June 01, 2015

A Chance to Travel: I Am Going to Kyrgyzstan. What Now?

Judge Thomas C. Warren (Ret.)

Editor’s Note: It is with a heavy heart that we bid farewell to the Voice of Experience newsletter. Times being what they are, the Senior Lawyers Division must sunset our beloved VOE. However, as VOE fades, we offer here by way of tribute two columns prepared before we understood that they would most likely be the last: “A Chance to Travel,” by Tom Warren, and “Washington Scene,” by Warren Belmar.

Really? Things are becoming somewhat bizarre in my travel world, it would seem. In addition, you might notice I am writing a travel article about someplace I have not yet been. I have now written 64 travel articles and, of course, most were written in the past tense. This being article number 65, it is only appropriate that I advise all my readers about how much fun I have in the planning of a trip, and this one should be a doozy.

As my wife Mary Ann says, each family needs a travel planner and then someone who gets to go along for the ride. I buy all the travel books, read all the articles about the destination on the Internet, book all the flights and hotels, and then turn it all over to her. She packs and schemes about what we will need in each of our many destinations, and she becomes the problem solver. You would think that I, as a lawyer and judge, could solve problems, but the truth is, when I’m traveling and something goes wrong (you remember my losing my passport in Africa!), I get frustrated and mostly useless. Mary Ann methodically analyzes and goes about solving the crisis. Sounds like a good partnership, doesn’t it?

So how did I get involved with a trip to Kyrgyzstan? Our county, and where I live, by wonderful Lake Chelan, is one of the top fruit-growing regions in the world in an awesome area of rivers, lakes, valleys, and mountains. So, go figure, it is very similar to Kyrgyzstan, I am told, and my reading has verified this. Several years ago, people in Chelan County with a lot more vision than I started developing a reciprocal relationship with people of like interests in Kyrgyzstan, especially in the Lake Issyk-Kul and Karakol region, which is east of the capital of Bishkek.

There have been various reciprocal visits between agricultural and political leaders of both countries, including a visit to Chelan last summer to sign a memorandum of understanding about how we can help each other and build some peaceful world understanding. This visit included the Kyrgyzstan ambassador to the United States. Kyrgyzstan is a developing democracy, which means that it experiences a lot of rough spots along the way. It was formerly a Soviet satellite and is now a proud independent country trying to create a market economy.

Okay, Judge, how did you get to be a part of this? You know enough about apples to figure out how to eat one! Well, many of the leaders involved from Chelan County are members of various Rotary clubs in the county, and I qualified as one of leaders of the Lake Chelan Rotary Club. Thus, I was serendipitously invited to a couple of the luncheons to meet the Kyrgyzstan representatives, mostly I think to fill up the table (and to flash the “judge card”). As the meals were paid by the local chamber of commerce, how could I refuse?

It turns out that, as the Kyrgyz visited us, it is important that we return the visit, and the planning for a trip to Kyrgyzstan and Karakol started moving forward. As they kept me on the email distribution, I just assumed that I was invited to be a part of the delegation. I don’t have a lot to contribute in the world of apples, but I have talked them into planning for me to visit the court system, learn about their hospital administration, and assist in trying to start a new Rotary Club in Karakol. Another of the delegates has a background in banking, so it looks like we can spread the contacts we make and hopefully touch a lot more people.

As you can tell, I am getting pretty excited about this trip. It is obviously different from any traveling I’ve done before (59 countries, but who is counting). So, if I make it through this adventure, you can expect an article about what happened. Yesterday, I bought my tickets (managing to avoid Aeroflot), and so on to Kyrgyzstan. I sure hope everything goes well, as I won’t have my problem solver with me.

Judge Thomas C. Warren (Ret.)

Hon. Thomas C. Warren is retired from his judgeship on the Chelan County District Court in Wenatchee, Washington. Active in the ABA’s Senior Lawyers Division and Judicial Division, he can be found “in Chelan, Washington, (or somewhere in the world).”