From a student paper: “When I or my friend gets a shot of me where I look hot, then I would think why not sharing this on Facebook and Instagram and let people know that sometimes I could be that handsome as well.”

From another paper: “It is well known that phone was the first connection thing before the progress.”

The Walk to Work

today in the snow

She was lying on the ground beside the garbage bins where I put my rubbish. Bishkek Park, a posh shopping center, is next door; maybe she lost her way from there. Or maybe she was tired of that life and this is as far as she got in her getaway plan.

walk to word2

Through the park beside the White House. This stone path cuts a diagonal through the trees and ends up at the edge of Panfilov, an amusement park behind Parliament. Isn’t there some kind of metaphor at play when an amusement park is located directly behind the building that is the seat of governmental power?

I like this path because I get off Chui, the main drag, and into the trees. Plus: There is usually no one here, and I am rewarded with that gorgeous and fleeting sensation that I am alone in the middle of a city.

walk to work 3

In warmer months this half yurta is festooned with props (including a stuffed bear standing on all fours) and used as a backdrop for photos. In winter it looks broken and kind of lonely. When I walk past I am drawn to the chair. I fantasize about sitting there in some sort of ceremonial posture and waiting for the expressions of passersby. But I haven’t done that.

walk to work 4  walk to work

Random shots in Panfilov. Forlorn is the only word I can think of for an amusement park that sits quiet and empty. But there is also a kind of hopefulness that radiates from the bright colors. They telegraph that despite snow and winter and stillness, warmer days will come once more and so will people to fill the rides. They will return to be amused.

Working With The Work


Clockwise from top left: Elina working on her story about the pain of broken friendships; George listening to his soundtrack for his piece about basketball; Veronika selecting images for her story about her uncle Viktor who was fell out of touch with his family for 25 years; and Alina composing a story about her brother Chingiz, who drowned when he was teenager.

Their assignment to finish our digital storytelling class is a 2:30-3:30 minute story from their lives. They are to tell the story using images, sound and voiceover. It is to be a story that pulses inside them and a story that has a universal theme. So they tell of love and of loss, of failure and of heartbreak, of reaching and of family. Their candor inspires me, and their stories remind me that we are all the same, all of us, from all over this wild and woolly world: We grieve. We try. We love. We lose. We honor those who came before us. We strive to become as whole as we can. We lurch toward making sense of it all.

The deadline for this final project is tomorrow. This morning, a Sunday,  I walked at 9:30 through empty and icy city streets to the university and opened the media lab. I stayed for six hours, pulling up my chair beside each one to listen, to guide, to critique, to edit. I pulled up my chair to be near them, to hear them speak their stories. I pulled up my chair to honor them, to encourage them and to say to them that their stories have meaning and depth and importance. And they do.

I leave Bishkek in two weeks when this fall semester ends. Today was better than any farewell party I could conjure. Today we worked together, which is what drew me most to teaching journalism. To work with the work is the doorway into the deepest and most satisfying connection I can make with a student. And through these stories I see into their lives and into other worlds.

And I am forever changed.