Thursday, July 29, 2010

PHOTO ESSAY: Trip to Osh

All of these photos have a story. However, the best I can do for now is post them with short captions. Please click on images to enlarge.

Markhabo takes a big bite of an apple as her mom fills out a form for a grant to rebuild their home and business which was completely destroyed during the clashes in Osh 

A boy waits for his mother to fill out a form that will give them the funds to rebuild their home

I was following a loan officer for the day, part of the grant application was to document the destruction with photos. Here a women stands in disbelief as the loan officer takes her photo.

During the assessment visits, many people would gather around, searching for NGOs and other organizations who are looking to provide help. This man stood with curosity.

Once the form is filled out the businesses owners are given a paper informing them of the process and what will take place in the coming weeks with their application. His wife stands in the background.

Assessing and documenting the damage.

She had a small business, her husband died several years ago and she is raising three kids on her own. She struggled to express what she will do now, without anything left.

Young man delivering plov, a traditional rice dish to different UNHCR tents which were divided into men and women.

In true Uzbek hospitality, I was invited to join them for lunch seconds after I took this photo. They have nothing left, but are always ready to share a meal. It was the highlight of my trip.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A fund to rebuild Southern Kyrgyzstan

In a quiet Osh neighborhood there stands a torched shop with no roof. The hot afternoon sun shines over what little remains of Nadira Abdusatarova’s once-thriving seamstress business.

Before the violent and destructive events of June 11th reduced her business to charred ruins, Nadira employed five apprentices and one staff member. With a solemn look of disbelief, she stood motionless, seemingly lost in a flood of opposing images.

She has memories of beautifully-mended clothes stacked neatly next to spools of thread, apprentices sharing light-hearted conversation and the faint hum of sewing machines in motion. But now, her memories are a painful contrast to the lifeless layer of rubble scattered across the floor.

Having already received a loan from Kompanion to expand her business before it was destroyed, Nadira now struggles to imagine how she will afford to rebuild her primary source of income. She also worries about her devoted apprentices and what they will do without employment.

But a new equity fund created by Mercy Corps has been established to do just that — get Nadira, and many other microentrepreneurs, back to business. The Fund for Rebuilding Communities through Microenterprise (FRCM) will provide small amounts of start-up capital, necessary to rebuild the countless micro businesses destroyed by the clashes in Osh and Jalal-Abad.

Mercy Corps is in a unique position to help small business owners rebuild because its microfinance company Kompanion has a large network of offices and staff already in place. With this new fund, microentrepreneurs like Nadira are one step closer to rebuilding their businesses and regaining their livelihoods.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

wisdom and watermelon

My roommate Ilgiz had his month full but still managed to speak.

“Do you know? This water-fruit is good for you” His head stooped over the kitchen table, the sound of watermelon seeds tinged against the glass plate.

“Good for...” he jabs both thumbs into each side of his lower back.
“...Kidneys” I blurted out
“Yes! Kidneys” he smiles, happy to be done so quickly with the impromptu game of charades.

I sat across the table from him. He was rarely without the right word in English. Only at times would he would erupt in Russian, whenever his grasp of English proved too restricting for complex ideas he was trying to express.

He was happy to do most of the talking and I was happy to listen, as I found his life endlessly fascinating. He told me about his family, how his grandfather was never accounted for in WWII, his thoughts on Lenin, his perception of life before and after the Soviet Union. He told me how he was first a driver for Mercy Corps before he was hired to help with procurement.

He is not a tall man but carries a formidable build. A well-groomed brown mustache matches his brown hair. Studying his face I notice a raised mole under his left eye which has probably been mistaken for a tear at least once in his life by a loved one. His smile reveals an upper row of teeth full of gold on the right, white in the front, and completely missing on the left.

His raspy voice is well suited to pronounce his hard Russian accent. When he speaks his cadence is jumpy, befitting of someone who speaks English as a second language. He has a quiet calm about him. He is a man who has worked long days his whole life. He is generous, humble and roars with laughter at the most unpredictable moments.

A warm summer breeze flows through the open window. Now almost completely in the dark, we share some laughs about how much watermelon he has eaten. His remarks bounce from profound to profoundly simple.

He pushed the large empty rind to the center of the table.

“My kidneys are healthy tonight” barely able to finish his sentence before bursting into a fit of laughter.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Kyrgyz cuisine

Fried Lagman (pronounced log-mon) has been the center piece of my diet here in Kyrgyzstan. Originally from Uzbekistan, this dish traveled across the border and found another home in Kyrgyzstan a long time ago.

Similar to stir fry the mix of noodles, chunks of meat and veggies seem better displayed in one of those little, white to-go boxes you get with Chinese food. However, these noodles are often made fresh and hand rolled- making them far superior to anything associated with cheap take-out.

Tender pieces of lamb, large slices of bell peppers and onions, and an intimidating amount of garlic are all tossed together in an oily fry pan. The lagman often arrives too hot to eat immediately and is almost always paired with a loaf of lepeshka. The meal is washed down with black or green tea, the drink of choice here in Central Asia. I have never drank so much tea in all my life.

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