Assembled a short video in honor of Kyrgyzstan’s Independence Day.

The patriotic subject, Jumabai, was our driver and local guide during a project we shot in Kara-Shoro National Park, about 2 hours outside of Uzgen, Kyrgyzstan.

At first, his unshakable Kyrgyz-ness was a bit overwhelming. At 6AM he burst into our yurt and coerced me into drinking a liter of  kumis (fermented mare’s milk) on an empty stomach. He said I’d thank him later when my digestive system worked perfectly, and he was right. He collected samples of the various spring and mineral waters of Kara-Shoro national park, demanding that we try each one. “That’s not enough,” he’d say after a sip or two. “You need to drink more to get the health benefits.” We drove everywhere in his vintage Lada: tearing around dusty corners, fording rivers, climbing alpine horse trails. He even let me drive her once, and complimented me by telling Stephanie that I drive fast. In one day, Jumabai led his American guests to drink tea–with bread and honey and butter and accompanied by piles of fatty meat (the best kind!) and potatoes–no less than 9 times with various friends, relatives, and colleagues we crossed paths with in the park.

Thank you for sharing your beautiful country with us, Jumabai! And as you said, “May Kyrgyzstan always be like this.”