hello, new readers!

Our big television debut on House Hunters International is tomorrow night, and the amount of press we’re getting for it is just really overwhelming! So I thought I’d write a bit of an introduction to my multitude of new fans!

(just kidding)

If you happen to have made it to this page after reading about us in the Daily Sentinel or seeing a piece about us on the local news in Western Colorado, then welcome, and please feel free to email me a copy of the article or something, because I was asleep when it was written and didn’t even know it was happening.

Anyway. Here’s a brief introduction about me, my husband Farrell, and what we’re doing out here in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Farrell grew up in Collbran, CO, eventually making his way to Denver, Egypt, and finally Washington, DC. I grew up near Philadelphia, PA, and moved to Washington, DC for college, where I met Farrell in Arabic class. We ended up working for the same company in DC and were both sent to work in Baghdad at some point (sometimes together, sometimes apart). We liked the work (a lot of research and media analysis) but wanted to branch off to work on our own projects. Despite our love for the Middle East, we felt we couldn’t compete with the big companies already established there, and sought out a place that’s more under the radar.

The decision to move to Kyrgyzstan started out as a search on Wikipedia. We wanted to move to Central Asia (even though we knew nothing about the region) and our research showed that Kyrgyzstan would be the best choice for us. It’s cheap to live here, it’s relatively business-friendly for Americans, and it’s not the most well-known place. We boarded a flight to Bishkek on August 15, 2010 and have lived here ever since.

So what do we do here? We started a company called Oxus International. We conduct social research, surveys, polling, or Farrell’s favorite, quantitative media analysis, which basically means he looks for trends in news reporting and analyzes the data into charts and graphs. I’m a bit wary about how I’m portrayed in the episode, but I swear, Farrell and I both work on the company. Equal partnership is what our marriage is all about, but I definitely got the impression that the director called “CUT!” whenever I mentioned working or doing things other than baking cookies.

I like photography, which seemed like it would be an ongoing theme in the episode. You can see plenty of examples of my photography in posts all around this site, on my Flickr page, on my Pictures of Kyrgyzstan tumblr, or on my travel photography page and fashion photography page. I also teach a photography class at the American University of Central Asia.

So what’s it like to live in Kyrgyzstan? Not too bad. It’s interesting on some days, mundane and normal on others. It’s a different way of life, but it’s nothing incredibly difficult or exotic. It has its positives and negatives, just like any city. We have a rambunctious cat named Mamajan, that’s a positive (sometimes). We got burglarized, that’s a negative. There was an explosion in the city center, negative. The food can be questionable, negative. The landscape is gorgeous, positive. The culture and traditions are new and fascinating to me, positive. There are occasional earthquakes, negative. There are a lot of public holidays, positive and negative. There are awesome-looking, vintage Soviet-era cars everywhere, positive. The people are hospitable and generous and wonderful, and there are plenty of opportunities to get out of the city and visit new places, definitely positive.

If you absolutely love House Hunters International and would like to continue believing that HGTV really flew a film crew halfway around the world to help us buy a house in three days, then fly back several months later just to see how we’re doing, then you can stop reading here. Thank you! I hope you enjoy the episode!

(If you don’t mind the truth, read on)

Truth is, Farrell and I had been living in Bishkek for about nine months when the film crew came out to record the Bishkek portion of the episode. We were living in our third apartment in Bishkek. The first one was an absolute dump that a student at AUCA found for us when we first arrived. The second one was cheaper and nicer than the first, but still a total embarrassment to bring friends to. The third one, the one that appears on the show, was found through word-of-mouth, not a real estate agency. We’re still living here, although the landlady can be difficult to deal with.

Most of the planning for the shoot seemed like it was done spur-of-the-moment. The other two apartments belonged to the “real estate agent” and the local translator hired for the film crew. The prices of all of the apartments were decreased by some amount, more than half in the case of the fancy penthouse. Our apartment came fully furnished, but it was all removed to make it look different from the “three months later” segment (which was filmed before the part where we’re “shown” the apartment “for the first time”). So no, we did not pick out that furniture.

The weirdest part of filming the show was how disorganized it was and how awkward I felt trying to act like I was in Kyrgyzstan for the first time. After nine months I had grown pretty comfortable living here and had mostly forgotten all of my fears and concerns about moving to Kyrgyzstan in the first place. So if I come off as a bit spacey on the show, that’s why.

