The central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan is a country passing through a precarious transition: after an uprising in April ousted the existing government, a new constitution was adopted in June; yesterday, elections were held—peacefully, according to early reports. With a country so far removed from our everyday consciousness, it can be easy to reduce our field of view to the geopolitical uncertainties, and forget the personal, human stories taking place at the level of the Kyrgyz streets. That’s where Nau’s Partner For Change Mercy Corps makes a difference—making micro-loans, offering support and creating change at the individual level.
Through their blog, Mercy Corps also offers us the opportunity to go behind the national news stories and learn a little about the cultures in which they work. Mary Tam’s recent post on her visit to a bakery in the Lake Issyk-Kul region is a good example, and gives a personal look at how Mercy Corps is touching the lives of everyday people in this far-away land.
On this day our local colleague, Dariya, introduced us to Ayzada Mukambetova. Ayzada seemed a bit reserved at first — offering a half smile with her hands clasped together in front of her. With humble confidence, she spoke of her agriculture business and how she has improved the quality of her crop through Kompanion loans and development trainings.
She said it is a good sign if guests visit the house when one is baking. She showed Dariya and I to the kitchen, rich with the smell of fresh bread, and handed me a golden-brown oval loaf. It is customary for Kyrgyz households to invite guests to join them for chai. If visitors cannot stay one offers hlep (bread). Dariya and I pinched off a piece of bread which was still warm, and she insisted we take the entire loaf for our afternoon tea. We visited four Kompanion clients that day — needless to say, we ate a lot of hlep.
Words by Alex Hamlin.