In my last article I was about to enter Kyrgyzstan, not knowing what would be next, since the geopolitical situation around central Asia is very complex. Now I know a bit more but it is still not easy and I'm facing new problems along the way.

My stay was well prepared in Kyrgyzstan with the judo academy. The secretary of the federation had taken good care of everything and my time there was amazing.

When I arrived, I was alone with one coach because the others were at a training camp in order to prepare for the world championships. It gave me the opportunity to discover their amazing judo academy. I was very surprised and impressed because Kyrgyzstan is not famous as a big judo country and yet they have some of the best infrastructure I've ever seen! This is worth a visit! 

I went with the coach to discover the mountains and the local food and I spent time with some of the people in the federation, who spoke good English. I then drove to Issyk Kul lake where I joined the national team. Issyk Kul is a wonder of nature that us Europeans mostly don't know about. This region and the culture of the people is really interesting and eye-opening. 

As soon as I arrived I was welcomed warmly by judoka and coaches. We did different activities including judo of course and I was able to practise a bit with them, but what amazed me the most was a hike into the mountains with horses and also the sauna near the lake.

I was very happy to observe the attitude of the judoka, who immediately integrated me with the group even though the language barrier was real, only 2 or 3 were speaking some kind of English. It was the same with the coach. After the sauna he explained that it is the tradition to drink Samogon. It's the heritage of former Soviet countries, where this alcohol used to be a smuggled vodka. A few drinks and one hour later and we were bound forever. 

We returned to the capital, Bishkek, where I taught judo for both children and adults. Everybody was very happy to see me and talk to me. I've met quite a few people who even spoke French with me. The French style of teaching judo using games, even for adults, was totally new for many of the judoka and was well received. After having watched people doing judo, I felt safe to practise and fight with them so I had some good training for myself too.

I stayed in Bishkek for a full month. It was perfect until the worst story of my project happened. I still can’t bring myself to speak about it much but suffice it to say I met disreputable people and lost a lot of money, worth many months of my project.

Because of that bad episode, I had to go to Uzbekistan earlier than planned, where some Kyrgyz friends joined me for the world championships. I hadn’t had time to process what happened to me, I was still in shock. It was good that straight away I could see a lot of friends from all the countries I visited, all present at the world championships. I took that opportunity to get in contact with many judoka, including some from North Korea! 

Once the last day of the event arrived I spent almost a week in an hostel before managing to organise the next part of my adventure. I was invited to stay in the judo academy and it was a very nice complex, full of champions, with the new ones like Turaboyev and Boltaboev but also some legends like Iliadis, Sobirov or Tangriev. It took a while, almost ten days, before I was invited on to the tatami but it was worth the wait.

What is coming next is Tajikistan, where communication is not very easy. I had contacts, but with three days before I was due to arrive, I still didn’t know where I would be going. What I know is that I took as much time as possible in Central Asia, hoping that the geopolitic situation would get better but nothing changed. China didn't open and there is still the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, with the situation in Afghanistan also still very dangerous. So I've decided to use a joker for the first time by flying.

After Tajikistan, I will fly to Nepal. I don't want to go too far away, making this challenge of 197 countries more difficult. The nearest country was Pakistan but the visa was too complicated for this moment. I'm very excited about Nepal though because I will meet Sabrina Filzmoser, who did the Forever Everest project. 

After that I have to go to India. At the moment, I’m struggling a bit to get that visa because I want to enter by land but we will see how it goes.

I'll still go east; the next complicated part will be Myanmar, as the land borders are currently closed. However, if you remember, thanks to my contact, I was able enter to Azerbaijan by land even though the borders were closed, so I have hope! 

Lots of things happened since the last time I wrote, experiences that made me grow and changed me as a person. I wish I could say more but you'll have to wait a bit longer. I'm very happy to see that people and my sponsors put great trust in me because I received some financial help after what happened. My sponsor Fightscout decided to extend our collaboration as well, so the project had been hurt but we were still alive and ready for new adventures!

The next regions will be very different as I’m leaving Central Asia. Some people say that if you have never visited India or Africa then you have never travelled. I really hope I’ll be able to go to India to see what makes this country so special. 

Until next time, IJF readers. 

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