A Flat with a View

By Rob Packer

One of the best things about living on the 9th floor of a Bishkek apartment block is the view of the mountains I get from my living room. The mountains by Bishkek are enormous at around 4,500m and barely half an hour away from the city. Today was yet another fantastic sunrise, so I thought I’d share the photos.

This morning's view out the window.

Face on. Also this morning.

Looking west this morning.

And again, earlier this month.

From the window again. Autumnal colours this time.

Kyrgyzstan’s Windy City

By Rob Packer, KF9 Kyrgyzstan

This is a repost from the Kiva Fellows’ Blog

In the middle of October I spent a week away from the Bishkek office of my MFI, Mol Bulak Finance, to see microfinance in action in their Balykchy branch. Part of the training as a Kiva Fellow is to complete an online course from the United Nations Development Program on microfinance, which seemed to tell me continuously that microfinance is a low-margin, high-cost business. No matter how many times this message is drilled into me, it still comes as a shock.

The town of Balykchy sits at the start of Lake Issyk-Kul, the world’s second-largest mountain lake after Lake Titicaca. The lake is a summertime holiday Riviera and a former Soviet naval testing ground far away from the prying eyes of the West. Compared with its more visitor-friendly lakeside neighbours of resort town Chopon-Ata and trekking or skiing centre Karakol, Balykchy suffers from a bad reputation in Bishkek. Bishkek was a sea of yellow leaves at the time, but I was warned that I would need warm clothes for the cold and sunglasses for the wind. As we drove out from Bishkek, the ever-present fields and mountains became drier and when we finally left the steppes and arrived in the massive valley of Issyk-Kul, the landscape looked more and more like a mountainous desert, camels included. During my time there, I never experienced Balykchy’s gale force delights but the wind’s presence seemed to hang over the town like a dragon in the mountains.

The modern-day Silk Road just outside of Balykchy


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