By Anna Skinner
Grayson Marsh has always had a passion for filming, culture and history. He finally found a way to combine all three.
The 21-year-old Westfield High School grad originally traveled to Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan to play and teach hockey to goalies in the area, then competed in a tournament in Abu Dhabi.
“I wanted to play, I wanted to have fun, but I’ve always been interested in the former Soviet Republics and thought it was the best of both worlds to experience the culture and play (hockey) at the same time,” he said.
Marsh enjoyed the area and returned to the Middle East less than a year later to go backpacking through Armenia and Georgia, and then a third time in late 2015 to Uzbekistan to work with a fledgling hockey program.
Now, Marsh will combine his passion for filming and the Middle East when he travels to Tajikistan April 27 to film a documentary, “The Ishkoshims.”
Ishkoshim is a small settlement in southern Tajikistan and also a village in northern Afghanistan directly across the border. The two separate areas share a cross-border relationship through a market.
“The people that live on the southern border share the same religion, language and basically bloodline of people in Afghanistan on the other side of the border,” Marsh said.
He said his goal is to educate people and encourage traveling to Central Asia.
Despite the gem, arms and opium trade that takes place across the border from Afghanistan, the Ishkoshim people are re-establishing the relationship lost during the Soviet Union.
“Illegal gem, arm, and opium trade across the border is a problem, but it doesn’t discourage people from touring there because of how beautiful it is,” he said. “There’s a market held on the border that keeps these people in touch with one another, since they have the same ethnicity but a different place of living.”
The documentary is projected to be longer than 60 minutes. He will stay in Tajikistan approximately three months to complete the filming.
Marsh said he has been in touch with several travel agencies and has done significant networking to arrange homestays during his time overseas.
Anthropologists oftentimes conduct studies in the region due to the unique border and market, so Marsh is not worried about how he will get information for his documentary.
“It’s unique because, despite how remote the location is, there are lots of well educated, English-speaking people there, so it shouldn’t be that hard to communicate,” he said. “They see a fair share of outsiders conducting studies in their region, so I don’t think it will be too terribly unnatural.”
Marsh is still in need of storage equipment such as external hard drives and travel funds and has set up an Indiegogo account to raise money.
“I want to educate people, and I also want people to be inspired to travel to Central Asia because it’s a really, really cool place,” he said. “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with going to more conventional places like Europe, but off the beaten path travel is kind of cool, too.”
He plans to return July 28.
To make a contribution to Marsh’s trip, visit indiegogo.com/projects/the-ishkoshims-documentary#/story.
ZACH please make this in a cool little line, not a box, if possible
Marsh’s Travel Timeline
October to December 2014: Marsh’s first trip to the Middle East, where he traveled to Kurdistan and Kazakhstan to play and teach hockey and then compete in a tournament in Abu Dhabi.
June 2015: Marsh returns to backpack through Georgia and Armenia
October 2015: Marsh travels to Uzbekistan to work with the country’s fledgling hockey program.
April 2016: Marsh will travel to Tajikistan and Afghanistan to film a documentary titled “The Ishkoshims.”