With this article we continue our series of “Travel Notes” by the folk musician and journalist Maria Kirilova. Maria kindly suggested writing travel notes for tyva.me during a trip to Tuva this year for the celebration of Shagaa, which is the festival of Tuvan New Year. Maria will share her insights about the sternly beautiful winter of Tuva, how the Tuvinians survive in the -40 degree frosts, how the Shagaa is celebrated, and what is sung in the winter folk songs.

Author: Maria Kirilova

Hello to everyone who loves Tuva! Thus I continue my “Travel Notes”. Today we cover a few notable episodes on my way to Shagaa. I had finished packing all the warm clothes and embarked on my trip.

Acquiring and mastering a Tuvan flute of some sort was one of my dreams for a while. I fell for the shoor because of its unusual iridescent sound, and the peculiar way with which you play the instrument. A good while on google and requests to music shops didn’t give me anything useful so I turned to the Centre of Tuvan Culture. The experts there told me that this instrument is… disposable! I read on the internet that it was made from a plant called baltyrgan, which was harvested in Autumn, when its stalks were on the right side of withered. And hence it was missing in mid-January!

But let me go astray and tell you about Tuvan hospitality. Shagaa itself, as far as I can judge from the small amount of information on the internet, is a very hospitable holiday, when everyone calls each other to visit, the rich treat the poor, etc. It goes as far as having competitions to see who the best host is! My “Travel Notes” received a lot of attention. Responses have been varied, from invitations to calling me derogatory terms for immigrants. Well, finally I had the opportunity to feel as an immigrant! Tuvan hospitality was not surprising but amazed me nonetheless. Complete strangers expressed such support and interest in my journey that I felt obliged to somehow give back, at least with eager answers. Special thanks go out to everyone who helped me with transport. Without them the trip would have been impossible, I hope we stay in touch! I also want to thank the Centre for their advise with the flute, and everyone else who reads my notes.

By the way, just the other day I was given a wonderful gift. It was a small collection of Tuvan myths in three languages: Tuvan, Russian and English. Stay tuned for more, not long left to wait!

With love, Maria

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Written by airamo