So, I am moving to Kyrgyzstan in July.
Just a few days ago, I learned that I have been nominated for a Fulbright research fellowship in Bishkek, the capital city of this small and rugged Central Asian republic. There, I’ll be conducting independent research on post-socialist urbanization and cultural transformation. Inspired by my coursework in urban geography and GIS, as well as a personal interest in Central Asia’s social and political history, I’ll explore the ways in which Bishkek’s urban design, land use patterns, architecture, and iconography reflect the reconstitution of Kyrgyz national identity. As an avid cartographer, I’ll also use advanced spatial analysis techniques to quantify and visualize trends in urban development. My research will culminate in a multimedia report comprised of written analysis, photography and video, and graphical data visualizations.
To be honest, I’d completely forgotten about my application for the fellowship, and so the notification of my award came as quite a surprise to me. Until last week, I was expecting to return to Dartmouth in the fall to pursue an MS in Computer Science. Instead, I’ll be packing up my bags and moving to Central Asia. This change in plans has drastically affected my outlook on my remaining two weeks at Dartmouth—not to mention the six weeks until I leave. Most Fulbright fellows receive their award notifications in March or April, and consequently have several months to finalize logistical details and prepare for the psychological shock of complete foreign immersion. I do not have the luxury of time—in six weeks, I must find an apartment in Bishkek, network with local academics and develop a support network, revise my research methods and timeline, and begin to teach myself Russian and Kyrgyz. Suffice to say, it’ll be a frantic six weeks.
The craziest part? I’m not flying to Kyrgyzstan. I’m driving there. See, two friends and I are participating in the 2014 Mongol Rally, a 10,000-mile road trip from London to Ulaanbaatar. For better or for worse, I won’t have time to return to the States between our arrival in the Mongolian capital and the beginning of my grant period in Kyrgyzstan. Instead, I’ll simply hop on a flight from Ulaanbaatar to Bishkek.
In my 22 years of life, I have been fortunate enough to visit some remarkable locales around the world, from the steamy backwaters of Kerala to arid the Anatolian Plateau to the inhositable glacial expanses of Iceland. Never before, however, have I embarked on such an open-ended adventure as this. Although the grant period is approximately one year, truth be told, I don’t know when I’ll return to my home in Portland. Am I nervous? Definitely. But my trepediations are easily outweighed by my incredible excitement and anticipation. For years, I’ve dreamed of visiting this most fascinating region of the world. I feel exceptionally privileged and grateful to have this opportunity, and I do not intend to let it go to waste.
Anyway, I hope to use this blog to document my upcoming experiences in Kyrgyzstan. I know that I haven’t been very good about updating this site in the past, but this fellowship should provide plenty of blog fodder. Stay tuned for updates. This is sure to be a wild adventure, and I’ll do what I can to bring you along for the ride.