One of the things I want readers to take from my STAND ON THE SKY is the realization that the culture of Kazakh nomads is not a museum piece: it's a living culture that exists in today's world.
Many of the traditions are old -- the art of eagle hunting, for instance, is at least 4000 years old -- but that does not mean they're unchanged. Traditional elements and modern innovations exist side by side, and the culture is in the middle of many changes.
Here, Kazakh kids watch cartoons inside their ger.
Alimbai, the eagle hunter, on his cellphone.
Photo yanked from Pintrest, but we did encounter a young man transporting his eagle on a motorcycle.
(Motorcycles are widely used in Olgii. I can't drive one but did learn the art of riding pinion while hanging onto the driver for dear life.)
One of the changes sweeping Kazakh eagle hunting culture is that the newest generation of children training with eagles includes a few girls, which is a shift from the way it's been practiced in the last few hundred years. (Going further back there's a tradition of ancient female eagle hunters.) My character, Aisulu, is not based on any of them, but stories like hers are unfolding right now.
Here's my friend Tansaya, who was my guide in Mongolia: a remarkable young woman who grew up in the gers, grew up with eagles, and went off to get a degree in gender studies.
She's in costume here -- you're more likely to see her in a sweatshirt or a pretty blouse -- but don't mistake her for a thing of the past.