FOBOS: Weather in Kyzyl/Tuva
Kyzyl Weather

Friends of Tuva
Celebrating Richard Feynman's spirit of adventure

The Friends of Tuva Newsletter
Eleventh Issue: Fall-Winter 1994
(next issue: sometime before Spring, 1995 - I hope)
Edited by Ralph Leighton

Published by Friends of Tuva
Box 70021, Pasadena CA 91117 USA.
Hotline and Fax: (213) 221-TUVA (-8882)
(If fax doesn't turn on automatically, press 33)
e-mail on Internet c/o:

Tuvan Parliament Chairman K.A. Bicheldei Visits USA

According to press reports from Tuva, Tuvan Parliament Chairman Kadyr-ool Bicheldei visited Washington DC and New York for about ten days at the end of October and into early November. He reportedly met with some Tuvan children adopted by American families, with the leaders of the Russian Affairs Section of the Department of State, and with leaders of the Agency for International Development. The objectives of his meetings included preparing Tuvan attorneys for work in Tuva, opening a Tuvan Business School (in Tuva), and discussing the possibility of sending Tuvan regional and municipal leaders and/or their staffs to the US for training.

As FoT HQ has already received offers from members experienced in law and economics to go to Tuva and teach seminars there, FoT agents with contacts inside the US government are attempting to track down (so far without success) who Bicheldei's US contacts were, and how to get them in touch with FoT volunteers. The next issue of the newsletter, due out in February or March, should contain more information on this. (On a lighter note, it is fun to think that Chairman Bicheldei may have handed his US hosts some of the cool horseman pins he commissioned from FoT -- see the Winter Solstice 1994 Tuva Trader under ``pins''.)

Huun-Huur-Tu Tours Again: Jan-Feb 1995

Kaigal-ool Khovalyg, Anatoli Kuular, and the Bappa Bros Sayan & Sasha) will be appearing at some new venues this year on their second tour as Huun-Huur-Tu. The concerts are sometimes billed as Throat Singers of Tuva. (I'd be interested to see copies of the advertisements.) The schedule, as of press time, looks like this (sorry, no contact numbers were given in most cases):

Portland ME:      Fri Jan 13 (At one of the local high schools)
Burlington VT:    Sat Jan 14 (Flynn Theatre, 153 Main St.)
Somerville MA:    Sun Jan 15 (Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square)
Hanover NH:       Tue Jan 17 (Spaulding Auditorium, Dartmouth College)
Northampton MA:   Thu Jan 19 (Iron Horse, 20 Center St)
Erie PA:          Fri Jan 20 (Arie Art Museum, 411 State St)
Milwaukee WI:     Sat Jan 21 (Fine Arts Theatre, U of W)
Ann Arbor MI:     Wed Jan 25 (The Ark)
Peoria IL:        Fri Jan 27 (Dingledine Music Ctr, Bradley Univ)
Batavia IL:       Sat Jan 28 (Ramsey Auditorium, Pine St at Kirk Rd)
Eugene OR:        Wed Feb 1  (Soreng Theater, Hult Center)
Ashland OR:       Fri Feb 3  (Music School, South Or St Coll)
Berkeley CA:      Sat Feb 4  (Wheeler Hall, UC Berkeley, contact Cal
                              Performances (510) 642-9988)
Arcata CA:        Sun Feb 5  (Van Duzer Theatre, Humboldt State Univ)
Santa Cruz CA:    Tue Feb 7  (Palookaville, 1133 Pacific Ave)
Santa Barbara CA: Wed Feb 8  (Veterans Memorial Bldg)
San Diego:        Thu Feb 9  (Mandeville Auditorium, UCSD)
Tucson AZ:        Sat Feb 11 (Berger Center, Arizona State U)
Austin TX:        Sun Feb 12 at 7PM & Mon Feb 13 (Bates Recital Hall,
                             2400 E. Campus Dr, Univ of Austin).  Call
                             (512) 477-6060.  Pre-concert get-together
                             Sun Feb 12, 5PM at the Mongolian BBQ
                             (the north location), 9200 N. Larnar Blvd.
                             You can RSVP by email to John Robinson
                             ( or by
                             phone (512) 451-0834.
Hull QUE Canada:  Tue Feb 14 (Museum of Civilization).
Rochester NY:     Wed Feb 15 (Kilbourn Hall, Eastman School of Music)
New York City:    Fri Feb 17 (Symphony Space, Broadway & 95th)

If you would like to organize a pre-concert get-together (similar to Austin TX, above), please leave the "where and when" and your phone number on the FoT hotline (or e-mail the info) between January 1 and 8. If you would like to attend a pre-concert get-together, call in after January 9 and listen for your area.

The Orphan's Lament

Reviewed by Bernard S. Greenberg

The Orphan's Lament, Huun-Huur-Tu's second CD, is a work of well-produced art, contemporary offerings in traditional Tuvan styles, not an ethnomusicological assay. Its 16 pieces in styles varying from unison kargyraa chants to political songs to khomuz ("Jews' harp") solos provide a tour-de-force of Tuvan styles designed for listening pleasure and wonderment. Master khoomeizhi (throat-singer) Kaigal-ool Khovalyg's deeply touching igil (Tuvan viol) playing is (as on 60 Horses, HHT's first CD) a real highlight of the album. His frequent vocal solos in all styles, and those of the sweet-voice Anatoli Kuular, joined by Mergen Mongush for one sygyt cut, help place this album among the two or three "must-have"s for anyone who *enjoys* authentic Tuvan music.

