to vacation here.  Next stop, Krgyzstan.






4) We arrived to Kyrgyzstan in the early hours of the morning, before the sun had risen.  After 3 hours in the bus we took a break from driving and had our first look at one of many mountain ranges in this small country.






5) Our first few days in country were spent at one of the nicer hotels on the shore of Issyk Kul lake.  Wanting to ease us into the country gradually, Peace Corps chose to let us stay at this nice hotel on the shore of a huge lake with snow-capped mountains on all sides.  Not a bad way to start.



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6)  After Orientation we settled into temporary home in a village outside the capitol.  Village life was pretty awesome.  These cows walk themselves home every night at 6:30, splitting off one-by-one as they reach their home.




7) Most nights we go to the schoolyard and play with the kids.  This kid would hang on me everyime we went.




8) Our host mother making manta, a meat-filled, steamed pastry




9) Finally we got a chance to go on our first hike.  This is the view from the first range of foothills South of our village.




10)  These odd plants covered one hillside we hiked through.  Cool to look at, but the the copious amounts of spider webs strung between them made walking through them somewhat miserable.


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11) Especially in the village, a lot of our time was spent playing with the kids and teaching them American games.




12) Every PC site around the world has a 'Culture Day,' this is one event from ours




13) Most dogs are treated poorly here.  Our family got this little guy, hopefully he has a better life




14) This photo is from our Swearing-In day, these are official (USSR-looking) Peace Corps Kyrgyz Republic IDs




15)  The US Ambassador to Kyrgyzstan gave a speech during our Swearing-In Ceremony


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16)  A street in Balykchy, Kyrgyzstan, our new hometown.  It rarely rains here but is surrounded by mountains and the sky often has these crazy looking clouds although it rarely rains.





17) Some parts of Balykchy look like this, with rocky streets.  Others have newer, paved streets.  One thing that is all over Kyrgyzstan are the piles of concrete like in the lower left.





18) My wife helps our family prepare strawberries to make jam with the family.





19) Balykchy is an interesting city.  Once a booming industrial town thanks to a steady influx of money and work from Moscow, it has had trouble finding itself now.  Parts of the city are beautiful and promising, this photo shows the other side.  DSCF8274-Edit-XL.jpg




20)  Sheep are a large part of Kyrgyzstan life.  It's the predominant protein source here and you see them everywhere.  Sheep are almost always killed by families, there is not large, industrial farming like you will see in the US.





21)  There is a specific method to butcher a sheep or any other animal here.  One of the last steps is burning the hair off the head and hooves.  The head is the favorite part of the animal for many Kyrgyz men.


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Have fun. It's a great adventure. Good on you for adopting one of the local dogs. We did this when we were in Albania and we're looking for another one now in Manila. They're great dogs. Make time to take plenty of pictures. Every time I leave a place I always wish I'd taken more.

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Thanks a lot for sharingy your story and pictures.
I wish you and your wife a good time there and may you bring peace to the people you meet.



Have fun. It's a great adventure. Good on you for adopting one of the local dogs. We did this when we were in Albania and we're looking for another one now in Manila. They're great dogs. Make time to take plenty of pictures. Every time I leave a place I always wish I'd taken more.

Well... the dog picture was actually from last year, and didn't make it.  They told us not to get attached to animals here...


More photos, as always, click on any photo for more photos & stories from the area.
22) A great hangout spot I go to with my little brother
23) I haven't had a chance to capture it well yet but the night skies here are incredible
24) We had a chance to explore the Altyn Arashan Valley with it's beautiful views and hot springs
25) With an organization I'm working with we took a trip to Karkara valley which forms the North-Eastern border of Kyrgyzstan.  To the left of the valley is Kazakhstan, the right, Kyrgyzstan.
26) The inside of a yurt with an elaborate & delicious spread of food.
27) One of the many endless and beautiful valleys in Kyrgyzstan.  
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28)  Summer camps are a big part of most Peace Corps posts, Kyrgyz Republic is no different.  Many summer camps are held around the country, some are just for kids to have fun and learn about America.  Others tack difficult or culturally sensitive topics such as Bride-Knapping, safe sex and healthy relationships.




29) Dodgeball was the favorite activity at summer camp




30)  The weather in Kyrgyzstan is very dynamic.  Most evenings in summer we could see lightning somewhere around the lake.  Next summer I hope to capture some great shots from it.




31)  Not a well-known fact to visitors here but Kyrgyzstan does have a single train line.  It only goes from Bishkek to Balykchy and it takes nearly 5 hours (double a taxi) to do so.  But, it is safe, comfortable and very cheap.  Perfect for a Peace Corps volunteer!


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Well... the dog picture was actually from last year, and didn't make it.  They told us not to get attached to animals here...



Sorry to hear that. Yes, they told us that too. We ignored them.

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32)  The beautiful Ala Archa valley.  This is the only true National Park in Kyrgyzstan (others are listed as such but aren't really the same designation.)  Located just 30 minutes from the capital, this is the most popular hiking/climbing destination in the country.





33)  I loved how this tent looked with such a striking background.  Keep walking this direction and you end up in a giant bowl with endless climbing and trekking opportunities.





34)  As you approach the climbing hut in Ala Archa you reach a zone where the wildflowers cease and the glaciers begin.  The difference is striking.



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