Oh, and then there was the DC portion, which was filmed after the Bishkek portion. Farrell was supposed to fly back with me, but the production company couldn’t afford to send us both back. My love of baking was the big theme of the DC shoot, and it’s true, I love baking, but I still have nightmares about being directed to eat more and more cake and act more and more excited about how delicious it was. (I’m still hoping that scene doesn’t make it in the final episode.)

When the whole thing was still fresh in my mind (and I was, perhaps, a bit more cynical about the whole thing), I wrote a series of posts about the experience that you can find here, here and here. If you want to read about how this whole crazy ordeal started in the first place, check out our casting video here.

Thanks for reading!

20 replies on “hello, new readers!”

  1. Oh the lovely Sentinel. I love that they used this quote:
    “It’s a poor country,” Teri Styers said. “Because it is a poor country, you can get things cheaper.”

  2. Too funny. My wife and I are watching your episode as we speak. We were trying to find out what you guys do…and stumbled upon this article/site. It’s amazing to hear your story and how they filmed everything…and then couldn’t afford to fly your husband to D.C. with you. Anyway, thanks for sharing and good luck to you both!

    Josh & Jen

    1. Funny, my husband and I were doing the same thing — did a google search to understand better the business you are in. Great blog and interesting insight into the show — I’ve rarely taken the time to look up someone from House Hunters — the few I have it’s been curiousity about their business (such as a French/American couple that were circus performers opening an artists’ retreat in France). But this is the first time I read someone’s account of how House Hunters actually operates. Thanks for sharing and hope your business is going well!

  3. Hi Kirsten,
    I saw your episode last night. I enjoyed it. You and Farrell came off as a lovely and adventerous young couple. I am a devoted fan of HHI, and know that the show is staged. But from what you’ve written, your episode seems to be so much less staged than other episodes of the show. Some people have been living in their countries for over 6 years when they film the show! I know this because so many of you expats blog.
    I love seeing the scenery and culture of other countries, what housing is like, and seeing why people have decided to live in another country (especially a non-Western country.)
    Best wishes in your endeavors, and thanks for sharing your story.

    Mary Lou Fultz

  4. Don’t worry about how you were portrayed; you’re adorable. I was telling my husband about the episode and thought I would look y’all up. Thanks for the insider view of House Hunters International. I have always wondered how people just get to the new destination and then a couple of days later they are having a party or out to supper with a bunch of friends. I’ve lived in the same place for 2 years, speak the same language and still would have trouble getting a party together. haha! From the picture above it looks like you’ve cut your hair short – looks great!

    Brian & Jillian

  5. Hi Kirsten,

    Love the blog, its was so cool to read how HHI filmed your episodeand then watch it all last night! I wish you guys the best of luck in your new business! Hope all is well.

    Cari Oughton
    (Ferrell’s cousin)

  6. My hubs and I just watched your episode and loved it! We were very impressed with the sense of adventure that you and your husband have and we certainly didn’t see you as the baker while your hubs works!

    I came across your blog when I did a Google search on the realtor Harry Wagar since we love traveling and your new life and ‘home’ town looked lovely. We wanted to ask Harry if there were any apartments that we could rent for a month vacation. Just can’t find a link to him!

    Best of luck with your business and your life as an expat!


    1. Thank you for the kind words! Unfortunately, Harvey isn’t actually a real estate agent, he’s just another expat living in Bishkek. The only real estate agency I know of off the top of my head in Bishkek is http://www.salut.kg, maybe they could help you?

  7. I’m having so much fun reading your blog. I lived in KG for 2 years; I came home last year. I miss it SO much (I had to go back this past summer, I missed it so much!). The things I thought were hard there just seem so insignificant when I got home.
    I saw you and your husband on HGTV last night and I just had to find out if one of the girls with you in the yurt a friend of mine, and it was! I hope you’re having as much fun with her as I always did!
    Thanks again for sharing your life over there. I completely understand the struggles and blessings of living in Central Asia. Be safe! 🙂

    1. No way! You know Zara? She’s one of the first people we met when we moved here and she’s been the most amaaaaaazing friend ever, and she’s the Intern Queen at our company. What a coincidence, Bishkek is such a small town sometimes.