Musical Collaborations

The late Frank Zappa's last work, "Civilization, Phaze III", has just been released. The two CD set features an amazing composition featuring the throat-singing of Kaigal-ool Khovalyg and Anatoli Kuular, recorded at Zappa's studio in January, 1993. The composition is awesome --- when I heard it, I imagined Frank Zappa out in the cosmos, tapping into the energies of the universe. I haven't heard the rest of "Civilization, Phaze III", but it is reportedly a very powerful opus. The CD set can be ordered by first calling the Zappa Hotline at (818) 786-7546 (= (818) PUMPKIN), which will then provide you specific information.

PostScript: As it turns out, the only throat-singing apparent on the "Civilization, Phaze III" CD is some sampled kargyraa at the start of the track "Dio Fa". The amazing composition referred to is actually scheduled to appear as part of "Dance Me This", which has not yet been released. --- October, 1998.

Meanwhile, jazz composer and keyboardist Jeff Lorber (remember Jeff Lorber Fusion in the 1970s?) has written a beautiful composition called "Tuva" that is featured on his latest project, "West Side Stories", from Verve Records. The singer is Kongar-ool Ondar, and the first tune will be familiar to readers of "Tuva or Bust!" who played the soundsheet: it is "Alash Khem (Ode to the Alash River)". The second tune is about the taiga, the forests of Tuva. The CD should be available at most record stores.

Additional collaborations with Tuvan musician include the soundtrack to "Geronimo" (SONY Records) by Ry Cooder, featuring Khovalyg, Kuular, and Sayan Bappa; "Night Prayers" (Elektra Records) by the Kronos Quartet (featuring Khovalyg, Kuular, and Ondar); and Andreas Vollenweider's "Book of Roses" (CBS Records), which features Sainkho Namchylak.

There is also a collection called "Voices of Forgotten Worlds", from Ellipsis Arts, which features Tuvans at the top of the list (and even a quote from yours truly, to my complete surprise). The 2-CD (or 2-cassette) set comes with a handsomely illustrated 96 page book, and honors the Decade of Indigenous People proclaimed by the United Nations Center for Human Rights. (To order, call 1-800-788-6670.) I have seen advertisements for this project various places, and "Tuvans" are often mentioned without explanation as if everyone knows (or should know) who they are. Seeing the first such ad was a milestone --- word is getting out to the masses!

Real World Releases Shu-De!

Another CD of Tuvan music, "Shu-De" (on Real World,, distributed by Caroline in the US), features a variety of Tuvan music recorded in the UK. From tongue-twisters to Tuvan disco. this project has perhaps the widest variety of Tuvan music yet in a single project. Although the liner notes are weak, the listening is good.

Top Ten Tuva CDs

Yes, there are now at least 10 CDs of Tuvan music out there in the world, so it's time to offer some guidance to newcomers in building a collection of Tuvan music. I'll start off by ranking them as a way of initiating your comments. I welcome your own ratings. If enough comments and rankings are received, the results will be published. (* = available from the Tuva Trader.)

  1. * Huun-Huur-Tu: 60 Horses in My Herd (Shanachie)
  2. * Uzlyau: Guttural Singing of the Peoples of the Sayan, Altai, and Ural Mountains (PAN)
  3. * Tuva: Tuvinian Singers and Musicians (WDR)
  4. * Sainkho: Out of Tuva (Cram)
  5. * Huun-Huur-Tu: The Orphan 's Lament (Shanachie)
  6. * Tuva: Voices from the Center of Asia (Smithsonian)
  7. Shu-de! (Real World)
  8. * Tuva: Voices from the Land of the Eagles (PAN)
  9. Tuva: Echoes from the Spirit World (PAN)
  10. * Sainkho Namchylak: Letters (Leo Records)

Feynman Video Available

The Best Mind Since Einstein, the latest program about Richard Feynman produced by Chris Sykes (shown about a year ago on PBS' NOVA) is available for $23.90, postpaid (but with possible sales tax, depending on where you live). To order, call 1-800-255-9424. I don't know how long the video will be available --- previous videos by Sykes have had their rights expire.

For copies in PAL (UK and parts of Europe), please contact Mr. B.B. Walmsley, 360 Croston Road, Leyland PR5-3PL to make arrangements.

The only way I know of to see the other three programs on Feynman produced by Sykes (The Pleasure Of Finding Things Out, Fun to Imagine, and Last Journey Of a Genius) is to rent them: send two checks (one for $17.50, which covers a one-week rental and shipping both ways, and the other for $100 as a security deposit which won't be cashed unless the tape is not returned), plus a mailing label with your mailing address, to: the Association for Cultural Evolution (ACE), Box 2382, Mill Valley CA 94942.

Six of the Feynman Lectures on Physics Now Available on CD and Cassette

The Caltech Archives and Addison-Wesley, perhaps taking a cue from "Safecracker Suite" and "Feynman Volume 1", have released on CD and cassette six of the now-legendary "Feynman Lectures on Physics" that can be understood by laypeople. Apart from a rather annoying distortion throughout the first lecture (I think due to the recording level set too high), these CDs and cassettes are an immense pleasure to listen to. All Feynman fans should hear them! (If you can't get your local library to order it, see the Addendum to The Tuva Trader, on page 8, for your own copy.)

