I am posting a few days later than usual, but for an excellent reason. This weekend I had the opportunity to visit Issyk-Kul. Before getting to this, I of course want to mention what I worked on throughout the week.
This week I focused on three main tasks. The first was to begin creating a Russian-language instruction manual for the installation and use of Skype for consultants working at free legal aid centers (FLACs). However, this task has come to a standstill until I can get my hands on a computer running Windows in Russian. That is, after some brief analysis, I realized the program UI for the Mac version of Skype (which I am using) is too different for any of my screenshots or instructions to be of value to FLACs, who operate on Russian Windows 10. I will proceed as planned once I get access to such a device. This will not be the first instruction manual I have created. However, it will be, I am excited to say, the first instruction manual I will make in Russian.
My second task was to analyze and amalgamate two different FLAC client reporting forms. The resulting form will be proposed to the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) as a streamlined solution for reporting broad client data, as well as potential common issues at FLACs, which are of interest to the MoJ. When creating the form, I modified an existing MoJ reporting form to comply with the standard reporting journal kept at each FLAC. In this sense, consultants updating monthly reports will not have to pull and place data from stylistically and structurally varied reporting sheets. Moreover, Meder and I brainstormed common issues that may arise at FLACs and placed a brief questionnaire at the beginning of the monthly report. To this end, our goal is to raise accountability on all sides by creating a reporting system where not only client statistics, but core operational needs, are not overlooked or unreported. Questions focus on a range of issues from equipment sufficiency to security and privacy issues.
My last main task for the week was to join in the Rule of Law Committee meeting on Thursday. The meeting included our Chief of Party, Garry, as well as the EWMI/CGP Rule of Law Component, a representative from the Soros Fund, and representatives from the MoJ. This initial meeting established an extended collaborative plan to address current issues threatening the sustainability of FLACs. An example of problems to address is the issue of lawyers’ general motivation to provide free legal consultations in place of working payable hours.
On Saturday morning, I traveled with some friends/new acquaintances to Issyk-Kul. We left early, around 8am. The trip from Bishkek takes about three and a half hours. I was surprised to find out that we each only had to pay 350 soms (a bit less than six dollars) for the drive there. We first drove through and out of Chuy Oblast, moving from an open, flat valley into a small mountain range. Coming into Issyk-Kul Oblast, we proceeded at a long, steady upward slope toward Issyk-Kul (the lake of the same name), which is at a higher elevation than Bishkek. Along the way, the road straddled the border with Kazakhstan, which was within line of sight.
Issyk-Kul is the main destination for mid-summer travel in Kyrgyzstan. The lake is humongous, stretching to the horizon with distant mountain peaks lining opposing sides of the lake. A small amount of docile plant and animal life thrives in its clear, mildly salty waters. However, for the most part, the water is ideal for anyone too squeamish to swim in more densely inhabited waters.
We stayed at a newly built hotel in the town of Cholpon Ata, only 500 meters from a series of public and private beaches along the lakefront. The water on the first day was cold, however, on the second day we could swim for thirty or forty minutes at a time before taking a break to warm up. The overall beach experience was wonderful. You could wade over fifty feet out into the calm water and still place your feet into the clear golden sand beneath. Further out, of course, you would need to tread water.
Though the beachfront is less developed than something you would find in the west, there were still plenty of shops, bars, and food options to keep people at the beach. Jumping from the pier was one of my favorite activities. We paddle-boated out to the end of the pier from our beach location. Then, we each took our turn jumping from the raised jumping/diving platforms while the other held the boat in place below the pier.
I hope I will be able to return to Issyk-Kul before departing, since later in the month the water will be even warmer than now. I want to say happy Independence Day, since July 4th will be just a couple days from now. Spending national holidays abroad has always been interesting to me. The first KFC in Kyrgyzstan opened recently, so perhaps I will stop by to have a taste of America.