Bayerluk Tyva, Hello America
August 30, 2003
Hey friends and family,
I finally have a chance to pound out an update and some stories - just before I
leave the Siberian soil. Oh... yesterday was a real tear jerking day of goodbyes
to many of my Tuvan friends. Once I got my packing done I headed out with the
Saryglars for a last jaunt into the taiga to soak up some forest medicine for my
long journey home and for the Saryglars' winter and autumn pantry. We picked
blue berries and something like a cranberry which is endemic to Siberia and
shook down cones full of pine-nuts which are absolutely delicious! And I chewed a
bit more sap. Driving through the landscape with the Tuvan songs I know so well
which sing about all the familiar places and how they are loved really brought
me to tears, I couldn't help but feel the flood of beauty that this place and
these people have brought to my life. When we all cried together as we stood by
the bus I knew that I had brought them beauty as well.
There is no way to pack the last 4 weeks of incredible experiences into this
entry but I'll try to give you a taste and follow up with the complete stories
So in the last month a seed idea I came to Tuva with has hatched and is on the
verge of singing. For a long time I wished we had a center for Tuvan culture and
educational exchange in the U.S.A., a place which would give a body and ongoing
evolving purpose to the work started by Ralph Leighton, Richard Feynman and the
Tuvan people. I'm now developing plans to co-create such a center. Everyone I've
talked with about this in Tuva has expressed interest, support and/or great
enthusiasm. I hope to find a similar enthusiasm back home with people who share
an interest in Tuvan culture, music and travel.
Perhaps the greatest affirmations of support have come from the Scientific
Khoomei Center in Kyzyl who said they are ready to give us a yurt, and from
Mongush B. Kenin Lopsan, the 'living treasure' and scholar of Tuvan shamanism
who has made a deep gesture of support by presenting for the future centers
museum three of his traditional hats and a robe; one of the hats was worn on his
journey to America along with the robe, the others he wore when he met with
Boris Yeltsin in Tuva and during his daily work. Kennin Lopsan has been
celebrated recently for his work on the second International Shamanic Symposium
which happened in mid-August and for the publication of his new book 'Tuvan
A friendship with the group Tyva Kyzy. I started out with a question that many
people have asked me back home, do women throatsing? Yes I say, but I've never
heard them. I figured this was a good enough reason to ask the group led by
Choduraa Tumat for an interview.
A great interview evolved over the next few weeks which included recorded
conversations in question/answer form, listening to practice sessions, photo
shoots and to top it all of a journey with Choduraa, her older brother and
Stefan Kamola to the regions and villages of Choduraa's up bringing and the
mountain area Hor-taiga where their winter camps were. We stayed in one of the
vacant winter camps for a night after a sketchy river crossing in a blow up raft
with tree branches for paddles because someone forgot to bring the shovels that
are usually used.
The next day we hiked with the aid of a horse and rider from a yurt camp we
visited along the way, arriving in the subalpine ridges meadows and crags of Hor-Taiga.
Here we camped at a horse herders' and hunters' camp where pure springs burst
from the meadows, hundreds of horses roam, gallop and play and where the force
of the wind on the top of a crag with Ovaa was strong enough to lean into
without falling and where rainbows shimmer as an anchor between the earth and
sky, where beneficial thoughts become form and action.
We headed down the mountain the entire next day, visiting yurt camps along the
way where we were filled with Araka (the local Tuvan milk distillate) and too
many varieties of dairy product. Stefan and I got sick with what I'm calling the
double sided sour lurch. The sickness had really hit Stefan, but for me it was
taking a slower course which was good because my help was needed to yell across
the river from the hills above trying to get some attention from the villagers
who were supposed to be there with a boat to get us back across the river. The
problem was, we were about 7 hours late and everyone was far away at home or far
off in the distance on horses herding cattle. We yelled our hearts and lungs out
for couple of hours before I gave up and decided I'd make a fire. Stefan
responded from his achy sour state and said he'd boil tea. This fire and all the
unwavering and powerful yelling from Choduraa and Makar may have saved us from a
very uncomfortable night. A guy on a horse spotted us and we told him to go get
the guys with the boat. So, If I thought it was bad going across in the
daylight, well it was all the more exciting in the dark, but at least we had a
full moon and some shovels. It was a down right brilliant Tuvan adventure
rescue. We then (about 9 of us) piled into a little 4 seat car (with our packs,
too) and headed for the village house for a rest and tea.
The next stories go into our time with the Shamans during the practical and
scientific portions of the symposium and to some further adventures into remote
areas to Tuva where I learned to eat marmot and prepare sheep parts. I'll tell
and write these and other stories when I return.
As for now I'm finally at the Trans-Siberian Railroad town of Abakan about to
take the train to Moscow. I've had the wonderful gesture of luck to have
arbitrarily or intuitively picked the same day to travel as the Shamans, Ai-Churek
and Natasha, who I've gotten to know quite well in Kyzyl. So we all share the
trip to Moscow and then I'll be on the same plane as Ai-Churek to Seattle before
she heads to San Francisco for a month long tour with the Tuvan music group
Chirgil Chin, who are excellent and are worth seeing if you can! Their Gigs
start around the 12 of Sept. and are part of the San Francisco Arts Festival.
You can guess where I might be in mid Sept..... if possible.
Until the next time and beyond, best wishes and thank you for your letters of
encouragement, your generous support and always for your thoughts and stories.
Many blessings from my heart and this beautiful and Sacred Land.