Tuvan Grad Students in the US

Two graduate students from Tuva, Inna Maslenidsyna and Aldynai Seden-Khurak, came to the United States in August as participants in the Russian Teaching Assistants Program (RTAP), which is administered by the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) in Washington. This new program provides them an opportunity to teach courses at US Universities and also to enroll in some courses as well.

Inna is at Southwestern Oklahoma State University (SWOSU), while Aldynai is in the Slavic Department of the University of Virginia. Says Aldynai: "I realize that this the great opportunity for me to explore the academic resources in the United States, to share my own academic experience, which I brought with me from the Republic of Tuva. It is also the great opportunity to be immersed in American society and culture and in turn to tell American people about my country."

Inna reports that, being half Russian and half Khakass (the Turkic people, related to Tuvans, that live to the northwest of Tuva), she fits right in with the people in Oklahoma: she has been asked more than once if she is part Cherokee.

Aldynai and Inna will stay in the US for the academic year until June of 1995. Each can be reached by e-mail: Inna's address is:, while Aldynai is: They can also be reached by "snail mail": Inna at 705 Rogers Hall, SWOSU, Weatherford OK 73096, and Aldynai at 109 Cabell Hall, University of Virginia, Charlottesville VA 22903.

Water Tank Overtones

Are you looking for a meditative, contemplative acoustic experience? Even if you're not, tune into water tank overtones! Yes, FoT Jim Cole and friends have found a (presumably empty) water tank that is a perfect environment for overtone singing, and have produced an hour-long cassette tape of soothing sounds. Hear them for yourself by sending $12 and a mailing label to Jim Cole, 82 Foster St., Manchester CT 06040.

Shamanism in Tuva, cont'd

An 17-page report, handsomely illustrated, by expedition leader Bill Brunton, about the resurgence of shamanism in Tuva is available for $3 from the Foundation for Shamanic Studies, Box 1939, Mill Valley CA 94942. Telephone (415) 380-8282.

FoT Directory-HELP!!!

About 200 responses (approximately 25% of the mailing list) have been sent back to be included in the FoT directory. One problem: I haven't found the time to compile them! Is there anyone out there with a computer, and has spreadsheet (or database) proficiency and the time to compile the FoT directory?

More Help Wanted

Is there a "Mac" person out there, familiar with the Cyrillic alphabet, interested in learning Tuvan vocabulary by compiling a Tuvan-English glossary? If so, please call (213) 221-TUVA and leave a message. (I hope I haven't narrowed this field too much with so many qualifications!)

Tuvan High School Students in US

Following the two students (Ayana Mongush & Chinchi Kungaa) who came to the US last year, there are three students from Tuva attending US high schools:

Mr. Bolat Oorzhalc c/o Lambdin
204 East Ward Street
Urbana OH 43078

Mr. Lyova Ondar c/o Butler
6220 Meadow Crest Dr # 202
Johnston LA 50131-2131

Ms. Choduraa Xandy c/o Cocayne
918 Hackmann Rd
St. Paul MO 63366

It would be great to send these students (as well as Aldynai and Inna) some Christmas or New Year's cards --- if last year was any indication, they are in places where no one has heard of Tuva! In Tuvan, Happy New Year is "Chaa Chyl-bile". On behalf of all FoTs I am sending each of the students some books and videos, and some cool horseman pins and T-shirts.

Reise Ins Asiatische Tuwa Available in Original German

Professor Wolf Roder (Dept of Geography, U of Cincinnati, Cincinnati OH 45221-0131) offers to Xerox the original German version of Otto Manchen-Helfen's Journey to Tuva for $10. (I suggest you make it $15 or $20 to cover postage and the trouble involved in making the copies.) For Alan Leighton's annotated English translation of this book, see the Tuva Trader.

Travel to Tuva - 1995

The first (and perhaps most reasonably priced) tour to Tuva for the summer of '95 will take place from June 29 through July 22. It will be a study tour headed by FoT Gary Wintz, a lecturer on Buddhism in the Russian republics. It will also include Kalmykia, Buryatia, St Petersburg, and Moscow. The emphasis will be, as you might guess, on Buddhism in Russia. All participants are subject to a strict non-complainer clause: adventurous spirit and acceptance (even enjoyment) of the unexpected is required! For more information, please contact Gary at Internet Tibet, 1341 Ocean Ave # 232, Santa Monica CA 90401. Telephone: (310) 822-7908.

Newsletter # 10 Reprints

After receiving several expressions of disappointment over the format of #10 (which was printed on 14" paper), the issue has been reformatted on 11" paper. Thus if you order the back issue of #10, it will fit into your folder more easily. (I had no idea people were saving these newsletters in such an organized way!) I promise not to depart from the 11" format again - sorry!

Chettirdim! (Thank You!)

To all those sending in news articles about Tuva (in the next issue I'll excerpt the Washington Post article --- hopefully with an update on what happened to the forest rangers who disappeared in the nature preserve near Tuva), and to all those sending in extra funds to cover printing and mailing expenses for the newsletter. (If you order something from the Tuva Trader, you're helping out, too!)

