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  • Jerome Kocher

57. Kazakhstan and Beyond

Updated: May 7

I feel like Neil Armstrong the night before Apollo 11 launched. I’ve planned this for five years but don’t know what it will be like when I land. Will it be a 'hard rock' of fundamentalism, or will I sink into the 'powdered dust' of an arid environment. I’ve only met two people in my life who have even been there. You don't see this on anyone’s Instagram pics or profile photo, not anyone I know!

So tomorrow I fly to a destination unknown to me and most of the Western world. Unlike Armstrong’s destination, people can’t even spell the name nor seen an image of where I’m going. We’ve all seen the moon and can even tell you where it is. But Kazakhstan, no clue. And it gets even more mysterious. Add in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. Mr. Plum did it with a candlestick in the library. No clue!

These are all former Soviet Republics, just south of Russia and north of Iran. But in this case you can’t judge a neighborhood by its neighbors. The "stans" are actually like a “sea of tranquility” between two no-go zones. And much more tolerant and progressive, especially for women, than their Middle Eastern Islamic cousins. A perfect place for my landing in Central Asia.

My trip has a theme of The Silk Road. All of these ‘stans’ or ‘lands” had caravanserai, sanctuaries of safety and accommodation for people and their beasts of burden along the ancient route stretching from China to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul . . . and beyond. Just ask Marco Polo. But will it be a reminder of motels strung out across Nevada or more like Route 66 from the Southwest to Chicago. Or obviously, none of the above.

Also, Neil Armstrong took more selfies than I will. Besides not having an interest in a picture of myself, my selfie would just add fuel to the critics who would analyze it to prove it was actually taken in a studio in Baja, Mexico, with a green screen maybe, and some air conditioning to add movement. It’s questionable enough to even go there, so why risk credibility with a selfie.

We end up in the Caucasus in Georgia which I imagine to be much greener, more lush and forested with traces of medieval European culture bordering on the Black Sea. And yes, Armenia and Azerbaijan are on the route and they are currently in a territorial conflict. But that’s in the south and we’re not going there. I even had to declare for my Azerbaijan visa that I had not been to this warring region. And I haven’t. Again, I don’t know a single person who has.

So I am putting my trust in a group of guides out of Uzbekistan who will hand me off to other guides as we traverse the ‘stan’ countries. They’ve been very professional in communication and organization up til now. Will it compare to NASA’s standards? Definitely not. But it will be very enriching. The only weird thing so far is that I received a mail order bride email offer from this region. A coincidence? Do they share their clients info. I don’t think so. But I do hope they will share their stories and lives with me. Because that is the whole purpose of travel. 

Everywhere most people are warm, friendly and generous, often unlike their governments. But I’m not going there to meet their presidents or dictators. I’m going to meet them. The salt of the earth. And once again to discover that besides all our differences, from language to culture to religion, they’re just like you and me. Now that’s worth going for!

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BlueFlame NoenDragon
BlueFlame NoenDragon
May 06

Love this type of humane thought! I wished everyone can learn how to be more human and humbled, just like you Mr.Kocher! So heartwarming to see and read this type of inspirational peace. It has taken me to places in my mind about history and many wonders of the world that I would love to learn and visit again, as if I was reading a book but through time. Now that I have a job, life had been the same loop of sorts. But, prefer that I am a student again to feel free from the modern stress of the city. It wasn't fun. But important! I wished that I can travel someday to find this Neverending exploration and serenity.


May 06

Say hello from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. I couldn't pick a better person to represent the best of our American people than you. 🙂


Jack Greenspun
Jack Greenspun
May 06

Kazakh proverb:

“Who travels in other countries will be a critic, who wanders the forest will be a builder.”

I think you have the right attitude my friend. People are people.

Stay close to the trees.

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