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Recently, a few of us local Steamboat folks made the journey to Kyrgyzstan. Don't worry, we didn't know were we were going either. Since I've always been a huge fan of geography, I quickly found our destination in central Asia. Bordered by Kazakhstan (Borat made this country infamous) and China, this country plays a pivotal role in the quest for democracy.  Many of us may not know that the 'stans' countries were the former USSR and after the early 90's they were left to pursue their independence. Despite the push for democracy, the signs of the earlier communist government are still very apparent.

So, why were we there?

The beauty of these philanthropic trips is that what we often think is our purpose, turns out to be something totally different. This adventure was no exception.

Visiting with the American Ambassador, we were educated on the role of United States in this country more than half way across the globe. Due to the strategic location of Kyrgyzstan based on it's proximity to Afghanistan and China, people often believe United States has a self-serving role. The truth is we experienced a very humanitarian emphasis. We saw first hand the efforts made to give women better opportunities in life equality as well as a chance to play sports. Our group helped with the profound continued need for health education and cleaner sanitary facilities. Finally, we were a part of the overall wave of helping people on a very basic, human level. But, the most personal impact we all felt was the chance to ski with a group of  Kyrgyz orphans.

The simple joy of watching kids learning to slide down the mountain for the first time in their lives, was food for my soul. For a group of disadvantaged, lonely kids it was one of the greatest experiences they have ever had. Girls who were told they can never play sports or even choose their future spouse were given the freedom to learn to ski! Suddenly, kids without hope were given opportunity for a few days.

Smiles, quite a few falls and a lot of laughter made a profound impact on me. It was a simple reminder of how fortunate we are to live where we do and have opportunities that we all take for granted.  I had the profound realization that I grew up in a country where being a woman didn't immediately discount my potential to be an Olympic athlete. All these moments added to my sense of gratitude and appreciation.

I share this story hoping we all can know just how lucky we are while we slide down our white paradise and enjoy the freedom of turns and smiles.

Enjoy this quick footage of the "bugel lift".

Kyrgyz Ski lift from Nelson Carmichael on Vimeo.

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