New Hampshire FoTuva Delegation Participates in 1994 IG NOBEL Awards Ceremony

by Janet Levy

The ceremony began with the parade of delegates. The first delegation was the MIT Marching Band performing on their kazoos. It was followed by the New Hampshire FoTs, which proclaimed their identity to the world by means of a 3-foot-wide Tuvan stamp poster carried proudly aloft on a 25-foot pole, while "throat-sync-ing" to Tuvan music blasting from a boom box carried on a litter. The infectious nature of the music inspired many to try to sing along, and the kazoos occasionally broke into Tuvan melodies as the march of 19 delegations made their way through the auditorium to their special seats at the back. As the NH FoTs marched up the aisle, they heard cheers for the Chief, grand applause, remarks like "I loved him, too!", and received an occasional standing ovation. It was clear that this audience of college professors, scientists, students, and general all-around adventurers knew and loved Richard Feynman.

The annual "Igs" ceremony, covered this year by ABC Television's World News Now and NPR's Science Friday, is sponsored annually by the Annals of Improbable Research (AIR). Ig Nobel awards recognize illustrious people whose achievements in science "cannot or should not be reproduced." Editor Marc Abrahams calls it an exercise in "stirring up useful mischief...--- a nobel effort." The NH FoT delegation felt that the Chief would have enjoyed the exercise, too, so we took his memory and misCHIEFousness along to the awards ceremony. (The delegates included Janet Levy, Diane Benze, Phyllis Croce, Bill Sconce, Tom Steger and Brad Moore.) The men sported housecoats and hats with earflaps drooping, while Janet and Phyllis wore locks hanging from silk ribbons around their necks and Diane was drenched in furs (in deference to the Tuvan winter). It was a fine evening, complete with music, dancing, entertaining visuals, and, of course, lots of good-natured heckling.

Highlights of the ceremony were the "Dance of the Electrons," which featured three Nobel laureates and a bevy of scantily clad young women performing an interpretive rendition (we know the Chief would have enjoyed that exercise), and the 30-second-long Heisenberg Certainty Lectures, delivered by intellectual luminaries like Artificial Intelligence guru Marvin Minsky, prominent astronomer Margaret Geller, and Nobel Prize winning Harvard chemistry professor William Lipscomb. Good sports, all!

The FoT delegation had some favorite Ig Nobel prizewinners: BIOLOGY --- W. Brian Sweeney, Brian Kraftelacobs, Jeffrey W. Britton, and Wayne Hansen, for their breakthrough study, "The Constipated Serviceman: Prevalence Among Deployed US Troops," and especially for their numerical analysis of bowel movement frequency. (The study was published in "Military Medicine," vol. 158, August, 1993, pages 346-348.); ENTOMOLOGY --- Robert A. Lopez of Westport, NY, valiant veterinarian and friend of all creatures great and small, for his series of experiments in obtaining ear mites from cats, inserting them into his own ear, and carefully observing and analyzing the results. (Dr. Lopez's report was published in The Journal of the American Veterinary Society, vol. 203, no. 5, Sept. 1, pp. 606-607.); PHYSICS --- The Japanese Meteorological Agency, for its seven-year study of whether earthquakes are caused by catfish wiggling their tails; and ECONOMlCS --- Juan Pablo Davila of Chile, tireless trader of financial futures and former employee of the state-owned Codelco Company, for instructing his computer to "buy" when he meant "sell," and subsequently attempting to recoup his losses by making increasingly unprofitable trades that ultimately lost .5 percent of Chile's gross national product. Davila's relentless achievement inspired his countrymen to coin a new phrase: "to davilar," meaning, "to botch things up royally."

The evening was declared a success. Janet was asked if she would speak at a Mensa meeting on "Friends of Tuva and Richard Feynman" [tell them he would have resigned immediately from the organization, if elected --- ed.], some young and eager scientists-to-be were introduced to Tuva, and at the reception following the ceremony there was a zany conversation relating physics, bongos, and stamp-collecting. A consensus was agreed upon that the adventure continues...

For a free monthly electronic publication distributed over the Internet, you can subscribe to mini-AlR by sending a brief e-mail message to LISTSERV@MITVMA.MIT.EDU. The body of the message should contain ONLY the words "SUBSCRIBE MINI-AIR" followed by your name.) Otherwise, the mailing address for AIR is: MIT Museum, 264 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139-4307.

Midwife to the Government of Tannu Tuva

by Samuel Adams Darcy

Editor's note: This is an excerpt from memoirs, written in the 1950s, by Samuel Adams Darcy --- today probably the last survivor of the governing body of the Communist International (Comintern) in the 1920s and '30s. More on the Comintern and Tuva can be found in Otto Manchen-Helfen's Journey to Tuva (see the Tuva Trader).

The Comintern (which had tried to establish its headquarters in Hamburg, but was outlawed by the German government, so it moved to Moscow) was the center of the dynamic world --- and its staff received an education that was unique and beyond the power of any other institution of which I know. When the storms of the moment have given way to the storms that will test the next generation, and we can look at the Comintern's work in perspective, I believe the world will come to realize that it was, on the whole, a great constructive educational force that, despite its weaknesses, helped humanity through some of its most difficult years.

All discussions weren't as tense as the one over the Canton uprising --- nor was life there always as dramatic. There was, for example, the period when, for several weeks, I was midwife to the Government of Tannu-Tuva.

I can hear the reader saying at this point, "What the hell is that?" --- and that would be a fair question.

It is a good-sized country with topography, climate and soil very similar to Nevada. In area it is about as large as New York State, New Jersey and Pennsylvania combined. But it has only 100,000 population (1927). It lies between Mongolia and the Soviet Union.

