Uzbekistan in Summer 2015

In a previous post I’ve already posted some of the images of my bike tour through Central Asia in summer 2015 – but I realised, I have too many images for just one post. So, look there for the images of Kyrgystan – and see below for my collection from Uzbekistan in October 2015.

From landscape, dessert and people to the amazing cities of Bukhara and Samarkand.

The people of Uzbekistan

Once I crossed the border from Kyrgystan into Uzbekistan the landscape changed drastically. In the east of Uzbekistan I crossed the Fergana Valley, which actually is a plateau in the mountains, which you can only assume in the distance.

 

20151006_CentralAsia_12The valley is densely populated and used in intensive agriculture. Seemingly mostly cotton and water melon production – the latter really quite delicious. Due to the density of agriculture it was often difficult to find good suitable camp sites, but the people were incredibly welcoming and hospitable.

Almost automatically the focus of my bike tour shifted from the beautiful harsh landscape to enjoying the people, their homes, hospitality and the little villages and markets.

Landscape and Traffic

Oh – the landscape, in particular further west was most amazing again, from small villages to dessert-like landscapes – I loved it. Here is a small collection of images from this part of the tour.

The cities

Samarkand and Bukhara – the two former metropoles on the Silk Road

Thanks for reading!

Central Asia in Summer 2015

At first 2 admissions: It wasn’t really summer, but I neither could I leave earlier nor could I convince myself to rename the trip to “Central Asia much too late in 2015“.

20151018_CentralAsia_26Central Asia is correct, but implies more. It is true, that I cycled for one month in Kyrgystan and Uzbekistan, two countries of Central Asia – but being there, seeing the vastness of the landscape – and meeting other cycle travellers – you realise quickly how big this region and how proportionally short the stretch is, that you cycle in a month.

The Central Stans, former Soviet Unions, span across 2500 kilometers in the dead center of Asia, from the western borders of Turkmenistan at the shore of the Kaspian Sea to the eastern mountains in Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan and Tadjikistan, bordering on China and the Himalayas. Map_of_Central_Asia
Their prominent position in the center of Asia, between the sea and the mountains, explain why they once have been so important hubs on the Silk Road, connecting Europe to the Far East – and vice versa. In turns this explains Central Asia’s attraction to the many cycle tourists – it being almost the only path that takes you overland across the whole continent, where other routes are hindered due to border conflicts and regions of unrest.

Instead of the long haul across continents, in October 2015 20151001_CentralAsia_2I went “just” for a 4 weeks trip, starting in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgystan, making my way through the mountains towards the deserts of Uzbekistan, the former “Silk road metropoles” Samarqand, Bukhara and ultimately its capital Tashkent.

 

Bishkek20150928_CentralAsia_1

In Bishkek I had asked for a visa to Tadjikistan – with all the paperwork etc – but the embassy seemed unable to find the relevant stickers – and I wasn’t willing to wait another 5 days for them to rummage through their drawers. So, I left without the sticker – and without the permission to travel the Pamir Highway in Tadjikistan.

In the short run this led to quite some frustration, whereas later in the mountains I was actually a little relieved not having to pass an additional 1000 meters of elevation.

The mountains of Kyrgystan

The tour started cold in the Kyrgys mountains – cold, but amazingly beautiful.

nomadic summer settlement
nomadic summer settlement

I enjoyed the mountains, even if I sometimes was cold – or had to dress in 6 layers to make it safely downhill again. However much I missed going through the Pamir, I was in a way also relieved, that I didn’t have to climb another 1000 meters and battle stronger snow storms.

After a couple of days in the mountains, I crossed a hilarious border crossing into the Fergana Valley of Uzbekistan. Find the pictures in the next blog post here: Uzbekistan in Summer 2015.

“New” in Amsterdam – 2015

Arriving in Amsterdam

No updates forever! So clearly, this blog has made its way into oblivion, being totally forgotten and not worth having a “News” section.

So – here we go for a little restart – and I do hope things will run a little more smooth in the next year.

