March 3, 2005: Headlines: COS - Kyrgyzstan: News Journal: Amy and Dustin Johnson went to Central Asia to teach for the Peace Corps returned recently with an education of their own about mountainous Kyrgyzstan

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Kyrgyzstan: Peace Corps Kyrgyzstan : The Peace Corps in Kyrgyzstan: March 3, 2005: Headlines: COS - Kyrgyzstan: News Journal: Amy and Dustin Johnson went to Central Asia to teach for the Peace Corps returned recently with an education of their own about mountainous Kyrgyzstan

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Amy and Dustin Johnson went to Central Asia to teach for the Peace Corps returned recently with an education of their own about mountainous Kyrgyzstan

Amy and Dustin Johnson went to Central Asia to teach for the Peace Corps returned recently with an education of their own about mountainous Kyrgyzstan

Amy and Dustin Johnson went to Central Asia to teach for the Peace Corps returned recently with an education of their own about mountainous Kyrgyzstan

EAST TEXAS: Couple share experiences in Kyrgyzstan at 2020 Forum

By GLENN EVANS

Thursday, March 03, 2005

A Longview couple who went to Central Asia to teach for the Peace Corps returned recently with an education of their own about mountainous Kyrgyzstan.

"I had never heard of the country," Amy Johnson told members of the 2020 Forum on Wednesday. "I tried to look it up on the Internet, and couldn't because I couldn't spell it."

Johnson, a 1993 Pine Tree High School graduate, taught wildlife conservation at American University in the country's capital, Bishkek. One million of the country's 5 million residents live in the capital. Amy Johnson left Longview as Amy Norton, but after about a year she and Dustin Johnson, a 1995 Pirate graduate, tied the knot.

The couple took a late honeymoon in Thailand last December on their way back to the United States, leaving that country shortly before a tsunami struck parts of Asia.

On Wednesday, their focus was on the remote former Soviet nation they called home for about two and a half years.

"In Kyrgyzstan, you don't go 'on vacation,' you go 'have a rest,' " Amy said. "We love how they say things in English. 'I'm going to take a rest. Have you seen our nature?' "

The country's nature, or natural beauty, occupied much of Amy's attention, and she described Kyrgyzs efforts to develop an eco-tourism industry.

Amy said endangered snow leopards, Ibex mountain goats and Marco Polo sheep still draw high-paying Western hunters, and some Kyrgyzs are trying to divert the money generated by the safaris to conservation and research.

She said the country's environmental challenges include overgrazed land, water pollution and abandoned uranium mines left from the Cold War and Soviet domination.

Dustin Johnson, who taught economics at American University, added that the infrastructure has been neglected since the country broke away from the Soviet Union 14 years ago.

"Really, since 1991, nothing substantial has been built or maintained or renovated," he said.

The poverty rate in Kyrgyzstan is greater than 64 percent, he said, contrasted to a 12.5 percent U.S. rate in evaluations by the World Bank.

Eight of 10 Kyrgyzs are Muslims, with most of the rest being Russian Orthodox.

"They are very much cultural Muslims," Dustin said of the majority. "Many of them have never been to a mosque. It's the same with the Russian Orthodox folks. To them it's just a part of the family you're born into. It's not much of a faith issue at all."

Dustin said $50 million in American aid went to Kyrgyzstan last year.

"And our government has initiated some beneficial programs," he said, describing a high school student exchange program drawing at least 50 Kyrgyzs students to America where they learn English and observe the multi-layered economy up close. American University has a $10 million scholarship endowment, half of which he said came from International financier and Democratic activist George Souros.

Land-locked by China on the east and former Soviet block nations on the west and north, Kyrgyzstan exporting would benefit from joining the World Trade Organization, Dustin said. The country produces many fruits, he said including phenomenal strawberries. Those products could find ready markets in the Ukraine and elsewhere if crossing the border didn't involve bribing guards and paying tariffs.

"By the time you've done all that, you haven't made any money," he said.





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Story Source: News Journal

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Kyrgyzstan

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