In the Comintern I was a member of the Far Eastern Commission. The Secretary of this body was a friendly, soft-spoken man named Fokine. Once Fokine came to my office and told me the following story:

One day in 1925 a tired and ragged Oriental young man, dressed in the heavily padded dark short coat usually worn by the Mongolian shepherds, arrived at the Comintern building. He spoke some Mongolian and only a few words of Russian, in which language he asked for the "head man." After a translator was found, he explained his mission.

He was sent by the younger sons of Tannu Tuva, who constituted an oppressed class. In the religious patriarchal social organization which obtained in that country, the oldest son always was given to the church and became a lama or church priest. Also the flocks (animal breeding was the basis of their economy) were not divided among surviving children, but always inherited en bloc by the oldest son. Needless to say this privileged group never worked and became a parasitic class. That was harmful to the country, for it withdrew into idleness a huge amount of the potentially best productive labor power. Also, it was harmful to the younger sons, who became an exploited class.

These younger sons formed a revolutionary organization to overthrow the power of the lamas. They sent our visitor on foot, except for occasional lifts on some peasant's ox-cart (for in their country they know of no motor power, and while a single camel or pony perhaps could not travel so far, being nomads the distance did not frighten them), to request from the Comintern a loan of a few thousand rifles with which to arm their members. He had travelled for almost 5,000 miles. Months had been consumed in the journey. His appearance seemed to lend truth to his story.

They fed, bathed and housed him and gently told him that the Comintern has no rifles, and follows a policy which prohibits trafficking in them. He left.

Our friend apparently solved his problem, however, for in the following year, 1926, they did indeed overthrow the power of the parasitic lamas and established a People's Republic.

Now, at the time when Fokine was giving me this background story, word had come that the leaders of the People's Revolutionary Party, most of them cabinet members of the new Tannu Tuva government, had made their way on animal back to the nearest Russian railroad across their border and were, even as I was listening, speeding towards Moscow. The Comintern leaders had appointed the Far Eastern Commission to receive them --- and for this occasion, I was appointed to preside at their reception and in the discussions to follow.

This was something! At the reception for the Amanullah Khan (the king of Afghanistan, who was courted by the British and Russians alike), I was, at least, one in the ranks of hundreds of onlookers. Now I was to preside to receive the leaders of the people of Tannu Tuva.

A few days later the delegation arrived. The Red Hall was set with a long covered table. At one end lay a huge loaf of bread and a dish of salt. First the Far Eastern Commission filed in and we remained standing in our places, mine being at the bread and salt. I looked around at all the other members, most of whom were better versed in Far Eastern matters than I was, and concluded that I was chosen to preside because I was tallest. Then the Tannu Tuvans arrived, spotlessly clean but still in their shepherds' coats and hats. This was all done in silent dignity. I solemnly broke the bread and, pinching off pieces, put a bit of salt on each, and passed it around until everyone in the room was supplied. I spoke a few words of welcome, which was as solemnly received, and we all ate the dry bread and salt together --- in the same way that one drinks a toast of liquor (which by then I wished I had, since I needed it badly). This ceremony finished, the gathering broke ranks and introductions, smiles, and pleasantries were in order.

In the ensuing weeks I learned, by listening for long hours, the problems of nomadic life, the position of women in that life, the diseases of animals, the corresponding diseases of man, and above all the untrustworthiness of oldest sons and all who follow the ancient traditions.

I had then received several Sunday issues of the New York Times, in the rotogravure section of which there were some magnificent photographs of skyscrapers and aerial photos of downtown Manhattan from which I had derived a great deal of pleasure. I had mounted these on the walls of my office. During one of the intermissions I took the entire group of Tannu Tuvans up to my office to show them these and other pictures of my country.

Now (1927), the highest building in all Tannu Tuva is three stories. The delegates were awed by Moscow's tall buildings, the tallest of which at that time was about nine stories. Pointing to the pictures I described the buildings of sixty and eighty stories. They looked and smiled at each other and instructed the translator to tell me that they "had heard the wonders of America," but "we know a picture of a pigeon coop when we see one. We have them in Tannu Tuva, and we'll not be kidded into believing any sixty- or eighty-story buildings exist. The moon would probably become impaled on it, or at least the rooms would always be full of clouds if they were that high. And that would surely cause a lot of trouble." (See Footnote 1)

For almost a month I lived with the problems of this ancient, patriarchal people. When the delegation left and my mind turned to our own problems, it was like returning from some other century.

The Comintern (actually the Profintern, the Professionals International) later sent a representative (Bill Dunne) to the Congress of the Peoples' Revolutionary Party of Tannu Tuva to repay their visit. He told me, on his return, that in appreciation of my efforts as host, they hung my picture on the wall of the building in front of which the Congress was held in Khem-Beldiri (see Footnote 2), the capital of Tannu Tuva. I found they had gotten hold of a duplicate of my passport photo. No doubt many a Tannu Tuvan mother corrected her child's misbehavior by warning about the sinister-looking man in that photo!

The peoples of the Far East that we met were not tourist-hotel Asiatica. They often were from deep in the interior of their country, to whom our ways were stranger than theirs were to us. The cultural gap was wide --- yet in friendly association it quickly narrowed. We learned to laugh at the differences and enjoy each other the more for them.

