Our first really Soviet moment

Shortly after we arrived back at the yurt camp this afternoon, three immigration people showed up at the door of the yurt with Chodaraa, and later the camp cook since Artur is gone west.  The three (two in the kind of Soviet uniform that makes your head look small, and one in rather badly fitting counterfeited clothes) wanted us to detail how we had spent every day since we arrived in Russia, and how we were going to spend every day until we left.  Since I am such an anorak, it was easily done, although they walked off with three pages of the paper copy of my itinerary.  We have tickets and all to show.  But they spent an hour hand-copying this all on sheets of paper they had, to report on the interrogation; and copying everything by hand out of our passports and all.  Nobody acted officious or anything.  Tuvans do not have Game Faces the way Russians do.  But they didn’t really smile, until the end, when the fellow who looked vaguely Mexican said that it was “just work”.

Chodaraa said she hadn’t ever seen anything like this.  I think she isn’t old enough to really remember.

As she translated to us, the heart of the matter is this:

  • This yurt camp, Biy-Khem, doesn’t have an address.
  • Artur, the manager, has since time immemorial been writing down his home address in Kyzyl as the address of record for all the guests at his camp.
  • For some reason, today the authorities decided to get angry about this.  We were the only people around to harass.  Artur isn’t here, as mentioned.  Furthermore, the camp is completely occupied by his brother, who is having the baby hair cutting ceremony for his child, that you can see in “Weeping Camel”.  The cultural affinities between Mongolians and Tuvans are strong.

It’s been a bad police day.  Coming out of Kyzyl to the camp, our driver got hassled for 20 minutes about car registration.  When he left, he was driving really fast, like over 100 on the badly paved part of the road out to camp.  I asked Dave when we got back, if he thought the driver was mad and he said definitely.

Holy cow.  I’m typing this in our yurt, and the driver just came and set up his picnic table in it.  They are serious about serving dinner in here because the camp is occupied by the brother’s party.  This must mean that the concert also will be held in here…what a bust for the poor musicians.

OK, we just had the concert.  All the songs were about horses and ladies, but mostly horses.  And it wasn’t totally a bust:  we bought all three CDs they were selling.