Siberia/Mongolia: Of Purges, Magic and the Mundane

Oops! I notice that, when asked, I’m telling people lots of the stories from my trip to Mongolia and Siberia, rather than writing them down here. And each time I tell one, the unexpected happens. For example, yesterday, while enjoying a birthday call (hers) with Katarina, a young friend of mine, I decided to relate the complete story of my sudden, unexpected trek to the high Siberian portal with a Mongolian guide. (I have yet to tell the complete story here.)

While recounting this tale (which already feels legendary), I noticed myself feeling somewhat nauseated. Then, I suddenly needed to go to the bathroom, and did so, a gushing diarrhea that went on and on, followed by, astonishingly, by vomiting, my entire breakfast gushing out the other end. (Vomiting is something I NEVER do!). For a few minutes there, I scurried back and forth between sink and toilet, stunned by what seemed to be my body’s response to the story, and couldn’t help but feel that this was some kind of purge. Of what? Of the “spirit of the place” that had contacted me that day? Of my primal fear of its undeniable power? Who knows! Meanwhile, I was both keeping Katarina apprised of what was going on with me, all the while continuing to tell her the story! At one point, reasonably enough, she asked if she should call me back.

“No.” I responded. “This is all part of it.


After this tremendous gushing forth of what no longer wanted to harbor itself in my body, I went to bed. And slept. For four hours. 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Then I got up and went to Bloomingfoods Co-op for some probiotics, came back, ate an entire avocado, and worked with Rebecca and new resident Sam for two hours getting ready for the local permaculture guild work party and potluck to be held here this evening.

Let’s face it. I’m still not fully re-acclimated. Tend to wake up after two hours sleep at 11 p.m., and then remain awake for three or four hours before falling back to sleep for another three hours. The result: NOT enough sleep.

It all makes me so much more aware of how our bodies are accustomed to a certain, unnoticed, invisible, and yet very very strong space/time framework. That our bodies establish their circadian rhythms within this framework. Our time in Mongolia and Siberia felt like “time out of time” in an endless space. And believe you me, the space did feel endless there. As did time felt infinite, each day a new eternity.

Here’s some Mongolians, on horseback, perfectly at home in that endless infinity. When asked, they agreed to pose for a picture.

So, let’s wind back into this life here and now for awhile, not tell any more significant stories from the trip, lest my digestion “lose it!” — and instead, speak of other matters — on the one hand magical, and on the other hand mundane.


It turns out that Erjen (who doesn’t want her photo on any social media), our multilingual guide in both Mongolia and Siberia (one side of her family is Russian, the other Mongolian), received her doctorate at Indiana University! She worked with Elinor Ostrum (the Nobel Prize winner in Economics who was not an economist: she is famous for disproving the so-called “tragedy of the commons.”), and studied Public Policy. As near as I can ascertain, Erjen is dedicated to assisting Mongolia and its peoples to continue and revitalize all aspects of their magnificent heritage.

It turns out that Erjen was still living in Bloomington during the first few years after my arrival here from my yurt in Wyoming, though of course I didn’t meet her then. Now don’t you think it amazing that she and I met, over a decade later, in the context of a shamanic trip to yurt-filled Mongolia and wild Siberia? She has been working with Bill Pfeiffer, the founder of Sacred Earth Network, who has led, so far, 46 trips to Russia!

Bill, at the falls that we experienced high up in the Sayan mountains, after treking upwards for maybe 1/2 mile. A beautiful day, as usual. Bill is not nearly as “grim” as he appears here. I have another photo somewhere, that shows him about to eat an eagerly anticipated “Omo,” native trout-like fish of Lake Baikal.

This was Bill’s first trip to include Mongolia, at the urging of Erjen, who wanted to showcase ancient spiritual traditions of both her native homes.

I discovered Bill’s work when he contacted me, as a result of a post on Joanna Macy that I had put up on this blog. That contact put me on his mailing list. So when he announced an upcoming trip to both Mongolia and Siberia, after deliberating for two years, I took the bait and plunged in. At the time of my decision, I had no idea why this trip was important to me; but now I do. More of that in coming posts. Let’s just say here that my journey to a land where the primal relationship between nearly pristine Earth and her indigenous peoples is still largely intact impelled me to understand at a much deeper level how the entire Earth is sacred, and that we human beings who live upon her must and can return to our original communion with both each other and the land, if we wish to save ourselves from a digitized, robotic, simulated, transhumanist future. This, folks, is the antidote, this recognition that we are of the Earth, this vast conscious intelligence, itself in communion with the entire cosmos; that once we attune to Her mysterious ways, she will offer us a direct link to Source. “Source” is not just “out there” in some heaven beyond. “Source,” folks, grounds itself right here, under our feet, inside our feet, pumping through our hearts, pulsing through our brains and souls. We are Earthlings! Let’s celebrate this intimate, sacred connection!