Once, when a Mongolian delegation arrived for a somewhat longer stay, they were put up at the same guest house as were those who come from the western world. They were given western business suits, long wool winter underwear, low shoes to replace their boots, and other appurtenances of our civilization and sent to bathe quickly because it was near supper time. Everything went well, until they came down to the dining room. The entire group had put their western suits --- which they considered unattractive --- on underneath, and the beautifully white woolen long winter underwear on top. The diners roared with laughter. But the man very logically explained that it is common courtesy to your neighbor to wear your most pleasing garments on top!

They changed. In fact, in all things they learned from us very quickly; we, in our "superiority," did not always learn the things they could have taught us so well.

I never witnessed rude conduct in their behavior. All too commonly, Europeans and Americans who came to Moscow acted like boors.

Orientals lacked in their civilization what was brought by our manufactures, and they absorbed that in great gulps. We lacked the courtesies, the high quality of human consideration for other humans and I'm afraid we haven't improved on that score.

FOOTNOTE 1: From an apartment on the fiftieth floor overlooking the United Nations in Manhattan, three Tuvans in 1993 expressed disbelief that people would voluntarily subject themselves to such living conditions, in which there are no wide-open spaces and where the natural horizon ceases to exist. (Ralph Leighton, observing the reactions of Kaigal-ool Khovalyg, Anatoli Kuular, and Kongar-ool Ondar).

FOOTNOTE 2: Tuvan for "river confluence 1 ," also known in the early part of this century as Byelotsarsk (Russian for "white czar"), and later as "Kyzyl Khoto" or "Kyzyl Khoorai" (Tuvan for "red" and Mongolian or Tuvan, respectively, for "town"), or simply "Kyzyl." --- ed.

Report From Tuva --- Summer, 1994

by Kerry Yackoboski
Founder, Kyzyl-Khem Chapter
(Winnipeg, Manitoba)

We arrived in Kyzyl in grand style, four of us squeezed into the back seat of a taxi we had hired in Abakan, the fifth in the front passenger seat. We were two Canadians (Russ and myself) and two Americans (Steve and Alison), along with a Turk willing to share a cab ride with us for 420 kilometres. It was a warm evening, late in July, when the taxi driver deposited us on Kochetova Street, Kyzyl's main drag, and when our own Journey To Tuva began in earnest.

While in Tuva we would do many interesting things and meet many interesting people; in fact, too many to recount in a short article. A more detailed trip diary is available via the Internet from "". In this article I hope to touch on some of the more striking aspects of our trip.

Tuva Today

The good news is that Tuva was everything I had hoped for and more. We were able to visit the steppes, the taiga, the yurts, and we were able to experience khuresh (traditional wrestling) khoomei (traditional singing) and kumiss (traditional drink). It was reassuring to see that the culture of Tuva is still alive and is not in danger of being overrun by other cultures (despite the ubiquitous presence of MTV and Abba). Otherwise ordinary buildings have ornate doors carved with images of Tuvan animals, and the statue commemorating Tuva's 60 Martyrs is almost as large as the formerly requisite statue of Lenin that still stands.

The sights and sounds that have been described in other writings about Tuva are wonderful, but the one aspect of visiting Tuva that we could not have prepared for is the overwhelming hospitality of the people we were fortunate to meet. We were welcomed into people's apartments and yurts as if we were family, and we were fed beyond belief. Long after my photos are faded and curled, I will cherish my memories of the people we met.

However, like anywhere else, Tuva does have some problems. The rate of inflation in Kyzyl is staggering and almost paralyzing, to the point where a friend who wanted to organize a difficult trip to the countryside for us was unable to confidently predict the cost, since the price of gasoline or food could double at any time. As one example, we saw bread (which cost 7 Roubles in 1992 and 30 Roubles in 1993) jump in price from 700 Roubles to 1300 Roubles overnight.

This, and other problems common to the post-Soviet republics, has frustrated many people in Tuva. The transition from a centrally planned economy has not been a smooth one, and those who were comfortable with the predictability of the old system (whether or not it worked) are not completely at ease with new ways of doing business. One note of optimism is that we met an encouraging number of young people who are bright enough and energetic enough to help Tuva adapt.

Our Mission

Many people were curious about why we would travel half way around the world to such a remote spot, and it was difficult to explain simply because there was no good reason. I had read "Tuva or Bust!" and got caught up in the excitement, and before I knew it, Richard Feynman's dream journey had become my hobby. And since we were going all that way, we had a few other things to look into as well. We carried in several copies of Jeff Cook's excellent "Tuvans Invade America" video to distribute to the participants (Khovalyg, Kuular, Chakars, and Ondar), as well as to Tuva TV for broadcast. Early indications are that this will be a smash hit in Tuva.

We also carried a draft copy of the English translation of "Let's Learn Tuvan!" to have the Tuvan portion proofread by a native speaker; we were able to parlay this, and our status as "members of Friends of Tuva", into a meeting with the author of the book, Chairman of Parliament Kadyr-ool Bicheldei. He was also kind enough to invite us to the grand concert celebrating both Tuva's independence day and Kyzyl's eightieth anniversary. Being a member has its unexpected privileges!

Our most ambitious goal was to try to establish an electronic mail link into Kyzyl. While we made a few inroads, there is still work to be done before we will succeed at this. The hardware and the people are in place there now, but the remaining obstacle lies in making a connection from Tuva to a node that can be reached by the rest of the world.