  8. Like others, I had to look you up after watching the HHI episode on TiVo tonight. I like HHI mainly because we lived overseas almost 20 years in our 35 year marriage, and seeing how other Americans look at a potential overseas move is of great interest to me. I used to even “counsel” families considering overseas work with the oil company my husband worked for years ago – some families just have NO business moving outside of the US of A! So I found it refreshing to see a couple, with a taste of overseas living under their belts (and not the “kinder” countries we lived in – UK, Norway, Trinidad, New Orleans – yup, we consider New Orleans one of our expat locales) purpose to move to somewhere like Kyrgyzstan. That takes a lot of dedication and discipline – neither of which I believe I would have had at 23! (we moved to London when I was 24 and had 2 babies with a third born within a year of arrival) My husband has traveled extensively to Kazakhstan for business in the past 5 years but now mainly goes to Angola in West Africa. My wanderlust for international travel is slaked for the time being and am enjoying the grandchildren all in Texas where we now reside.

    I’m glad to hear about the HHI experience because I have often wondered the process and timeline they used for the international programs. And do they really ONLY show you three homes to choose from or do you go through a lot and three top contenders are highlighted? When we moved back to the London suburbs in 2000, I looked at at LEAST 55 houses before we chose the one we lived in for 5 -1/2 years! 🙂 Although, truth be told, we did end up with the second one we looked at – ironically. Another reason I like to watch HH or HHI is to do what I call “family suitability guesses”. In other words, which couples are going to make it as a couple and which ones are Fruit Loops, you know? You’ll be glad to know you fit in the “well adjusted and considerate of each other” category and my money is on longevity. Not that you asked or anything. 🙂 I even did a blog post about the domestic HH awhile back addressing such things. http://mrsculater.blogspot.com/2011/02/new-spectator-sport.html in case you are curious.

    Anyway, long comment I know, but so happy to have SOMEONE write about their experiences! Enjoyed the show and hopefully you’ll be pleased to know you came off as extremely intelligent, not impulsive, focused and happily married! 😉

  9. First of all I have to respond to Travis – The Daily Sentinel performed their usual odd editing in my quote. The writer asked if the kids were looking at the half-million dollar, sea side villas usually featured in HHI episodes – that is when I laughed and made the reply about it being a “poor country”. For everyone else, I am the only friend/family member who has made the rather lengthy trip to visit so far… We stayed close in to Bishkek – so I can’t claim to have seen a lot of Kyrgyzstan – but what I saw I liked and I will go back if they remain there.

  10. Interesting behind the scenes account of one of my favorite shows. I understand the reactions of some people much better now. I am French and live in Colorado, and enjoy watching HH and HHI.

    I added your blog to my favorites. I wish you much success.

  11. Hi! I saw your house hunters episode. Interesting to hear how the show is really produced. Glad I decided to look the two of you up–seems to be a common theme that we all wanted to learn more about your business. The show really wasnt clear on what your “media” business is about. I love your blog, and your photographs are beautiful. Good luck to the both of you. Maybe you can post some Winter photo’s for us to see.


  12. Hi
    Kirstin I love your blog. I work in Kyrgyzstan for a contract company that works directly with the Air Force base right next to the Airport. I travel to my home away from home aprox every 2 months or so. I work on base for a bout 2 months at a time 2 on 2 off well not really off just home in San Diego. I have been to Bishkek about 6 times. in the last 2 years. I really find the whole region fascinating and the Mountain range is incredible. Not big on the winters ( San Diego) The spring and the summers are not too bad. Don’t get to get out to town as much as I would like. 2 or 3 times a trip for dinners and some shopping. I have not seen the episode that is how I found your blog somebody mentioned the episode to me and I said I need to see this can not find it on line yet. Well just wanted to say hi. Those pics are pretty good no they are real good. That is one thing you have plenty of material for pics in that area. I am home now real be heading back to my home away from home soon. I look forward to finding the video of you struggling to find a new place and sticking with the place that you were already in.

  13. Hi Kirstin!

    Despite being a huge HHI fan for a while now, I can honestly say it never crossed my mind to look up anyone on the show until seeing your episode tonight. You two seemed like the adventuresome travelers I would enjoy knowing, and just couldn’t resist googling. Thanks for sharing your experiences with the show and living in Kyrgyzstan! Count me as one of your ‘multitude’ of new fans. 🙂


    1. Thank you! I got my haircut in the U.S., I don’t have the Russian skills for explaining the nuances of such a dramatic haircut in Bishkek.

  14. Hi Kristen, I am a kyrgyz national now living in Canada and found a weblink to the show on Facebook. Loved it! It was so nice to see the streets of Bishkek…then decided to Google you and your husband, and now I am leaving you a comment on your website:) By the way, love Mamajan – too cute. Anyway, best of luck to you and your husband, I know how challenging it can be at times there. I admire your courage and dedication.


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