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A Journey to Tuva 2004

Sami Jansson

I travelled to Tuva this year by the end of August with my father. I had a great trip, nice to show exotic places to an old man. Not that he hadnít been to odd places before, heís even worked in Saudi Arabia in the 1980ís. And as for Tuva, it is not that exotic any more. An American guy (Sean Quirk) is playing with the Tyva Ensemble (line-up number whatever), speaking fluent Tyvan. Cellular phones, internet, theyíve got them all. Even master khoomeichi Khunashtaar-ool Oorzhakís photo is downloadable from the internet! Yes, thatís true, theyíve put it online.

And nowadays it is cool to be able to keep contact with my Tyvan friends by writing SMS-messages with my cell phone. Choduraa Tumat and Shoraana Kuular from Tyva Kyzy have cell phones, and Kaigal-ool Khovalyg said heís going to get one soon. It is REALLY practical to say the least. First, I get weekly if not even daily practice with my Tyvan (we send text messages in Tyvan, spelling it in the Latin alphabet). Secondly, whenever I need supervising with my lyric transcriptions and translations, the answer is behind a text or an email message will arrive within a few days. Especially my friend Choduraa Tumat from Tyva Kyzy keeps me well informed about whatís going on in Tyva. Shoraana Kuular, who nowadays lives in Moscow, reports to me constantly about the Tyvan groups that are touring and transiting Moscow.

The timing of our journey was a bit awkward, because they had in Tyva a great festival on the 9th of Sept. celebrating the 40-year long liaison between Soviet Russia / Russian Federation And Tyva. We left Tyva on the 2nd of Sept., so we missed the festival. And during the few weeks before the festival all my musician friends were occupied with daily rehearsals.

We spent part of our stay at a friendís place (Choduraa) and a part at the hotel ÷dŁgen. We went to the Salt Lake south of Kyzyl and then to Khadyng lake (Khadyng means Birch) to wash off the salt. Most of the time in Kyzyl I spent at the khoomei centre where throat singers rehearsed. Kaigal-ool and Igor Koshkendei invited me and my dad for a dinner, and each time I had to translate conversations from Tyvan to Finnish and back --- luckily both Kaigal-ool and Igor understand some English nowadays, so that my dad could occasionally address them directly. I repeated my elementary studies in Russian before the trip and had an occasion to try my Russian in Moscow and in the train from Moscow to Abakan. In Moscow however my Tyvan friend Shoraana Kuular was around helping so that I got lazy as she interpreted things in Tyvan.

And the prices... It is still cheap in Tyva, but not as cheap as it used to be. A minibus ride from Abakan to Kyzyl costs 500 rubles (about 15 euros, 18-20 dollars). And the minibus is usually fully loaded so that it is not that comfortable. But of course it was amusing to amaze the local travellers by speaking better Tyvan than Russian (usually itís the other way round). If you take a regular bus, itís much cheaper, but also more time consuming and even less comfortable in every way. Then you can hire a private taxi, but they charge 500 rubles a seat --- and count the boot as a seat as well. A taxi from Abakan to Kyzyl costs at least 2000 rubles. The distance is some 400 kilometers. The best suite at ÷dŁgen costs 1800 rubles, and it is usually offered to foreigners. If you speak the local tongue, you might be shown and offered other, cheaper rooms as well.

We got back by air from Abakan to Moscow. And, to our surprise, there was a Finnish couple in Abakan taking the same flight. They didnít speak much Russian although the man had been working near Vladivostok for more than a year! In Moscow we stayed at Hotel Izmailovo (rated 2 stars). Their prices are reasonable and the hotel standard is higher than you might expect from the number of stars they have. And besides, Izmailovo is next to a metro station --- an easy access to any place in Moscow. In Moscow I wanted to see all the museums so we went to the museum of Darwin and the historical museum.

Once in Finland I got text messages from Shoraana and Choduraa. Tyva is permanently closer to Finland than it was when I first went there.