A small update:
Right now I live in Amsterdam and work here for Greenpeace International. Full-time – which so far left very little time for other things.

In the next weeks I hope to supply you with some images of Amsterdam – it’s a great place!

John Boehmer is doing a number on this coastline

Climate Name ChangeWho said environmental campaigns always have to be 100% political correct? And who has difficulties in finding visuals for Climate Change phenomena?

A few weeks ago Action 350.org (an action outlet of 350.org) launched the ClimateNameChange Website, suggesting a new naming system for extreme weather events.

Illustrating the connection between Climate Change and extreme weather events, 350.org petitions that these events should be named after those politicians that deny Climate Change or even actively obstruct climate policies.

The site features a great video that tells a nice story and has a few great punch lines to explain the idea and the following petition to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), who is in charge of naming those events.

The video has gone viral shortly after the launch with now more than 2 million clicks on YouTube.

Currently the names for extreme weather events are selected through a very complicated procedure from different old lists of names, managed and updated through another complicated procedure by an international committee of the WMO. The actual name chosen from a list depends where the storm arises and which year it is – there are six lists which are used in a rotation system.

On ClimateNameChange.org you can join more than 80.000 people currently to petition the WMO to change the naming scheme into something more meaningful.

At the bottom line it seems unlikely that the WMO is ever going to change anything about their naming mechanism (the lists are in place since the early 60ies). Besides, in my opinion the video is very US-centric – other countries do have “Deniers & Obstructionists” in the same way and they also deserve to have disasters named after them.

Nonetheless, the video is great, the campaign beautifully designed and the homepage actually provides plenty of information about the US-American wrong doers, including everyone’s voting records!

My personal favourite is the speaker John Boehmer, who “is really doing a number at this coast line” and destroys a town at minute 1:30.

 

Myanmar North-East

In a previous post I briefly described my short project with Arche Nova in Myanmar. As part of the project I also visited the Northern States Shan and Kachin and spent some time in Myitkina and Taungyyi.

Here are a few more pictures, taken on this work trip, in between meetings, when visiting local markets, in Yangon and elsewhere.

Oxfam’s Campaign Success Secrets

Oxfam has recently all reasons to celebrate a few victories.

Previously Oxfam has come across more as an rather old-school model of an 5 OX_VL_B_RGBhumanitarian charity, but if you follow their activities more closely you’ll see soon, that Oxfam has taken its mission to fight poverty to some very new levels.

While many have been aware of 1$-Charity Shops and a second-hand clothes collection scheme, very few have been aware of the level of advocacy work that Oxfam does internationally to fight poverty.

We believe we can end poverty and injustice, as part of a global movement for change.

To tackle poverty, beyond distributing emergency rations in disaster struck regions anywhere in the world, Oxfam has had to learn a few lessons about how to define goals and objectives, how to campaign and how to convince others.

In a “From Poverty to Power” blog post Hannah Stoddart, Oxfam’s Head of Economic Justice Policy, explains some of the secrets of their campaigning success. Recommend to read!

loupeShe especially mentions their more recents success stories from the land grabs campaign against the World Bank and the campaign “Behind the Brands“, aiming at the various – very few – large producers of our daily food.

She lists 5 (+ celebrities) key elements of campaigning she’s learned while managing the Land Grabs Campaign – and illustrates them nicely with examples and links to various moments in the campaigns.

It’s a good and simple read into the work of a large organization, into how they work, make decisions and sometimes struggle to move.

Oxfam works on various issues at once to fight poverty.
Oxfam works on various issues at once to fight poverty.
Pointing finger at Brands – Oxfam created a Scorecard to rank Brands and their performance

Have a look around the web presence of Oxfam, you’ll find a lot of informative articles on various aspects of development work, the fight against poverty and Oxfam’s campaign work in general, for example their short explanation how they fight poverty.

I highly appreciate Oxfam’s openness in regards to their work and the more theoretical considerations about the mechanics of campaigning, often I wished more organizations would play more openly – and thereby support more and other players to advance.