Normalno in Debdirge: Normalno in Debdirge

June 23, 2015   |   Galya Morrell


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Rain continued for two more days. More water has arrived. And even more was on its way. Is this a normal spring melt? Not so much. Underground fires that broke out two years ago and burnt vasts of taiga stripped the soil that was protecting the permafrost. Late autumn rains fell on the snow, and then early spring rains followed up. And now melting snow has filled the ground fissures and contributed to melting of the subterranean ancient ice. This is one of the reasons why we see today in Taatta exactly what we see. The big picture is: Yakutian permafrost is thawing.

In the morning we could not open the gate, so we had to climb over the fence and do emergency irrigation work outside. Isabella Elyakova, who is the best crisis manager I’ve ever known on Earth and who could easily be in charge of the entire Emercon (Ministery of Emergency Situations) – synchronizes our work and then praises us for our small achievements.

Some 30 minutes later the gate opens with a victorious squeek. Freedom! Now Isabella’s mother Anna who is 82 years old can finally go out and get her pension that had been delivered to Tuora-Kyuyol in the tractor’s cab, and we can continue our journey to Debdirge – another small settlement in Taatta Ulus.

Kyirakaan – the great man of Debdirge – comes to pick us up. Kyirakaan literally means «the short one». But it is no offense. Kyirakaan indeed is short. But his strength is legendary. It’s said that Kyirakaan can pull out a 100 year old tree-trunk from permafrost with his left hand, lift it on his head and shutter it to pieces with his pinky. We have not seen Kyirakaan doing exactly that , but instead we saw Kyirakaan pulling a tractor out of the swamp with no help at all.

Once upon a time a wrestler, Yakutia’s big time champion, Kyirakaan lost his eye on the road – due to an accident. Did it stop him from extreme driving? Did it make him less cooler? Take a guess.

He may have only one eye, but this eye is so sharp that that Kyirakaan can easily drive, text on his phone and at the same time. Go on a journey with him in his UAZik: your body will suddenly become weightless. It’s like a space flight: you are constantly in a free fall and there is nothing to hold on except for each other. Did you ask about seat belts?

And when a novice screams, Kyirakaan just says: «Normalno». Which means literally: «There are much worse roads in Yakutia, relax, be happy, it’s an easy ride».

Kyirakaan’s young son who will turn 14 in the fall follows in a tractor. We know that we will be stuck. We just don’t know how many times.

Our friends are already waiting for us in Debdirge.

The most delicious brunch is being served: everyrthing from koyurgen (strongly fermented mare’s milk) to haan (colt blood sausages). And then stroganina (frozen fish shaved directly onto your plate) emerges from the permafrost cellar.

And then music and songs follow up. Alexey Haraidanov not only plays, he makes all his instruments with his own hands. His daughter Saina, a student of the Arctic Institute, is a throat singer. They are too keepers of a tradition.

And then of course comes Praskovia Matannakova. At the age of 93 she creates these masterpieces. Today she will be teaching usto sew from birch bark and how to make carpets out of a horse tail. Her carpets are the maps of her childhood. Those places are long gone, but every single house and every single path keep their existence – because she remembers them.

We obviously have been poor students, but Praskovia tells us that any good thing in life can be born only through hard work. Don’t get distracted, don’t get offended, or discouraged – keep doing what you are doing, step by step! «What is your secret of life?» we ask. She says: «Love!» “Don’t hate, don’t blame, don’t complain, don’t envy! Use your hands and use your heart. And never pity yourself!”

The road back to Tuora-Kyuyol is tough. At times we sink to our thighs while mosquitoes eat us alive. But we learned our lesson and we don’t pity ourselves. We just go forward.

As we arrive, the long awaited sun finally pierces the clouds and all the world around us gets illuminated.


Thank you to all those who continue to support my work and occasionally are crazy enough to jump into a frozen river to see if the whole thing is real!

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