TASH RABAT: Nazira, 32, grew up around foreign tourists in a mountainous area of Kyrgyzstan near the Chinese border. She helped her parents during the summers to service the foreigners staying in the family's yurts to visit the nearby 15th century Caravanserai. Nazira later went to university to study languages, but one summer between semesters, she met a shepherd who was grazing his livestock in the area. She fell in love and left university. ''I like romantic men, but he isn't very romantic. He just works all the time,'' said Nazira with a laugh in a kitchen inside a train wagon. Nazira, who speaks good English, said she would like to learn Spanish, but doesn't have the time at the moment between taking care of her children and the tourists. Her family is building a new home in the nearby town, which she hopes to turn into a B&B for travelers during the offseason.
TASH RABAT, KYRGYZSTAN: When the Soviet Union collapsed, a collective farm near the Kyrgyz border with China was carved up. Some workers got goats, others yaks. Jyrgalbek's father received a home attached to the collective farm in the carve up. It would probably have been worth nothing were it not for the fact it lay some 200 meters from a 15th century caravanserai. With borders opened after the Soviet collapse, foreigners started to come visit the Caravanserai and pitch tents to sleep overnight. The family noticed this and considered the potential to make money from tourism. Jyrgalbek, a mechanic who lost his town job after the Soviet collapse, took over the house in the mountains, moving his family there. At first, he started by cooking food for the foreigners while attending to the livestock he owned in the area. Around 1997, he started to set up some yurts for the tourists to sleep in. Nearly 20 years later, he and his daughter have about 20 yurts, which helps generate a good portion of their yearly earnings. The rest comes from selling livestock, such as horses, yaks and sheep at the Sunday market.
ISSYK-KUL, KYRGYZSTAN: She was temporarily living in a yurt for the summer with her two brothers, mother and father, who happens to be an eagle hunter. Their new house was still being built. She said she wanted to follow in the footsteps of her mother and become a clothing designer.
BISHKEK SUBURB: This family of seven were selling strawberries on the side of the road outside Bishkek. They picked the strawberries themselves on their small plot. They were selling the buckets of strawberries - a few kilograms - for about $3 each. My driver bought four buckets. When she found out I was from New York, the mother said ''I have friends in the US.'' I inquired and she said that when she was a high school student, they had English teachers funded by the Soros Foundation. She could still remember a bit of English and spoke a bit to me. She said one of her sons is a good boxer while the other likes to place chess.
KYRGYZSTAN COUNTRYSIDE: This 26-year old said he worked about seven years in Novosibirsk, Russia selling jeans made in China. He said he has relatives in Novosibirsk selling the jeans, including his older brother. He said he would travel occasionally to Moscow for work and could make as much as $1,000 a month before the Russian economic slowdown. The young man said he returned home two years ago to marry and sent his younger brother to Novosibirsk to work selling the jeans. He said his younger brother will return home in a year or two - as is custom in Kyrgyzstan - to take care of their parents. When that happens, he will likely go back to Russia to work, he said. Before the Russian crisis, he said he could sometimes make close to $1,000 a month.
ISSYK-KUL: We pulled up to a convenience store in a village near Issyk-Kul at around 11am to buy water, but the door was closed. As I returned back to the car, a young boy came running over to open the door. He said he was manning the store for the day and would be working until evening. His parents were probably in the field working, said my driver.
KYRGYZ COUNTRYSIDE: ''He was the only veterinarian in the village. Now there is no one,'' said this 50 year-old woman about her husband, who passed away 1.5 years ago. She has six children and lives in a village with a population of about 850. Her two eldest daughters are married. She spoke the best Russian among the people in the village I met and I asked if she had studied or worked in Russia. The woman said she studied at a military school in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Now she cleans the village school while taking care of her children. ''What else can I do [in the village]'' she asked?
BISHKEK: These two students of the medicine faculty were practicing parkour in the center of Bishkek. They got into the street sport while in grammar school when they randomly came across a youtube video. I asked the student on the left with the headphones what music he was listening to. He said he was listening to some religious texts. When I asked about the shirts, they said they were proud of being Muslim. ''Many in Europe and other countries associate Islam with terrorism, but that is wrong,'' said Shamil, the young man on the right. Shamil wants to become a veterinarian while his friend wants to become a surgeon.
MOSCOW: These two Kyrgyz sisters, 24 and 19, were enjoying the warm weather at VDNKh Park in national outfits on a summer weekend day. I asked if they were dressed for a holiday or event. They said no. The sisters said they have been living in Russia for several years and both work cleaning offices.
A Moscow metro pulled in and out of the station, but these two girls remained sitting at the back of the empty platform around midnight, playing with their phones as they waited for a friend. They said they were sisters, born in Kyrgyzstan but living in Moscow already many years. The girl on the left said she was studying humanities at a university. ''I want to be a choreographer. I love dancing, especially street dance.'' Her older sister was studying law.