Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Central Asia (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan)

So as part of the Lauder Institute and dual degree program, I got to go to Central Asia to do research with 2 of my classmates, Harrison and Arya. As part of our Master's thesis (or Global Knowledge Lab), we wanted to better understand the major influencers in the region - for both economic and political development. While there, we interviewed business men, academics, politicians, and members of the US Embassy/USAID.  It was so fascinating to hear their thoughts about the region and about what is currently taking place. We specifically wanted to see how Russia, China, and the Arabic/Islamic countries were vying for influence in this region. Pretty cool stuff.

We started in Uzbekistan (the capital Tashkent and Samarkand - one of the Silk Road cities), then went to Almaty Kazakhstan, then Bishkek Kyrgyzstan, and then up to Astana Kazakhstan (the capital).

Samarkand was beautiful with all the ancient Islamic sites and blue domes. Incredible! In Tashkent, while negotiating for a taxi, I was suddenly surrounded by about 10 guys and there was a little bit of shoving before I safely got away. While trying to leave the airport to Kazakhstan, I was taken into an interrogation room for about 45 min and was almost not let out of the country because of a misunderstanding of purchased souvenirs and my USD cash position. Chaos!

Kazakhstan was actually the best economically in the region - it was impressive to be there. I ran into the missionaries there - they have just opened up Astana 6 months ago - and I went to a lake with them on their P-day. Of course, when I was trying to fly back to NYC, the airline attendant wanted a cash bribe of $75 to be upgraded to a better seat. Ah the corruption and bribing that goes on! Overall, it was a tremendous experience. Enjoy the pics!