Rebecca, hard at work.

Okay, so back to Erjen, and the strange synchronicity of going with a Mongolian guide who had received her doctorate at the university in the town where I now reside. That synchronicity happens to be matched in intensity, or perhaps even surpassed in intensity, by another one. And this is that Rebecca, the other “old woman” who with me anchors this Green Acres Village and Urban Farm, gasped when I started to tell her tales of my adventures. At the mention of the phrase “Lake Baikal,” she looked utterly startled.

I knew that Rebecca’s ancestry was Siberian, but Siberia is a large territory; and guess what: Rebecca’s family is from the Lake Baikal region that we visited!

It turns out that her great grandfather, Gleb Lubatovitch, who was beheaded around 1916-20 for being a “White Russian Aristocrat,” was the Governor of Muir Province who lived with his aristocratic French wife in a castle near Ikurtsk on Lake Baikal. Might our rubber catamaran raft have motored by his castle on our last day in Siberia when we left our lunch spot on the Lake heading for Ikurtsk and our plane to Ulan Bator the next day?

I told Rebecca that one purpose of my trip there was so that I could absorb inside myself some of what she holds inside her. For I have never met anyone who naturally carries the energy of the Earth around with her as does Rebecca. So grateful!

So there you go, two bookends of synchronicity magic for this trip, Erjen (and Bloomington) and Rebecca (and Lake Baikal).


But not really mundane. This is a funny, very human story. On our final day in Siberia, when we were at the Ikurtsk airport, having gone through security and checked in, the dozen of us happened to be milling about in a large room with what seemed like hundreds of Chinese. (Most tourists who visit Siberia and Mongolia are Chinese).

Having checked in earlier than others, I heard about a drama involving Erjen and some of us who were lugging large rocks from the lakeshore and other sacred places in our suitcases (not me!). (Forbidden! Who would have known? My small rocks made it through.) This caused a jam in the security line, so massive that a frowning Chinese man just behind our group got furious and tried to push in front. Our guardian Erjen, of course, would have none of it; stood like a mountain preventing that from happening.

Interesting, that of all the people in the world, Chinese and U.S. citizens are probably the most pushy.

About an hour into what turned into a three-hour stay before the plane arrived, I asked my new friend and dear roommate J.K. (a brilliant, eccentric, artistic, bohemian New Yorker who lives in the East Village), if she wanted to practice chi kung (I had been teaching her a few poses every day on the trip). She did. So we went to one end of the great hall and began the slow, fluidic movements of this ancient Chinese exercise system. I heard later that our practice caused the energy of the room to completely change. Kind of hilarious: Americans practicing chi kung in front of Chinese tourists!

A few minutes later, Erjen joined us for yet another round, in the corner, in full view of the entire room. Afterwards, Erjen said that now she’s determined to learn chi kung.

Still later, I heard from roommate J.K. that she had made it a point to subtly befriend the wife of the still angry Chinese tourist (reached out to her with food.) And that, after a while, she had reached out her hand to the husband — and he sighed in resignation, as if to say, “Well, okay,” and shook her hand.

After our practice (I also did taiji solo), the two sweet Mongolian(?) girls who ran the Subway (Subway! in the Irkutsk airport — serves both Mongolian and American dishes) pantomimed that they wanted to take a “selfie” with me, they were so impressed by the taiji. Well, okay.

J.K. and I had already noted that below the counter of this “Subway” station was a series of maps that represent the boroughs of New York City! Why New York City maps in Siberia? Well, “Because,” said Mark, an particularly astute member of our group, “those are the subways”!

So much incongruity when we travel to distant places. So much good will, mostly, on all sides. So much fun.




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2 Responses to Siberia/Mongolia: Of Purges, Magic and the Mundane

  1. Ben L Kreilkamp says:

    Great stories Ann. You’re an inspiration. Did you run across any taiji or qigong like practices native to the Mongol people you visited. I suppose maybe the horse culture may fill that cultural niche for them.

    • Ann Kreilkamp says:

      Didn’t run across any, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. After all, Mongolia and China have been intermingling for centuries. My taiji and qigong practices were done in hotel or guest house room before meeting each new day, or on the beach, in a meadow, etc. depending on location. It helped keep me centered in the exotic multicultural, geographical, and mystical swirl!

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