A year ago, I was in Kyrgyzstan.
The landscapes were stunning; the people were kind; the bread was delicious. Market stalls were piled high with fresh plums and apples and apricots.
I slept in warm yurts in the mountains, in narrow beds in quirky hotels, and in cold tents by blue lakes. I rode a little Kyrgyz horse and learned how to make felt.
I loved it there.
I went to Uzbekistan, too. Silk Road history seeped from the walls and blue tiles of ancient cities. I got lost among countless medressas and mosques and mausoleums. Again, the people were kind, and the bread was delicious.
And then this year, Kyrgyzstan started to fall apart. The president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, was deposed in April. In June, Ethnic Kyrgyz attacked ethnic Uzbeks living in Kyrgyzstan. Refugees fled to Uzbekistan; those who remained tried to barricade themselves into safety; the interim government did little to help. Hundreds of Uzbeks were killed; the official death toll from the violence is around 900. Just today, the U.N. reported continued violence, torture, and neglect.
I’ve been heartbroken by the news.
Two years ago, I was in China.
That was the year of the massive earthquake in Sichuan. Protests in Tibet were met with a violent crack-down. I won’t get into the dark side of the Olympic Games that year.
This year, I went to Tibet.
Earlier this year, Tibet suffered a devastating earthquake. A Tibetan activist was sentenced to death, and an environmental activist was sentenced to fifteen years. Monks were forced to recant – oh, sorry, they were “re-educated.” The climate is ever tenser, and many Tibetans fear that crackdowns will only get worse.
My dad joked that every time I decided to travel somewhere, that place runs into trouble. Not funny. Way to make me neurotic, Dad.
After I reported my dad’s theory to a friend, while we both wilted in our un-air-conditioned apartments in the brutal heat that’s been plaguing the Northeast US, she replied: “Maybe you’re to blame for the heat, too.”
Way to make me neurotic, Jess.
It’s my first time spending July in the States in a few years, and my first July in my own home since 2006. And what happens? Wretched heat and humidity. I know that heat and humidity are part of summer, they’re to be expected, yeah yeah, but it’s been exceptionally miserable here.
I’m not to blame. I’m not.
So, uh, where should I go next?