We were also able to maintain FoT contact with a few notables, such as Tanya Khuragan-ool, the little girl who had come to the USA for surgery last spring. She is doing fine and was to attend school for the first time this fall. We also met, entirely by chance, the president of a Tuvan organization called Friends of America, led by Oyun-ool Sat. He happens to be one of the designers of the Tuvan flag and an avid endurance cyclist; he hopes to cycle from Tuva to Atlanta via Alaska for the 1996 Olympics. "45-Snowy-I" Ondar Daryma is now not only a shaman but also a lama; we saw him dressed in striking golden robes, surrounded by children, at the anniversary concert.

A Lucky Find

No short report would be complete without a hint of excitement. We hired a van and a driver and were to travel with four others (two English people, John and Nora Harris of Cornwall, and two Tuvans, Galina Deshki and her daughter Olga) to spend a night in a yurt at Lake Tore-Khol, on the Mongolian border. To make a long story short, at 11 PM we found ourselves lost, at the side of the lake, stuck in a the sand literally on the Mongolian border. Galina got very agitated when she noticed that we were walking over some concrete slabs in the ground that mark the border.

We decided that it would be impossible to find the yurt in the darkness --- and even if we did, it was too late to arrive. We quickly ruled out trying to drive to the nearest town (Erzin) and seek lodging there, since it was not apparent how to get back there (we had been driving over the steppe, with no real roads, for hours). My old friend Russ and I felt that the only sane thing to do would be to sit tight, eat the food we had brought, and sleep on the spot. The others eventually agreed and quickly staked out their sleeping space in the van, leaving Russ and me standing outside. (I still don't know how that happened!).

No problem; we took this in stride. We were at the edge of a beautiful lake, surrounded by the stark and almost surreal steppe, we had just eaten, it wasn't raining, and, above all, *we were in Tuva!* What more could we want?

We had our sleeping bags with us and started looking around for a likely place to sack out under the cloudless sky when we noticed that just a few steps from where we had stopped there was a large collection of wood, much of it already chopped into firewood.

This was a remarkable stroke of luck; the steppes are treeless and we had not seen anything remotely resembling firewood for hours. We tried to light a fire, but since it had rained that morning the wood was still a little too damp to catch fire. We did our best, but we really needed something that would burn well to help start the fire. We thought that we were sunk, until we hit upon another stroke of luck. Before leaving Toronto Russ had purchased a Gore-Tex raincoat for the trip, and after buying it he had thrown it into his backpack until we arrived. Just now he reached into his jacket pocket for the first time, pulling out an Emergency Safety Feature built in by the good people at Gore-Tex: a thick brochure, printed on heavy paper, extolling the virtues of their product. When shredded, this brochure made a fine fire starter. After a few hours' chat around the campfire, I tucked into my sleeping bag and got a great night's sleep; as I dozed off, gazing at the stars on the border of Mongolia, I was reminded of a story about Richard Feynman, as told by Freeman Dyson. At a small gathering of physicists and astronomers near Austin, Texas, Feynman decided that his hotel room was too "enormous and hideous", and he walked out into the woods and slept under the stars. This, I felt, was an appropriate reminder of the man whose innocent question had eventually, inadvertently, brought me here.

Tuvan Cuisine

Today's topic: some of the food I ate (and didn't eat) in Tuva. As a bit of a prologue, for the past several years I have generally avoided milk and dairy products because I find them increasingly difficult on my digestive system. It's usually not a big problem as long as I show some restraint.

On our way into Tuva we spent a few days in Moscow, and for our first breakfast our hostess gave us about 10 different things that were either dairy products or were buried under them. I didn't write down the names, but there was one dish that looked like natural cottage cheese, and this was doused under some heavy cream and sprinkled very generously with sugar. This was *very* tasty, but I only had a few mouthfuls.

There was also two types of cheese that were to be eaten with buttered bread, and there was Russian sour cream (heavier and more sour than what I am used to), but I forget how that was eaten; perhaps on its own.

I tasted a little of each of them, both to be polite and because they looked good, and I paid a very high price; I was painfully and inconveniently sick for the rest of the day. (Incidentally, Immodium really works, and I recommend it to all travellers.) From then on I told anyone who offered me something that looked like it might have once been milk that I was allergic to milk, and I would either take the smallest sip (or pretend to) or decline outright, depending on how potent the dish looked. I also went through an entire jar of pills that are supposed to help those with an intolerance to lactose in their digestion; I think they helped somewhat when I drank regular milk. Now, on to the food...

Traditional Tuvan food seems to be almost entirely mutton and milk products. The most basic method of preparation is to throw a large chunk of meat, still attached to a bone such as a rib, into a large pot of boiling water and cook it until it is done all the way through. I found the smell of the boiling sheep unappetizing, but the meat itself to be good. Typically, several large pieces were placed on a large plate in front of several of us, along with a single knife. You dig in with your hands, using the knife to cut loose a bite-size morsel when necessary, or just munch away as if it were the latest dish from Colonel Sanders.

Of course, this is not the only way to cook mutton. We also saw it cut into small pieces and served in a soup, in a watery stew, or occasionally in a thicker sauce on rice. (We didn't see much rice eaten in Tuva). Perhaps my favourite way of eating sheep was in poosa (I really don't know how to spell it, or even if I'm remembering the name correctly), Tuva's version of Mongolia's boozeh. This is like Russian perogy or Italian ravioli or Chinese steamed dumplings, in that it is a thin dough wrapper around a small nugget of ground meat, lightly spiced. For the first bite you must hold the dumpling with your fingers so that you do not spill any of the juice that wants to escape after you bite in. After the first bite it is permissible to use a knife and fork if the poosa is large. The best ones we had were at the home of the grandparents of Tanya Khuragan-ool.

