After five years of predominantly living in Kyrgyzstan since 2010, our family spent all of 2016 in the States as we focused on launching the June Cashmere brand. We plan to return to Kyrgyzstan in late January and as the days tick by we are increasingly cognizant of the big transition ahead of us. It takes time to truly settle in to a new place, and that process entails bumps and bruises as well as joys and victories. We are at the point now where we feel 75% at home in both places…of course America is our home and that is where our family and roots are. But we have had enough time in Kyrgyzstan to develop strong relationships and a sense of connection that stays with us even when we are not there. There are three elements that I would attribute this to: particular people, the uniqueness of the place, and the nature of our experience.
Our family in Kyrgyzstan, with a couple bonus kids who jumped in for the photo.
Coming to Kyrgyzstan as an outsider there are a lot of challenges to overcome to get to the point of running a business and developing a meaningful role in the community there. We have learned to appreciate the greater level of interdependence that exists between family and friends in Kyrgyzstan—this is the necessary ingredient for any venture to achieve traction in a place where corruption and infrastructural dysfunction slay many endeavors early in their inception. The process of building mutual trust, and then proving its merit by staying true under fire in tough situations yields a precious sense of solidarity with those with whom we have become closest. We look forward to being back and reconnecting with these much appreciated friends.
Secondly, it is hard to not go to Kyrgyzstan and not be impressed with the land…after five years I still have not become tired of leaving my house at the beginning of particularly clear and sunny days and seeing the rays of sunrise light up the snowy peaks of the mountains that line the edge of our city. One of the best perks of my job is the constant travel out through these mountains and valleys where in many places the land has a sense of being totally untouched.
And the third reason for our ongoing affinity to Kyrgyzstan is the nature of our experience there. Part of what drew me to Kyrgyzstan was the chance to help pull together something new; the process of striving to fight for the chance of raw potential to be actualized in a way that is no less than good business but done in a way that is much more than that. We do not feel like we are simply clocking in for a job—our efforts are centered on achieving commercial excellence in a way that promotes and empowers opportunity for the Kyrgyz people. The pursuit of this is exhausting and daunting, but also infused with a richness that comes from expending yourself for something you really believe in.