You may have noticed, from the now famous Group Picture with Donkey, that Mike is getting scruffy. Seriously, his patchy (and recently peppery) beard is getting out of control. What you may not have known is that Thursday was his birthday. So on top of everything else we had to do, Fred and the gang insisted on throwing a little birthday bash for Mike….but we had a lot to get done first!
We arrived in Osh with a few days in which to finish pulling all of the details together for the upcoming beginner workshop. If you’ve been following the blog for a while you’ll know this is no small feat. For those who are new to the blog, there are a TON of logistical details that need figured out once we hit the ground regardless of how hard we push before we leave the States. We have to divide the 20 students (22 this time) into groups, assign translators and teaching assistants, coordinate meals and classroom schedule, arrange transportation to/from our shooting locations and prepare classroom materials.
In addition, we need to scout each story location, find a location for the graduation ceremony and do sound and video check at that location, ensure that buses/cars are arranged, are appropriate for each location, and can handle the correct number of students with equipment. We need to be sure someone will pack lunches and arrange for breakfast and dinner. We have to prep the classrooms, divide out the educational materials, prep the group computers, build Lightroom catalogs and folder structures, test a local print shop, and even make the name tags for the students. None of it is difficult really, except maybe vetting the stories and figuring out the schedule, but it’s death by a million papercuts. The down side is that this process necessarily means a lot of big group meetings in order to discuss the logistics, but the upside is that, the team gets to visit many of the locations ahead of time. As a plus, we get a chance to photograph for ourselves and see a lot of interesting stuff!
One particular group favorite was a trip to the outdoor market. While the current incarnation is mostly wooden tables with awnings or converted shipping containers, this outdoor market in Osh is, according to Wiki and local legend, the largest outdoor market in Central Asia. And Osh, as a city, is estimated by some as more than 3,000 years! I’ll give you a minute to think about that. That’s the beginning of the Iron Age, the date of earliest evidence of farming in Kenya, and when the Phoenician Alphabet was invented. Seriously! Babar was said to contemplate the beginning of the Mughal Empire on the Sulayman Mountain not far from the bazaar. With all this amazing history, we had to go the bazaar and to see it….and try on some hats. We’re probably not bringing many of the fashions back but the market was a great finish to a few days of planning and preparation which we are certain, is going to make this workshop another hit!
Now, back to the birthday party. When we arrived at the hotel after another long day of planning meetings Mike asked the hotel manager where he could find a shave. The manager arranged to drive Mike to the beauty salon Millenium so that one of the guys could trim the tumbleweeds from Mike’s chin. As we were walking out, somebody from the team mentioned a birthday dinner and the manager insisted not only to pick up the tab for the shave but to arrange a sweet pink rose and white frosting (wedding) cake to be ready for the team when he returned from the salon. When Mike got back fresh shaven, three of the hotel guys came out with the cake and sang happy birthday. Fred and our local hosts had also arranged for a fantastic dinner at Otor Restaurant (slash petting zoo) where the team got to sit in a stone yurt and enjoy local Kyrgyzstan national foods. The countryside was beautiful, the donkey and camel were friendly and photogenic, and of course the company was great. What better way to wrap up a few days planning than with a team dinner. And on the menu tonight: Kumis and Besbarmak. Kumis is warm fermented mare’s milk with herbs in it and Besbarmak is boiled/roasted horse meet served on shredded sheet of pasta. We washed it down with ice cream and a gorgeous sunset and while I don’t think the team is going to request either dish again ever, it was a pretty adventurous way to celebrate making it this far, being ready, and getting pumped for another great workshop!