Week Ten

Today is my third day in China visiting my wife Em's side of the family. I left Bishkek early Wednesday morning. Having dropped me off, Vladimir was fittingly the first and last acquaintance I saw in Kyrgyzstan, since he also picked me up from Manas weeks ago. The week, as with my first in the country, was split in half. I spent Monday and Tuesday at work, basically wrapping things up and responding to any questions people had for me at the office.


During our staff meeting this week, I was presented with a “thank you” letter from the office. I am very grateful for everyone’s kind words, as well as support over the summer. They also gave me a model yurt, which I am excited to put together with Em once we get back to the U.S. Also, many thanks to Aisuluu for helping me buy affordable, but very nice, last-minute souvenirs at the bazaar! My family loves them.


For the rest of my final post, I would like to reflect on my impressions of Kyrgyzstan and our accomplishments over the summer. I am blown away by the natural beauty of Kyrgyzstan. Traveling to nearly every region in the country within the short weeks of my internship was a great privilege that many Kyrgyz people have not received. Having enjoyed these locales, I hope that the Kyrgyz Republic will continue to preserve, but also utilize its natural beauty as a positive resource into the future.


It would be false, of course, to say that I understand Kyrgyzstan well. I am satisfied to know that I at least understand it better. It is home to a unique culture which has been influenced by forces converging from vastly different parts of our world. It is also home to many hospitable and warm people who, like us all, seek opportunities for success and development. It appears that people, or maybe the country in general, knows what it wants to achieve, or better stated, what its success will look like. The end-product of advancement is within scope, but perhaps the means are still being defined. Considering its political history and a dynamic where generations have grown up quite differently, an identity issue of sorts is hardly surprising. I believe that the answer to this social question, that is, how the people of the Kyrgyz Republic will continue to define themselves, will provide the clearest indicator of how the sociopolitical landscape will proceed following elections in the fall.


All of this aside, the most satisfying thing about working at an NGO in Kyrgyzstan was knowing that there are hundreds of talented and motivated people who are willing to do what is necessary to advance an agenda. NGOs were not only striving to remain coordinated with one another, but also (at least in our case) with the government bodies tasked with implementing their respective efforts.


Working to help set up the Free Legal Aid Centers (FLACs) not only provided a window into unique parts of Kyrgyzstan, but also a nice physical example of how government dollars are turned into resources and passed down the line in hopes of producing or fostering the growth of social capital. My week at KNU providing teacher training was a wonderful glimpse into the Kyrgyz national higher education system. Developing and completing the FLAC Reporting System was a task I had not expected on arrival. However, it proved useful for me in the sense that I can now better understand the types of data and reporting government offices will want to keep and utilize regarding legal aid programs. I also learned that more complicated is not always better, that familiarity has its advantages. Finally, the opportunity to meet and interface with representatives from government offices and other NGOs was not only exciting, but good practice for the future.


In addition to learning a lot this summer, I also had a lot of fun. Though I have thanked each of you personally, I want to post a thanks to all who made my internship in Bishkek not only possible, but interesting, worthwhile, and productive. My perspective on international law, politics, and the world in general has been enriched. All of you are to thank. I want to specifically post my thanks to my very patient family, EWMI/USAID CGP, William & Mary Law School, Professor Warren, and our wonderful sponsors/donors, who make international internships financially realistic for students.


Assuming this post will outlive my time as a W&M Law student, I would like to leave my contact information below. If anyone reading has any questions, comments, etc., please contact me. I would be very happy to discuss my internship and/or experiences in Bishkek.


W&M email: mzsnider@email.wm.edu

Personal email: mikesnider8@gmail.com

Cell #: +1-614-432-5381