Tea was of two distinct varieties: Russian style is not unlike the tea I am accustomed to, except that jam or fresh berries are used to sweeten it to taste. The different Tuvan teas we had were similar to the ones that are currently being discussed in the UseNet newsgroup soc.culture.mongolian. The most common one is suutug shai, salted tea with a lot of milk in it. The tea comes in a hard brick and a suitable amount is broken off (in small flakes) and dropped into the large wok-shaped pot of hot water. I think the salt is also added at this point, although we did not always have it with salt. The one time I watched this tea being prepared I noticed that the milk used was actually powdered milk, but that may have been because we were camping at the time. This tea is tasty, but I preferred it without the salt and milk. Russ said that after drinking two large bowls of this tea the salt seemed excessive.

We were also served kumiss. It looks a bit like yogurt, and separates into a more solid part and a more watery part. It was stirred with a lot of sugar and went over well with Steve. When mixed with a little milk tea and a lot of talgan, a brown flour-like powder similar to Tibetan tsampa, it forms a paste that Russ and Steve described as tasting like Crackerjacks.

Araka is a clear, almost colourless drink made from fermented mare's milk. It has a very slight white colour to it, and it smells pretty much exactly like I'd expect fermented and distilled horse's milk to smell like. It doesn't have a strong taste, but it is definitely a disagreeable taste to my tongue. Russ was quite firm in his dislike of it, but I think that it's probably like a lot of things that are an acquired taste and that given the choice of downing a tumbler of araka or Russian vodka, I might choose the araka (don't hold me to that - it's a tough choice). Then again, we met a few Tuvans who won't touch the stuff. I only had a few sips of it and at one point we tried to pull a fast one on our hosts by pouring the liquid from our glasses into the jug while no one was looking. I think they knew what happened, because they wouldn't drink it either!

As you might expect, tropical fruit and vegetables were not very common (but not necessarily rare) and not cheap. Bananas and oranges could be found fairly easily. The most common (and best!) vegetables were the ones that were grown in Tuva, because they don't have the blandness of supermarket vegetables; tomatoes, potatoes, radishes, carrots, cabbages, watermelons, squash, and cucumbers formed the backbone of our vegetable experience in Tuva. Since these are generally not the most exciting foods, and because selection is limited, people are very good at making them attractive and tasty in many forms. However, spices are sometimes hard to find at the market --- so when there are none to be found, meals are rather bland.

Berries are abundant, although I couldn't identify any of them other than raspberries and black currants. At one point our guide stopped the car at the side of the highway and we all feasted on tasty, sweet berries.

There is an old Tuvan song, now the national anthem, called "The Taiga Is Full Of Cedar Nuts". We never picked any cedar nuts in the taiga, but we certainly ate a lot of them in Tuva. In the market, or just anywhere, people sell little paper cones full of roasted and separated individual seeds, which you crack in your mouth like a sunflower seed, eating the soft pulp inside and spitting out the shell. People also carried around entire pine cones full of nuts and pulled them open, layer by layer, to get at the seeds arrayed around the centre. Because we were so unskilled, a single cone full of seeds would take us hours to eat.

There is much more to said on the topic of food, but I'll leave it for another article. In the meantime, be assured that --- even if you're averse to milk products --- you won't go hungry in Tuva. And if you like milk products, you'll be in heaven!


(For the most recent TUVA TRADER (Winter Solstice 1994), please send a self-addressed, stamped (32 cents) envelope to: Friends of Tuva, Box 70021, Pasadena CA 91117.)

* * * denotes new item, available in January.

* * * SIX EASY PIECES: Essentials of Physics Explained by its Most Brilliant Teacher, by Richard P. Feynman. Six Lectures from The Feynman Lectures on Physics, with accompanying audio on CD or cassette. Hearing Feynman delivering his lectures is an epiphany, and reveals gems that were not translated into print (such as this one about chemists and their names for organic molecules: "Why they don't just draw the pictures all the time, I don't know --- it seems to me easier."). Each lecture is nearly an hour.
Book only (order only if you're deaf!): $ 19
Book with 6 cassettes: : $ 45
Book with 6 CDs: : $ 49

* * * THE CHARACTER OF PHYSICAL LAW by Richard P. Feynman. The written version of the Messenger Lectures (now we need to get *those* released on video!) in an attractive small hardcover edition.
: $ 14

* * * GENIUS: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman, by James Gleick, in softcover.
: $ 14

Big money discounts! If subtotal is $50-$74, subtract 5%; if it is $75-$99, subtract 7%; $100 and up, subtract %10.

For rush orders, or for orders outside of the USA and Canada, please add 20% for airmail delivery.

US orders: check or a postal money order payable to Friends of Tuva.

Non-US orders: cash, traveller's checks, personal or bank checks (if drawn on a US bank), and International Postal Money Orders are accepted. Sorry, no credit cards or Eurocheques.

All orders: To expedite delivery. please include a mailing label with your order. Thank you!

(You may order the above items now, but I won't be be able to send them out until sometime in January)