This past week was spent in the Naryn region of Kyrgyzstan, in a village with only 133 houses, with only outhouses and limited heat and electricity. It was like a blast from the past, but a unique and challenging experience. Kaisa and I have been staying with a family that speaks very limited English, and I speak limited Russian, so hand signals have worked just fine. The food has consisted of “airan” (a yogurt like milk substance), “chai” (tea in Russian and Kyrgyz languages) and both lunch and dinner being a rice or potato dish. We have spent our mornings with their six children playing games and watching tv. In the afternoon I have focused on coaching hockey, the main purpose of my invitation here. The evenings have consisted of dinner, cards, and watching Prison Break. A family friend dropped the series off at the house and the family gathers around the house each evening to watch a few episodes.
The hockey has been excellent despite the temperatures ranging from -24C and -35C and the players having limited equipment (missing gloves, broken skates, etc.) making it difficult to teach them anything significant or complex. Also, there are only two or three pucks on the ice at a time, which makes it limiting the drills that we can do with the team as a whole. Lastly, Saku does not have a strong hockey ability and a Soviet style coaching mentality, but he is the only source of translation for me when trying to coach the kids explain the drills. Despite the circumstances, I have taught the hockey basics skating, shooting, breakouts and an attacking triangle in the offence. I was amazed at how well they were picking up the drills after watching me demonstrate, but there is still much work that needs to be done. I find it very unlikely that they will continue the drills and exercises they have learnt this week, but I am optimistic enough that they have the diligence to continue them. The rink is situated in a beautiful valley surrounded by a vast mountain range. In short, the hockey here has potential with the right coaching staff, translator, and equipment.
Our time here has been simple, without internet and communication with the outside world and nor communication with our host family. The experience has been more than welcoming and I would highly recommend this area to anyone looking to do some hiking, mountaineering, hunting, or just looking for a big cultural change (from the western world that is). One of the most beautiful drives I have ever done, past the fields, lakes and mountains.