Wednesday, May 19, 2010


I am headed to At-Bashy!


The Alpine Fund Dacha Weekend

Buttercups blanketing the hills, herds of sheep…….it is spring in Kyrgyzstan! This past weekend we took full advantage of the beautiful weather while staying at the dacha, the Alpine Fund’s lovely mountain house located at the base of Ala-Archa Canyon just outside Bishkek. A group of eight teenagers from Voenno-Antonovka Orphanage joined Salavat and volunteers David, Kevin and myself (Ann) for the weekend. Besides hiking and getting out in the mountains this weekend held a special purpose. From this group of kids, one will be selected to be Alpine Fund interns for next year. Selection criteria for an intern includes financial need but also motivation and interest to take on responsibilities involved with the Alpine Fund organization such as assisting in mountain trips and helping with meetings.

After arriving Saturday afternoon and having lunch in the garden, we hiked up the east side of the valley. Everything is green, green, green! We were rewarded with excellent views of Ala-Archa and the Aiygene Glacier. Dinner that evening was plov (traditional rice dish) cooked over an open fire in the yard. As the embers died, all the kids filled out sheets indicating their future plans, financial independence, and other questions that will aid our selection in selecting interns.

On Sunday after a hearty breakfast in the garden we spent some time pouring over a world map talking about geography. One of my favorite questions is to ask where in the world people would like to go to. All the kids had different answers to this question and some of them even said they would like to see the entire world! As the sun climbed into the sky we set off and hiked to the top of the Alpine Fund peak, a small mountain located on the west side of the valley. The climb up was hot, but a steady breeze kept us cool on the summit. The kids were thrilled to look north into Kazakhstan. Overlooking Bishkek, we were all grateful to get out of the city and into the mountains for the weekend. Returning to the dacha, we strolled through herds of grazing animals and groups of Kyrgyz families picknicking. After a late lunch, we all headed back to Bishkek renewed from a weekend of activity, sunshine and spring.

I have been an active volunteer with the Alpine Fund since I arrived in November. The Alpine Fund ( is a local non-profit that works to connect at-risk youth from orphanages and street markets with the mountains. Upcoming The Alpine Fund has a 5km Fun Run planned for June 6th at 12 noon near Ala-Archa park outside Bishkek. See the Alpine fund website or visit them on facebook for more information.