|2005-03-20 - The village of Kolymskaya
The village of Kolymskaya and it´s truly fantastic inhabitants
20 Mar, 05 - 21:05
GPS-pos: N68°43´ | E158°42´ | Alt: 9 M
It´s the 20th of March today and the temperature have risen so much that we´re actually able to cruise around the settlement dressed only in a thin fleece Jacket! Overcast. Temperature indoors is also high, 81°F!
I had initially planned to write about the Chuckchis as a people and our experience the other day, whilst attending when they were moving their reindeer from the taiga to the tundra. But I´ll write that on Thursday and the reason for this, well, it is due to what happened yesterday.
I can tell you already now, that Kolymskaya is the nicest and most interesting of all communities we´ve come across so far along the Kolyma. And, as you than well understand, that say´s an awful lot! It is a tiny village, which lacks the slightly depressing atmosphere which has prevailed in the other communities we´ve passed. That one of general decay. Sure, there´s a dirty, stinking coal station even here, but there´s also a new nursery school, a music school, a little museum, a small hospital, a couple of hidden away general stores and there´s two different levels of housing, either in a flat in a two stored wooden block, or a log cabin. There´s around 850 inhabitants, mainly Caucasian Russians and Chuckchi, but also Even, Yugahirs, Yakut and even one Evenk! A kind of a conglomerate of all kinds of ethnic people to be found along the Kolyma. All carrying around a great sense of sticking together and helping each other. Which we discovered yesterday morning when a neighbour knocked on the door and handed over a gigantic raw liver from a reindeer and two white salmons. As a gift. Well, there´s somebody on the door all the time. A villager or two who wants to see how we´re doing. There´s no way you can get any rest and piece by claiming to be tired!
Yesterday, at dinner time, we walked over to the local community hall -called the culture club along the Kolyma- because we´d specifically asked if we could record somebody playing on the shaman drums, which we heard when arriving. When we reached the community hall and went in, we found it packed full of locals! Mainly women and children, since most men are out on the tundra moving reindeer right now. They were all dressed up. An orchestra were playing amazingly false when entering and I just felt that this was just unbelievable! Suddenly the female local chief, the kind and generous Rima Gavrilova, walks up on the stage and says that this concert has been arrange to honour us! Another woman takes over, a local schoolteacher, and reads the whole lengthy press release about our Expedition we carry with us. An utterly boring 15 minutes before the real shows on!
First on stage is a bunch of children dressed in old Soviet Army Uniforms marching around whilst locals shout:
Classical music in a wide variety follows, mixed with Even and Chuckchi traditional dances from the tundra, this finished off with a solo on clarinet. The whole hour long show and concert ends up with the full ensemble singing a local song to honour us. No doubt when of the most spectacular moments in my life! Our turn. We get called up on stage, we sit down at a table and it is time for us to get interviewed by this very straight and sober woman, the school teacher, who doesn´t know many English words. Our Russian is far better, but we´re not allowed to utter one Russian sentence. At least not initially. Instead the lady reads the whole boring press release again. Yawn! The few men attending, left at this stage. After finishing it, she amazingly enough starts reading a few poems she´s written herself, at the same time as she´s extremely nervous and red faced. Then it is time for us to be interviewed by her. But since she has no idea what we answer, she makes up her own answers, which is as far from the truth as one can imagine. For example, she tells the audience that we´re radium scientists! The questioning reaches such a stage of utter boredom that people starts leaving the room, which makes her even more nervous. Suddenly she whips out a questionnaire in English, from some old English course, where she finds the following highly interesting question for the locals to digest:
´´Do you find English grammar easy or difficult?´´
´´Dead easy!´´ both of us shouts in English, since we´re getting fed up and that makes her even more nervous, so she blurts out quickly: ´´Who´s your best friend?´´
´´My wife´´ , I answer, but Johan´s answer makes everyone laugh: ´´My dog!´´
´´Johan is an expert on hunting snow weasels!´´ I holler in Russian and add: ´´I like hunting beaver!´´
Suddenly people wake up, get interested and shouts out ton´s of questions. Then we talk about what local people find interesting, things they can relate to. We talk about hunting and fishing, the Swedish Sámi people, how they take care of their reindeers, where they keep them and what areas they can move on. We could have spent hours there, discussing these interesting things , if it hadn´t been for the customary photography. Which means we stand on the same spot for a long time, whilst locals change places with us or taking photos. Finally, we´re honoured with two important gifts, two shaman necklaces to bring us the best of luck on our journey.
We return tired but happy to the flat, ready to sleep. We thought. An hourly later the local chief turns up with three friends who want to see every single photo we´ve taken from the start in July until now. Which they do during three hours. Before leaving, they honour us each with a medal from the Soviet era as a sign of good work.
Kolymskaya is a place which is easy to love!